Does just making a living by driving a truck make a person a professional truck driver?
Uh, no. There’s a lot more to it than just making money. I’d say that goes for an profession. Remember this: you are a business person, whether your office is in Goldman-Sachs or the cab of a Freightliner.
Whether you’re fresh out of truck driving school, or have been on the road for decades, a few simple principles will help you be more professional.
Be Safe, Courteous & Responsible
Your daily vehicle inspection isn’t just a legal requirement. It’s part of being responsible & what keeps you safe.
Driving defensively and courteously makes a big difference to everyone on the road. Make sure to always allow an ample safety cushion between your vehicle and everyone else. None of us are in such a hurry that we can’t let others merge. Drivers who tailgate or simply won’t take turns letting other vehicle merge into traffic are just plain rude – and that’s not professional.
A few seconds is all that’s saved when rushing through parking lots or rest areas, yet, it could cost hours if you crash into someone – or even cost a life. Professional drivers take it easy in crowded areas and plan ahead so they don’t have to haul ass more than is safe to get where they’re going.
Want to sound like a professional on the CB radio? Want to be respected by other drivers and your customers? It’s easy. Be courteous in your communication, leave out the F-bombs and don’t be rude. There.
Calling ahead to confirm customer appointments when you can is professional communication. Being courteous with your dispatcher or broker isn’t a matter of kissing-up, it’s a matter of business and professionalism.
Nothing is gained by having a hot head or being rude with the people you deal with in your business.
Maintain a Professional Appearance
Professional truck drivers come in all shapes & sizes, with many tastes in clothing, etc. Still, we can all be neat and clean. If a driver looks like scumbag, he’ll most likely be treated like one. Take pride in your appearance, wear clean clothes (keep extra in the truck), comb that beard, don’t smell bad… and these things will go a long way to your benefit.
Between courtesy & cleanliness also comes the point of not trashing wherever you land for the end of your day. We can always find a trash can ‘somewhere’, so dumping stuff on the ground just gives us all a bad reputation and makes the dumper unprofessional.
Strive to Improve
True professionals never stop learning and growing. If you’re weak in an area, admit it to yourself and practice getting better at it, whether it’s alley-docking or chaining up.
Becoming a professional truck driver isn’t hard but it does take practice and a desire to be real professional beyond just making dollars. In the long run, it pays off with better loads, pay raises, nicer equipment being assigned or even placing with better companies. There are rewards to the drivers who decide to act like serious professionals.
Check out this video where I share my tips and those from several other seasoned professional truck drivers about what truly makes one a professional in this business.
If you have other tips or ideas, share them in the comments.