Advice from a Trucker: What Nobody Tells You About Your First Road Trip

Films make road trips seem so entertaining. In fact, even the terribly boring stretches are played up for comedic effect. “Are we there yet?” a group of children might ask an irritated caregiver again and again. Except the scene ends before it gets too tedious, and the plucky group finds their way to whatever amusement park or relative’s home that the plot has in store for them. When the ordeals of traveling thousands of miles lay before you, I prefer the concise hour-and-a-half version that road trip movies present rather than the real deal.

In truth, there’s hardly anything amusing about the long grind behind the wheel. As a trucker, I can verify that the daily struggle of staving off fatigue and keeping steady at wheel hardly keeps up with the antics that scriptwriters and directors employ to represent the prospect of a journey across the nation. On my first long haul from the Southeast all the way to the Northwest border in the United States so many years ago, I discovered this lesson the hard way. I must have only just recently passed my CDL test at the time when I was tasked with covering an excess of 2,200 miles within a week.

But, over time, I’ve learned methods that can make putting the miles behind you far more manageable. Before scrambling for the door to begin your own adventure, here are some words from someone who has spent far too much of his life behind the wheel.

Cover all of your bases

Any sort of extended travel away from home presents risk to you, both financially and personally. Keeping backup power supplies and standard car maintenance fluids and tools at your disposal are common sense preventive measures to avoid the dreaded road-side argument. It can also help to bring a cooler full of ready-made food items available in the case that you find yourself stranded on the highway for an indefinite length of time.

Perform a routine maintenance inspection on your vehicle

Making sure your vehicle is in working order seems like common sense, but I cannot stress enough the importance of a thorough inspection. Pay particular attention to tires, possible fluid leakages, the quality of your brakes, and cracks in your windshield, or strange noises / control behavior when test driving. If you’re not familiar enough with vehicles to perform a quality inspection, I’d strongly recommend investing in routine service from a mechanic.

Secure your finances

While minor damages are usually covered when driving for a trucking firm, it can be much more complicated for the standard driver. A quality automobile insurance policy is an excellent start. Talking about something as stodgy as travel or road trip insurance is not something I enjoy − but it can be a lifesaver to your finances. These policies can cover missing luggage, returning lost minors, cover accidents, injuries, or even the cost of funeral expenses while far from home in case your trip really goes awry.

Keep in touch when going the distance

I’ve grown to realize how crucial a social element is to my life after spending far too much of it isolated in my cab. If you’re also on your own, invest in some form of reliable communication with backup power supplies. Fortunately, this extends beyond just CB radio for today’s truckers. Being able to video chat and conference with friends back home can save your sanity between long hours of driving.

Establish rules on communication

When traveling with a partner or a group of friends, establishing clear rules can make the difference between making your ride a feel-good comedy or a psychological horror. Alternatively, your trip could quickly turn into a mutiny if you become too controlling or constraining on what your group can do. Before striking out on a detour or changing road plans, meeting and agreeing on a plan is necessary to minimize conflict between in your party. If you’re the ruler of your road trip, make sure everyone in your party understands that before setting off. If you prefer a democratic rule, be prepared to handle it when your trip goes directions that you hadn’t originally anticipated.

Find ways to save your sanity

As thrilling as word games, like the perennial favorites “I Spy” and “20 Questions”, it would be prudent to prepare your vehicle with some more sustainable ways of keeping yourselves entertained. On-board DVD or Blu-Ray players and Wi-Fi connectivity can make your ride considerably smoother if luxury is an option. A good round of conversation can while away several hours. But when things have gotten dull and nobody can seem to find anything interesting to say, I consider audio books to be the champion of making the hours fly when on the road. What will appeal to you will depend on your personality and the nature of your trip, but make sure that whatever entertains you won’t distract you from your ability as a responsible driver.

With these tips, you can make a trip memorable, secure, and as tedium-free as a trip can be. While it’s nigh impossible to create an experience as entertaining as film, you’ll at least be able to make the long haul without anyone ever uttering, “Are we there yet?”

Author Bio
Hank Barton is a truck driver as well as a blogger. When he’s not enjoying the stunning open road, he writes about driving tips, the trucker lifestyle and trucking industry news.