It is no secret that the trucking industry is male dominated, especially when it comes to driving a truck. It is rare to see a woman driving a truck out on the road but they are out there. In Canada and the United States, the percentage of professional women truck drivers is between 3.5% and 7.8%. Keep in mind, there are millions of professional truck drivers between these two countries.
If you are considering a career as a truck driver, there are many advantages flexibility, the opportunity to travel and good compensation. The industry, as a whole, is starting to evolve but there is still a long way to go. Women have to think more about safety out on the road but it doesn’t make the job impossible.
So, what can you do out on the road to help keep yourself safe? We have gathered some tips from women drivers out on the road:
Be aware of your surroundings and be alert
Pick a rest/truck stop that is well lit with lots of trucks and people around
If you walk around the truck stop alone at night, make sure you have something in your hand to protect yourself in the unlikely event you get attacked
Check-in frequently with a family member or friend and let them know where you are and when you will check in again
Avoid leaving your truck at night and sleep with your windows covered
Lock your doors at all time when you are inside, as well as, secure them with the seatbelt in your truck
Both Canada and the United States have federal trucking organizations which are specifically for women. If you are thinking about truck driving, or if you are already doing it, then those organizations could be a great resource. The Women’s Trucking Federation of Canada is a non-profit, membership-based organization focused on empowering women in the industry, helping to find employment and connect mentors to inexperienced drivers. In the United States, there is a non-profit organization called Women in Trucking similar to Canada’s organization, they have a mission to encourage employment, promote women in the industry and minimize obstacles that women face in the trucking industry. No matter where you are located, a great first step would be to take advantage of these organizations and find out how they can help you.
Although you do not need a degree to become a truck driver, you will need to study and successfully pass your commercial drivers license (CDL). This should not cost tens of thousands of dollars to study and challenge. There are many schools that can help you for between $3000-$8000. Be sure to do your research and make sure it is a reputable education program.
Once you successfully complete your CDL test, choose the right freight carrier. There are a few carriers out there that are proactive with women’s concerns in the trucking industry and take care to make sure you have a positive experience. Do your research speak to other female counterparts in the industry to find out which carriers that might be.
At the end of the day, do your research before you decide to take the journey of becoming a professional truck driver as a woman. There are many advantages and disadvantages but that is no different than any other career.
Whether you drive truck in Canada or the United States, there are laws that are put in place that truck drivers must follow. These rules are put in place to keep truck drivers safe as well as other drivers on the road. The laws are different in Canada and United States, they have recently been updated in the United States. Here we will break down what those laws, and changes, are in each country.
On June 1, 2020, in the United States, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) published a revision in the HOS (Hours of Service) rules.
With the old rule, drivers had to take a 30-minute break consecutively after 8 hours of being on duty, driving or not. The biggest modification that came to the rule in June 2020 is that drivers have to take a 30-minute break after driving for 8 hours. This change gives drivers more flexibility.
For example, if a driver has arrived at their destination to load/unload and have been driving for 8 hours and it takes them 30 minutes or more to organize the load then they can continue driving right after the load in ready. So, it is considered a break as long as you are not driving. Previously, you would have to take an off-duty break.
Canada has some of the strictest HOS rules in the trucking driving industry. They are closely monitored to help protect truck drivers and other drivers on the road. Canada has recently transitioned to Electric Log Devices (ELD) which comes with benefits such as automated reporting, saving time for drivers and clerical staff, saving money and helping to reduce the environmental impact of the trucking industry.
Drivers are not allowed to log more than 13 hours on duty in a 24-hour cycle. Drivers who log 13 hours of driving in a 24-hour cycle must take 8 consecutive hours off duty.
Canadian drivers can follow either of the two duty cycles indicated in the HOS rules. For Cycle 1, drivers cannot log more than 70 hours, driving or not driving, in 7 days. When a driver is following Cycle 2, they cannot drive after logging 120 hours in 14 days, driving or not.
In both cycles, drivers must have at least 24 hours off in the previous 14 days.
Because Canada is such a vast country and sometimes driving long distances is unavoidable, especially north of latitude 60°N so the regulations have been slightly modified for those cases. If a driver is north of latitude 60°N they can drive up to 15 hours and work up to 20 hours. Drivers should stop after being on duty for 18 hours. After this, drivers should have at least 8 consecutive hours off-duty.
