Truck driving is a demanding profession, and this holds doubly true when it comes to driving a car transporter for a living. The hours are long, but not long enough sometimes, with Federal and state regulations that impose limits for time on duty and enforce sanctions against drivers who put in too many hours behind the wheel. There is a lot more to this job than meets the eye sometimes, even for otherwise experienced drivers that don’t have time behind the wheel of a car transport.
Maintenance is Everything
Most truck drivers of any type already understand the importance of keeping their machines in top operating condition. After all, if the truck isn’t rolling, nobody’s making money. But there’s more to it than just getting the truck from one end to the other while keeping it “right side up” with the oil topped off. A truck that’s running properly will run efficiently, consuming less fuel and oil. That means the engine bay and drivetrain should be kept clean to avoid a build-up of damaging heat. Any buildup of engine fluids or dirt will trap heat inside the part, lessening its lifespan and hurting its operating efficiency. The same holds true for fluid tanks, generators, pumps and other equipment. A clean rig and frequent inspection mean early detection of leaks. With big dealer groups like Klosters, the largest dealer group in Australia, fleet owners enjoy regular maintenance performed in the dealer shop. This means there will be detailed reporting of any deficiencies in the rig, and the fleet owner will definitely notice which drivers consistently deliver more profit at the end of the year. That could mean a promotion, a raise or a bonus.
This premise holds true even in intangible areas that don’t apply directly to the operation of the truck. There is always the matter of finding the next job. Nobody wants to hire a truck that is grimy, smells bad, has questionable tires, blows smoke or has dents in it. Just like a business suit for an executive, people judge a book by its cover. A clean, tidy truck that runs like a stopwatch, with its driver performing his duties in a sure and competent manner, inspecting every detail, inspires the kind of confidence it takes to put your baby in those good hands and write a check. For fleet drivers, clean and well-maintained trucks mean job security. For the owner-operator, a pristine, beautiful truck and trailer with a professional, confidence-inspiring driver can make the difference in the very survival of the venture.
It’s a lot easier to make your mortgages, insurance, motor carrier permitting fees and taxes when your truck makes people want to hire you. Frequent, detailed inspections also pay off at the the other end, when the customer receives his car, clean and scratch-free, and without oil, fuel or other fluids blowing up from under the truck and ending up all over that expensive paint. The experienced customer will definitely remember you the next time he needs to ship. If you are performing an organized, detailed inspection, you will always be alert for upcoming service requirements, scheduling your loads accordingly, so that a tire or oil change can be planned for, and taken care of in minimum time.
Safety is Everything, Too
Every truck driver has heard the “safety briefing” enough times to repeat it backwards in his sleep. The simple fact is that this is a dangerous job. It’s physically dangerous for the driver and for the motoring public. It’s financially dangerous for the owner as well as the driver. And it’s emotionally dangerous to marriage and family, with all the time spent away from home. Each of these types of danger can complicate rapidly, causing stress and rush, stacking up into an accident or a damage incident. Don’t let the responsibilities or tight schedules affect your judgment, self-discipline, professionalism or courtesy. At all times, maintain your dignity and your respect for yourself, your company, your clients and the special nature of your truck and its job. How does this improve safety? By taking control of every step of the process and thinking ahead, you prevent the sort of mistakes that arise from hurrying through a process without taking the time to think it over.
Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”
This quote illustrates the importance of proper preparation. That extra 10 minutes you spend on the phone to schedule a tire stop ahead of time can save you hours down the road. Keep the basics in mind at all times. For instance, never forget to count your binders and chains. Never forget that the most expensive cargo is an empty trailer. And never forget that you do your job in public. The driver is the single best (or worst) salesman in the company, by the example he sets to the public. Never forget to maintain your truck, your schedule, and your professional self-discipline. The payoff in the end will be more productive driving, more enjoyable and predictable time off, and most importantly, more money in that big old trucker’s wallet you’re chained to.