42 Tips for Rookie OTR Drivers

The hardest time on the road is your first six months.

  If you make it through this window, you might just have a real trucker in you. This period is known well by rookie OTR drivers. OTR drivers are far away from company headquarters, out of on the road without a trainer or family support and they have to figure things out for themselves. Often, this means asking for help.    If you’ve hit the 180 day mark as an OTR driver and you’ve asked for help even once, you might just make it out there on your own. Because drivers are typically alone, you have to know when you’ve reached your limit and be willing to reach out to others including your dispatcher and drivers at stops.    We asked our commuity of truck drivers which includes over 300,000 people what they would tell a rookie OTR driver to give them a better chance of success. Hundreds of drivers responded. We’ve highlighted 42 from our best community members.  
You got this. Shonal Kumar 
Patience. Lots of patience. Adam Hawk 
Patience and Respect Mark Allen Lambeth 
Patience and trust your skill-set. Don't do anything you're not comfortable with. Christopher Ernst 
Just keep your eyes and ears open. And keep that left door closed. Good luck. Phil Jacobini 
Never stop learning. Ken Holifield
Try books on tape, seriously it is a great way to make the days fly by.... much better than music. Tommy Nolan 
One of my trainers told me, "Don't let the truck drive you!" It's good advice, when you think about it… James Ellison 
Safety first and hands free driving. Julie Clark 
Think and keep your head on a swivel at all times . Matthew Byrd 
Always preplan your trip and shower. Shawn Redmond 
Keep checking your mirrors. Joseph Bandy 
Safety first! Matt Bailey 
Take care of yourself and take your time. Danny Goss
Check your paper work with the load and where it is going. Louis Folkerts 
Safety first and don't worry about how much money will make, it comes with paying attention to detail and you earn it. Dale Richman 
Go slow. Charles Balestra 
Double check everything get a routine down. Watch your hills jake should be doing all the work use brakes as a emergency. respect even if you don't get it. It will pay when you get to ltl where the big money is at. Doran Ashley 
Focus on the road a half a mile in front of you. Do not ever drive beyond the 10 hour cycle ever!!! Don Blackburn 
Get regular exercise and watch your diet. Robert Sterns 
Pay attention to your surroundings. Brian Suski 
If you're tired pull over. Maurice Johnson
Dont get overwhelmed. LeRoy Branaman
Good pre trip and check your locking jaws. 👍 Al Frazier 
Try using common sense!!! Russ Cutbirth 
Drive Local LTL or Local truck load for a while first, it give you a chance to get used to driving and making deliveries in a less stressful slower paced inviroment where you can be home every night. Steven L Hannah 
Observe how it's done when it's done correctly. Joshua Tripp
Never tailgate, always remember you have 80,000 pounds of rolling death looking for a place to happen, and never try to drive if you are sleepy. A.q. Neely
Don't be as concerned with going the extra mile to make a dollar, as you are about just not having an accident or getting a ticket. After a year, doors will open with more earnings potential. Ted Farmer 
Research the company, safety score means a ton these day's, and do it because the Heart says so, not the brain looking at dollar signs. Tim Martin 
With me having almost 50 yrs behind the wheel, it is what you make of it. Jim Eggert 
Check out the company that you are going to be driving for the truck and then the back roundabout and the payroll tax. Scott Sweeney 
Start with a big company to get training. Alfredo Caceres 
Don’t hit the curve. Jorge Luis Gonzalez
Listen and pay attention if someone gives you advice even if you think you know it all. George Quinn    Plan your trip (weather traffic & constructions know where to find the info), leave yourself extra time. Learn patience. Know there is things, many many things you can’t control. Use your mirrors, know where your trailer tandems are at all times. Lastly, if your gut says this is a bad idea, stop the truck and get out and take a walk regardless of what your dispatcher says. Larry Curtis 
Expect people to drive like maniacs around you. Expect to be late for life's little moments with family and friends. Get used to the finger. Talk to other truckers at truck stops. Stretch as often as possible. Rebecca Harvey 
Never get so comfortable driving that you allow the gap between you and the people in front of you to shrink. ALWAYS keep your safe distance. Al Martin 
Ignore the "Super Trucker" ... They've forgotten where they started. And ALWAYS ALWAYS Pretrip and walk around when you've stepped away and out of sight of the truck. Delphine Hunt 
Leave some fruit snacks. And beer in the fridge for your neighbor. He’ll be there more than you. Micah Mercardante 
Stay focused, always be open to advice and older ppl trying to teach you a thing or two. Always be a defensive driver, be mindful of other and stay the hell of the phone texting while driving. Shannon N LeaAnn Watts 
Don't trust GPS you can go down the hill 1000 to slow but only once to fast. And don't let someone sitting in a office tell you when to drive if your tired or the conditions are bad park till it's safe to continue no load is worth risking your life for and wreaking a truck and trailer and losing a load is bad for business and your license. Rick Ossowski 
  Some of the advice can sound like common sense to a rookie driver. “Of course I am going to pay attention, do my pre-trip and slow down if I don’t feel safe.” The truth is that 5 years on the road can make you get complacent and lose your attention to important details. Veteran drivers know to trust their instinct, take it slow and have a good time while OTR. Trucking is an incredible job with freedom and great pay. It requires a special kind of person to do it well.      Keep these tips close to you and keep rolling!