The bottom line is, no matter where you are driving, it is important to know and understand what regulations you must follow. This will help to avoid fine for you and/or the company you work for as well as keeping you and other drivers safe on the road.
As the heat of the summer rolls in and you are in the road you might be asking yourself, how can I stay productive and safe while beating the heat? Unfortunately, truck drivers do not typically get the summer off so it is best to find ways to work through the heat and still get the job done. Here you find a number of tips and trick that will hopefully help while you are on the road.
This might seem like an obvious one but it is one of the most important one. With extreme heat, it is so easy to get dehydrated. When your body is dehydrated, you become tired, sluggish and in some extreme cases it can cause headaches and vomiting. When you are properly hydrated you will be much more alert while driving. Along with drinking at least 3 litres or 12 cups of water a day, you should eat as much fresh food as you can. This will also help to fuel your body and keep you mentally and physically capable while you drive your truck on hot days.
It is always important to keep your tires inflated but with high temperatures the chances of blowouts increase fairly significantly. Be sure to be check your tire pressure frequently as the heat can change tire pressure quickly if it is not monitored.
The same can be said about the brakes on a truck, when the temperature increases it can result in a loss of friction on your brake parts. They are more likely to fail when they can’t absorb any more heat.
You should already be checking your fluids regularly but in the heat, it is best to be checking your antifreeze level every day. If your antifreeze is not at an appropriate level then it could slow your air conditioner down allowing it to not work to the best of its ability.
Keeping Protected and Cool
There are a few tips to try to help stay cool and alert while you are on the road. Carry a blanket to put on your seat. Whether your seat is vinyl or leather, when it is exposed to direct sunlight it can become very hot. Throwing a blanket over it will keep it much cooler and more comfortable to sit in.
Keep ice packs, ice cubes or a cooling towel in your truck. There are several different brands of cooling towels these days. A cheaper option is to have ice packs or cubes that you can wrap in a towel or bandanna.
Even though you are sitting in an air-conditioned cab all day, you still need to protect yourself from the sun. It is a good idea to use sunscreen. The sun will be shining down on you through your windows. Even though the sunshine is not directly shining on you, it can still lead to diseases such as skin cancer.
When you are making long-haul trips, it is important that you take regular breaks. If you can walk a couple circles around your truck, it is good to check on things anyways. If the heat is too much, walk around the convenience store or building at the truck stop. Taking regular breaks can help you to stay alert on the road and gives you a chance to make sure your truck is in safe working order.
The trucking industry is constantly evolving. Many large companies in the industry are exploring how solar panels could help to their company overall, including the drivers specifically. Solar panels have quickly become an option to solve some everyday problems that truckers deal with.
When solar panels were first introduced to the market, they were expensive, heavy and were not aerodynamic which was interfering with driving down a long stretch of road. Flash forward to today, and solar panels that are specifically designed for the trucking industry are flexible, thin and lightweight while being able to be shaped around the curves of the truck.
There are pros and cons to having solar panels installed on your truck or fleet. When you look at both, for the most part, the pros outweigh the cons. There is no doubt one of the biggest cons is the initial instillation cost, especially if you plan to do more than one truck at once. It can be overwhelming but it is important to look at the long-term benefits. It could actually save you money in the end. If the solar system is able to reduce idling time this is going to save on your battery, HVAC system and fuel costs.
Exposure to the sun can also be an issue when it comes to solar systems. Depending on where your trip is and the time of year, the amount of sun can vary which will obviously impact the effectiveness of the system. Parking options are usually limited; therefore, you can’t always find the most amount of sun to make the system work at its best.
When the solar system is working at its full capability it can decrease the amount of time and money that is spent on roadside assistance. By supporting the trucks battery to operate things like the HVAC system, modern conveniences in the truck, such as a refrigerator or microwave, as well as, it will make it less likely that a trucker will get stuck on the side of the road waiting for a jump-start. A solar system can help to slightly increase the life of the truck’s main and auxiliary batteries, along with fuel economy.
Drivers that have been introduced to solar systems on their truck have found they can be very convenient for a number of reasons. The system allows the refrigerator to stay on while the truck isn’t running which can eliminate the pain of having to unload and load the refrigerator for short stops or weekend breaks. It can also allow the HVAC system to operate without the truck idling which can give the driver a good night’s sleep without the engine running.
