In spite of years of experience as a truck driver, there are still occasional things I could do better. The following information is intended to help you understand some circumstances in which these may occur. Most of my mine stem from the type of driving I do. As an “over the road,” long haul truck driver travelling from coast to coast and border to border, I experience various road, weather and traffic conditions requiring judgment and appropriate reactions. Situations may crop up that differ in some way from any I have encountered previously.
I travel to many destinations that I have never been to before and may never visit again. Such is the nature of over the road driving. The company I drive for has a number of steady shipping and receiving clients, but it needs to supplement this business with other loads to keep me moving between our regular client “lanes” (routes). These other loads are secured randomly as my truck becomes available after deliveries. So I have no previous experience with how to drive to our “one time only” customer locations.
The trailers I tow currently are 53 foot long “dry vans,” the big box trailers that are the most numerous on our highways. These are used to haul a wide variety of freight. “Reefers” (refrigerated box trailers) hauling perishable food are also very common. Among other commercial types are slat-sided trailers for livestock, tankers for bulk liquids and gases, dumpers for bulk produce, flatbeds for special or odd-shaped objects, open trailers with vertical side posts for logs, and heavy haulers for very large heavy objects.
Dry vans and reefers are loaded and unloaded through doors at the rear of the trailers. Dry van and reefer drivers usually back up to docks—elevated platforms with ramps extending from warehouses, manufacturing buildings, big box stores and other buildings, where freight typically resting on pallets is loaded and unloaded with fork lifts or pallet jacks.
Finding and backing to docks is one of my most difficult tasks. In spite of the best GPS technology and input from customers, local directions from highways to docks via surface streets are not always correct, clear, complete, practical and easy to follow. Missed turns in a truck can be troublesome and dangerous and are to be avoided if at all possible. In spite of my best efforts I still miss some turns, then have to find some (often awkward) way to turn around or otherwise correct course.
So I may be tentative as I drive to unfamiliar sites on surface streets, especially in the dark or other limited visibility conditions. When driving slower than surrounding traffic, I will often have my emergency flashers on. I may glance at notes and then look forward intently, trying to identify my next turn or an address or a dock site, watching less frequently for you alongside or behind me than I would otherwise.
Vision hindered by such conditions as inclement weather, darkness or low sunlight makes it more difficult to see you and avoid you if you are in the “risk” areas around my truck. Reading and following signs on the interstates, highways and surface streets in these conditions can also be challenging and may cause me to take an exit, lane change or turn more abruptly than I would normally.
In examples such as those above, I greatly appreciate your patience and help. As a professional I am expected to drive safely and lawfully, but I don’t handle all situations flawlessly. I hope you will bear this in mind and maintain vigilance when you are around any big truck.
Don’t assume truckers’ driving is flawless.