Trip planning is one of the most important aspects of long-haul trucking.
When truckers plan their trips in detail, they will be more likely to get to their destination without any problems.
Michael Bilokonsky, the founder of Whitehorse Freight, explains the nine steps of trip planning for long-haul truckers and how each step can help to make your trip easier and more efficient.
1. Plan Your Route in Advance
Long-haul truckers know that the best way to make your trip easier is to plan your route in advance. Sitting down with an atlas or road map can give you a birds’ eye view of your trip that mapping apps can’t match. Plan out all of the highways and state roads that you will take along the way.
Check with each state’s highway authority or department of transportation to find out whether there are any major construction projects that could slow you down and frustrate you. This extra step could mean much less time sitting in traffic and more time for rest stops and meals.
It is important to stick to the route you have planned out for yourself. Some trucking companies require that you use their routes, but the majority allow the driver to decide how to get there. No matter whether you are using the trucking company’s route or mapping out your own, sticking to the route is a way to make your travel more efficient. Usually, shortcuts are not worth it.
2. Don’t Over-Rely on Mapping Apps
A novice truck driver might over-rely on mapping apps on their smartphone or on the truck’s navigation system. As experienced truckers know, these apps don’t always work for various reasons. A lack of cell phone signal in rural areas is likely to be the worst culprit. It is a better idea to plan out your directions in writing ahead of time.
3. Familiarize Yourself With Your Destination
This is a step where mapping apps do come in handy. You can use Google Maps or Apple Maps to get a 3D visual view of your destination. This can help you recognize the building where you will be picking up or dropping off freight.
4. Plan Out Your Stops
You should plan out where you want to stop for breaks, fuel, and overnight stays. Make sure that you plan enough breaks to keep you awake and alert during the day. Research ahead of time and find the best travel plazas, restaurants, and motels that meet your needs.
5. Plan for Fueling
One of the most important aspects of trucking is planning out your fueling needs. Running out of fuel in an area with no diesel or specialized trucking fuel stations available is always a danger. You will also need to plan your fueling to make sure that your vehicle is at the correct weight always.
Planning ahead also includes checking fuel prices. Fuel prices vary a great deal around the country. Try to fuel up where prices are low.
6. Leave Plenty of Time
Truck drivers are often told to plan out their trips at 55 miles per hour, but it is a better idea to shoot for 38. This will allow for plenty of time for rest breaks and meals as well as giving you a more realistic ETA. The companies at your destination as well as your trucking company always appreciate having an accurate ETA.
It is a good idea to under-promise and over-deliver when it comes to planning your trip. Allow yourself the maximum amount of time to get to your destination and arrive early if you can.
7. Check the Weather
This simple step can save you many headaches. Check the weather at your destination and all along your route. This could keep you from driving into a storm or having weather-related problems along the way. If you must travel through inclement weather, make sure that you have safety equipment and extra food and water on hand.
8. Stay on Schedule
Once you have planned your trip to the last detail, make sure that you stick to your own schedule. Don’t sleep in or spend too much time at a meal. You may run into enough problems on the road, so you shouldn’t create your own problems by running late.
9. Enjoy the Trip
It’s possible to enjoy the trip while you are driving. Truck drivers have a unique opportunity to see the country. You can plan your rest stops in beautiful places and enjoy what the country has to offer.
Trip Planning is a Must
According to Michael Bilokonsky, trip planning skills are second only to driving skills when it comes to a successful trucking career. Every long-haul trucker needs to learn how to plan out their trips, understanding how weather, construction, and other variables can affect their ETA. When truckers plan out their trips, they will be safer, more efficient, and complete their routes more easily.