8 Trip Planning Tips for Truck Drivers

September 6, 2022 8:07 am

This post was written by: Channing Puls

Motor carrier drivers who hit the road without any forethought as to how they are going to reach their destination can face unexpected roadblocks even on familiar routes.

Taking a non-strategic approach to travel may result in late deliveries, spoiled goods, accidents and unnecessary insurance claims. Planning your available routes means you’ll have the most efficient trip.

8 Ways to Effectively Plan Trips

 Planning before you get on the road paves the way to safe and more efficient runs. Here are eight tips to reach your destination on time and with peace of mind:

  1. Use multiple direction sources.
    Traffic congestion can be attributed to road construction or an accident, causing delays and more time spent on the road. Use a variety of resources like Google maps, GPS, and truck navigation apps to avoid unnecessary travel delays and find the most optimal truck route.
  1. Plan breaks.
    Take designated 30-minute Department of Transportation (DOT) breaks and decide ahead of time where to stop and eat instead of rushing in and taking a meal to-go. Pre-planning allows you to avoid driving while distracted, and factors in quality rest to refuel your own engine.
  1. Use your clock wisely.
    Once you know your load information, start planning your trip. Utilize hours of service (HOS) in the best possible way to avoid rushing and causing an accident. Allow for extra time to deal with potential issues, including traffic jams and mechanical problems, and always communicate with delivery sites to update your arrival status. Remember, late deliveries can damage a driver and company’s record — another reason pre-planning is crucial for efficiency.
  1. Check the weather.
    Snow, heavy rain, thunderstorms, and tornadoes can all impact travel conditions. Drivers who find themselves in the hands of Mother Nature should pull over, take cover, and get in touch with your delivery site to report an ETA change or to your driver team leader. There are exceptions to HOS rules when it comes to adverse driving conditions. FMCSA will allow up to two additional hours in these circumstances without affecting safety.After delivery, keep in mind extreme wind conditions can be hazardous to trucks with an empty trailer. In certain states where drastic crosswinds are common, trucks have a 76% chance of rolling over when subjected to 40 mph winds on curved roads.
  1. Fill up wisely.
    Many fleet carriers mandate drivers fuel up at designated locations. Make sure to fill up your tank at pre-approved facilities for optimal price breaks and locate backup stations during trip planning in case of emergencies. Filling up out of network will cost you. Owner/operators will want to negotiate their own fuel contracts as well.
  1. Avoid out-of-route miles.
    Each motor carrier has its own policies when it comes to out-of-route miles, with some requiring drivers to pay back fuel costs. So, not paying attention can result in going miles off course, and can cost drivers and motor carriers time and money. Preplanning helps avoid out-of-route miles and improperly calculating the distance to any destination.
  2. Be mindful of hazards.
    Tight city driving and going through construction zones can be hazardous and make drivers more susceptible to collisions and unexpected insurance claims, particularly in high-traffic areas such as city areas with parked cars lining the streets and one-way streets. Trucks have considerably large blind spots when driving through construction areas, resulting on average, 700 fatalities in work zones each year. Anticipate and avoid active construction campaigns instead of traveling through them.
  1. Domicile/parking for the night.
    The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration requires drivers to take a 10-hour break after 11 hours of driving or logging 14 hours on duty. If you’re habitually late for pick up and drop off, that’s going to follow you on your employment record. Try to rest at pre-designated areas if you can’t make it to a truck stop to avoid vandalism and theft as well.

Maximize your HOS, personal time and revenue by planning out routes and leaving time to reach your location safe and sound.

Contact The Paladin Group for help in planning your trips around the unexpected on the road.

(1) FMCSA “Hours of Service.”
(2) International Journal of Transportation Science and Technology “Impact of crosswinds and truck weight on rollover propensity when negotiating combined curves,” March 4, 2022.
(3)  FMCSA “Work Zone Safety Tips,” April 26, 2021.
(4) FMCSA “Summary of Hours of Service Regulations.”