Overall, a solar system can be an expensive investment but because of driver’s satisfaction, fuel economy and increased life in the batteries of a truck it is definitely an option to consider.
You might be thinking of starting a career in the trucking industry but you are not sure where to start. You could be feeling especially lost if you have no experience. Starting your career in the trucking industry can be difficult but not impossible. The one advantage that you have is that there is always a shortage of truck drivers.
First step is to make sure you are properly licensed, a good place to start that journey is at an accredited driving school. By obtaining your license through a school, it could help to be placed in a job but it is no guarantee.
Once you are licensed be sure to apply to numerous carriers, big or small! This might seem like an obvious step but every carrier you apply to increases your chances of getting hired. If you are not having luck getting hired to drive a truck and trailer rig, apply to other trucking jobs to help strengthen your application. This could include dump trucks with construction companies, gravel trucks, service trucks or even delivery trucks. No matter what the truck looks like if you can gain experience behind the wheel with no accidents, you will be much more appealing to recruiters who are looking to hire professionals.
Another option would be to look into apprenticeship programs that larger carriers have. This may include doing additional schooling through their company. Usually, this additional education that the company would provide would be to show you how they do things within their company so you have a better understanding once you hit the road.
The trucking industry can be a tough industry to get started in but it is important to not get discouraged. Keep banging on doors, networking can be a critical step in finding opportunities. Your first offer might not be your dream job but it could be one step closer to that job you dream of.
If you are a truck driver, you know that there are a lot of people who contribute to the success of your trips and the trucking industry overall. A dispatcher is an integral part of that. Some key tasks that dispatchers perform are keeping records and monitor daily truck logs, help to observe the weather in the area that their truck drivers are, coordinate and manage cost-effective loads and negotiate rates with vendors.
As a truck driver, building a strong relationship with your dispatcher can be so beneficial to your career. Put yourself in the shoes of a dispatcher and be kind and considerate when dealing with your dispatcher.
Dispatching has changed over the years. There was a time that dispatchers were usually retired truck drivers ready to come off the road and settle in an office. But now, more often than not, dispatchers have no experience driving out on the road but experience with computer programs and a college degree. No matter what history your dispatcher has, it will make your life easier if you can work well with them.
Do not argue with your dispatcher. In the end, this will not help you out on the road. If you are feeling upset with them, take a few minutes to cool off before you communicate with them. Approach them in a friendly manner and see if the two of you can resolve the problem calmly.
Be sure you establish who will be taking care of specific tasks. Be sure you both understand the schedule and talk about what obstacles might come up. Never make promises to dispatchers, if a load needs to be somewhere by a specific date just do your best to get there and tell your dispatcher the same thing.
Keep a clear record of all of the loads you deliver for a dispatcher and the loads they ask you to deliver. It is important to know so that you can report it to your company if there is ever an issue down the line.
Overall, keep things professional with your dispatcher and the lines of communication open. It is important to let your dispatcher know if you are struggling with something they have asked you to do or the way they asked you. You are both busy people and you will save time by speaking to them often and directly about what exactly it is you need or want.
Securing your load is an incredibly important part of being a safe and responsible truck driver. There are so many risks involved when it comes to transporting a load that is not properly secured on or in your trailer. Commercial truck drivers can carry a wide variety of cargo in an assortment of trailer types. No matter what type of trailer it is one of the most important things you can do before you move the vehicle is to make your load is secure.
Imagine you are out on the road and suddenly you feel your load shift and something slip off. If this happens, there are so many problems that can follow. Someone could be traveling behind you and could cause serious damage to the person or vehicle. It could cause you to lose control of your vehicle, it will most likely cause damage to the cargo which means you aren’t delivering what you agreed to in the time you did. This is going to cause a financial penalty to the company you work for, you personally or both.
Before you hit the road, make sure your tie-downs have a combined rating equal to at least half of the loads weight. Make sure you know what your load weighs. You will need this information for a number of reasons. Depending on your load, tie-down straps are required to be in certain places, you can find out this exact information from the regional or federal laws. They vary from province to province and state to state so make sure you fully understand the laws where you are traveling.
If it is possible, double checking your load after you have traveled a certain distance is a good idea. Around 50 miles down the road, check that the vibrations or something unpredictable hasn’t shifted your load. Making sure your load’s weight is evenly distributed can also help if you do have an incident on the road. For example, if you loose control and veer off the road and your load is top heavy it could increase your chances of rolling the vehicle.
