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Truck Driver Skills

If you want to be a truck driver, you just need to know how to drive a truck, right? Wrong. There are actually a number of skills needed to be a professional truck driver. After all, truckers are the lifeblood of American commerce, transporting goods across the country. Here are the hard and soft truck driver skills needed to work in this industry.

Hard Skills to Be a Truck Driver

What hard skills does a truck driver need? The technical skills to be a truck driver include:

Commercial Vehicle Driving

Right off the bat, you need a commercial driver’s license, or “CDL.” You need a Class A CDL to drive flatbeds and tractor-trailers, a Class B to drive straight, box, or dump trucks, and a Class C to drive small HazMat vehicles. Most truck drivers get at least a Class A because that license allows driving a variety of vehicles and towing bigger loads.

Safe Driving

Among the truck driver skills needed are more general, driving-related best practices. Truck drivers are expected to know and follow all the rules of the road — especially since their vehicles tend to be larger than regular passenger vehicles and can do substantial damage. As a truck driver, you want to maintain a clean driving record.

Log Book and Recordkeeping

Many people take for granted the fact that the skills of a truck driver include more than just driving. In fact, high up on the truck driver skills list is the administrative stuff, such as keeping logs and records. There are statutory and industry recordkeeping requirements. Not only do you need to know what to track and record, but you also need to use the appropriate format and the intervals at which you need to be recording information.

Truck Tarping and Untarping

If you are wondering about specific truck driving skills examples, a good one is tarping and untarping. The tarps truckers use (for flatbed loads, for example) are quite heavy and can be challenging to fold and unfold — especially if you also have to deal with poor or inclement weather. You may need to park or position your trailer a certain way. There are also techniques for handling the tarp so that you are less likely to injure yourself while tarping or untarping.

Freight Loading and Unloading

Another one on the trucker skills list is loading and unloading freight. This goes beyond bending at the knees — we’re talking about different methods for oversized and heavy loads. Apart from hand unloading, you have the tailgate unload, forklift, crane, or HIAB. The more methods you have mastered, the more versatile — and valuable — you are to potential clients.

Load Bar Operation

Load bars — also called “cargo bars” — are used to secure loads and prevent them from shifting, and they come in a number of different types. An important truck driver skill, therefore, is how to assemble and properly operate load bars, whether they are load lock bars, jack load bars, E track load bars, hoop load bars, or pickup load bars.

Vehicle Inspection and Maintenance

As a trucker, you are responsible for making sure that your truck, trailer, equipment, and accessories are in good condition, safe, and working properly. This means that you need to know how to inspect your vehicle and identify actual and potential problems, as well as how to maintain your vehicle to the appropriate standards of fitness.

OTR Driving

“Over-the-road” driving — abbreviated as “OTR” and also known as “long haul” trucking — may not require a brand-new knowledge set so much as a solid handle on the rules and practices relating to mandated maximum drive and rest stops. Ideally, you will be comfortable with sleeper cabs/trailers, but this will come with experience.

Soft Skills for Truck Driver Success

To be a good truck driver, it’s not enough to ask what hard skills does a truck driver need — there are many soft skills of a truck driver that demonstrate competence and experience in the field.

Physical Fitness

You should be in good health primarily to be able to load, unload, tarp, untarp, and other duties — and also because truck driving can be demanding on your body, especially if you drive long routes. You need stamina and fortitude to be able to concentrate for long hours and stay alert on the road.

Strong Work Ethic

For many truckers, especially those who freelance, how much you earn is directly related to how many loads you can transport. You are able to turn down loads with many dispatch services if need be, but the most successful truck drivers possess the desire to work hard — and to work steadily.

Keen Time Management

Since your earnings are dependent on your ongoing number of loads, time management is an essential truck driver skill. By properly coordinating your activities — driving, breaks, meals, and fueling, for example — you can minimize your downtime and maximize the number of loads you deliver.

Reliability and Dependability

Reputation is everything in many industries, including trucking. If you work hard, show up and deliver loads on time, and demonstrate a sense of accountability, people will want to do more business with you in the future. If clients are confident in your abilities and trust you with their loads, they may start to offer you the most lucrative loads — and may even recommend you to their colleagues.

Patience

You are not the only one on the road. As a truck driver, you will spend hours upon hours on various highways and thoroughfares. You will encounter traffic jams. There will be accidents. There will be many circumstances — such as weather and road conditions — that you will not be able to control. Being able to keep your cool and to stay focused will allow you to do your job capably and reasonably. 

Quick Thinking and Good Judgment

If you encounter an unforeseen scenario, such as an accident or unexpected closure, the faster you can react, recover, and readjust can mean the difference between a timely or delayed delivery. Truckers who are able to think on their feet and figure out solutions tend to be better trusted and, in general, more successful. 

Good Navigation Ability

Most trucks nowadays are outfitted with sophisticated navigation and GPS systems, but you still need to be able to get your bearings and have a good sense of direction. After all, what good is the best GPS technology if you can’t apply it to what you are doing and where you are trying to go? 

Being a Team Player

You may think that truck driving is a “solo” job, but in most cases, you will still be part of a team. For the company that employs or contracts with you — as well as clients — you will go further if you can show that you are not just looking out for yourself. Being willing to help other team members for the good of the enterprise and keeping your colleagues accountable if need be will demonstrate that you see the bigger picture behind the company. 

Honesty and Responsibility

A truck driver’s reputation isn’t just about technical skill and time management. As in any other industry, your character will have an effect on whether people want to hire you or continue hiring you. Mistakes happen, and sometimes, they can be costly. In general though, people don’t want to deal with someone who blames everything on others because they appear less interested in customer service than self-preservation. If you make a mistake, be honest. Admit it. Then, take responsibility for the error by finding a workable solution.

Communication Skills

Most misunderstandings are the result of poor communication. Being able to relay information clearly and correctly is an asset in any industry. For truckers, being able to express themselves and their expectations clearly — as well as to understand what the other person is saying — means that all parties are on the same page. Tasks and deadlines are reasonable and doable. Conditions are workable. Remuneration is as expected. 

Customer Service

The most successful and sought-after truck drivers don’t just see their work as picking up and delivering goods. At the heart of it, there is an important customer service aspect to the job.  You are fulfilling obligations that allow your customers to run their enterprises and grow their businesses. Happy customers also tend to be repeat customers — who may even grow your contact list through referrals. Having a customer service mindset allows you to appeal to your clients’ best sides and makes them see you as a valuable member of their ongoing team.

Take Advantage of Our Skills to Grow Your Career/Business

At Logity Dispatch, we know that no one is perfect. People have different strengths — including truck drivers. Some truckers are proficient at document management. Some are perfectly able to do their own dispatching and load negotiation. Some remember every single statutory requirement and can stay on top of compliance. Very few truckers are good at everything.

We’re Here for You

That’s why Logity Dispatch is here. Our business is all about helping truckers make — and keep — more money. Whether you are new to trucking or a seasoned veteran, freelancing or running your own trucking business, we are happy to help you focus on what you’re good at — while we do the rest. 

Some of our clients want piecemeal services, such as document management, assistance to maintain compliance requirements, or just want us to do the dispatch. After all, we have the industry expertise to organize your business, find and negotiate loads, and do whatever else is needed for you to succeed as a truck driver.

Contact us today and find out how our skills can help you optimize your skills.