At the end of the day, there are a few key steps you can take to make sure you and your load are safe before you hit the road:
Check that your load is properly secured, then check again and then maybe one more time!
Understand the laws and rules around load securement in the region that you will be driving
Know the weight of the cargo you are carrying and work with your supplier and your employers to make sure you have properly secured your load
Just remember, not properly securing your load poses a safety risk for you and everyone else on the road. On top of that, it can be extremely financially damaging between broken cargo and the hefty fines that come along with not fastening your load correctly.
Driving truck as a career is difficult. It can be isolating and lonely when you are on the road for a long stretch. Friends and family are at home living their life and you are missing the big and small moments that are happening. How you deal with this is up to you. There are strategies to help ease the pain of missing your friends and family at home, especially during the holiday season.
When it comes to special days on the calendar while you are on the road, make a different plan. Change the things you can control. In most cases, you can’t control when you will be on the road but you can control what days you celebrate milestones and holidays. For example, if you are going to be home from December 21st – 24th but won’t be home for December 25th, plan for your family to celebrate Christmas Eve on December 23rd and Christmas day on December 24th. Depending on the age of the children in your family, they will adapt easily or won’t know the difference. The same strategy can be used for birthdays, anniversaries and any other holiday your family celebrates.
Technology is your friend on the road. It can be used to stay connected to family and friends at home. There are so many options these days. It can either be used to call specific people directly or used to stay connected to your friends and family through social media. Consider giving daily updates on your social media, take pictures/videos and you will likely get the social interaction you might be craving on the road.
Get creative while you are on the road. Find fun ways to stay connected with your family. Are there apps that you can use to play games together while you are not at home? Can you leave a couple books at home for your kids while you take the same ones on the road with you so that you can read the books to them? Could you listen to the same audio book as your children so that you have something to discuss and keep you connected? Another strategy to consider is to give your family a map, let them know where you are every night so they can mark it. It gives you something to talk about daily as well as when you get home. You can show them pictures of each place.
When you do get home, be present. Spend as much time as possible with your family and friends. Celebrate anything you might have missed on the road. Consider having a few small gifts or post cards of places you visited while you are out on the road. Make your time at home count so that when you unavoidably head back out on the road you are ready. If you feel connected to your family and friends when you leave home, it will help get you through the next stretch on the road.
It is no secret that truck driving can be a very dangerous career. There is so much to keep in mind while you are trying to keep yourself safe. This list will hopefully help as you take your journey out on the road.
Wear Your Seatbelts
This one might seem obvious but it is so important. It is going to decrease your risk of bodily injury if something is to happen on the road. Whether it is a minor or major accident your seatbelt really could save your life.
Frequent breaks on the road are beneficial for a number of reasons. They give your mind and body a chance to rest, even if you don’t feel tired it gives you a chance to regroup and stretch your muscles. It may feel like you are wasting time but in the long run it will keep you on the road longer. It will help to avoid mistakes later and looking after your body will keep you in the truck longer where you and your employer can make a profit.
Be aware of what the weather is going to do. Weather can change quickly, especially if you are in the mountains. Be prepared with all of the proper equipment for whatever weather you might run into. Know what lies ahead of you and plan accordingly.
This is a subject that comes up often and it is a notable one. Cell phones contribute to distracted driving every day. It is a valuable tool that most people can’t imagine living without now. Of course, they need to be used by truck drivers. The important thing to remember is to use it wisely and safely. If you need to use the phone and do not have access to a hands-free system, find a safe place where you can pull over to use your phone.
As a general tip, when in doubt slow down. It takes longer to stop when you are driving a truck especially if you are loaded. If traffic is getting heavy, the weather conditions are not good or there is road construction just slow down and do not use your cruise control. Cruise control should be used when road and weather conditions are ideal. When you drive slower it could help to prevent an accident or at the very least help to decrease the effects of an accident.
Pre-trip and post-trip inspections are critical. They will increase your safety ensuring all parts of your truck are in ideal running condition. It could help to avoid something going wrong on the road when the vehicle is at full speed. There are apps on your phone you can use to be sure all aspects of your inspections are done. It can even be set up with your to send the report directly to your employer.
There is never a guarantee of safety on the road, every time you go out there are risks that go along with it. There are many steps you can take to decrease the chance of an accident happening. The most important thing is to stay calm on the road and take your time.