If you choose to become an over-the-road (OTR) trucker after earning your commercial driver’s license (CDL), you’ll spend a lot of time driving across the country. You’ll also probably spend a lot of time at truck stops to shower, refuel, and rest. You may also be grabbing a bite to eat at these locations from time to time, even if you pack food on your truck as well.
You’ll be learning a great deal during your first year as a new trucker, from safe driving to how to communicate best with your dispatcher. During this time, you should also make sure you understand truck stop etiquette and safety.
Many of these “rules” boil down to staying polite and being a reasonably cautious driver in general, so if you follow those principles, you will be in a good position.
Some things you should keep in mind at truck stops:
Drive Slowly and Be Aware of Your Surroundings
Truck stops generally have a lot of foot traffic as well as multiple semi-trucks and passenger vehicles navigating the lot. It’s important to drive slowly, no matter how much of a hurry you are in. You should also be aware of what is going on around you and keep a lookout for any potential hazards.
Don’t Park at the Fuel Pump Longer than Necessary
After getting your diesel, it’s okay to stay at the pump to go inside and get your receipt or to grab a few items at the register. However, if you are doing anything longer than that, you should pull into a parking spot. It can be tempting to avoid the hassle of backing in, but no one wants to wait in a long line to fuel up.
Be Mindful When Parking a Bobtail
If you are driving a tractor without an attached trailer (bobtail), you should park in the designated bobtail spaces when possible. Most truck stops have these spots. If they are full or the truck stop you are at does not have them, consider pulling forward in the parking area and leaving space for another bobtail to park in the same spot. In cases where this isn’t possible to coordinate, make sure your tractor is clearly visible so no one starts backing in, only to see the tractor in the back of the spot.
Get Out and Look (GOAL)
You should always back into spots instead of pulling through, as this is safer for when you leave the truck stop. That being said, it’s understandable that backing is sometimes difficult, especially if you are a new trucker. Make sure you get out and look (GOAL) to get a clear idea of what is around the spot and take your time.
It’s better to slow down than to try to rush the process and hit another truck. Most other truckers will be patient since everyone has been in this position before. Even if someone seems frustrated with the time it takes, they would definitely be more upset if you hit their truck!
Clean Up After Yourself and Your Pets
This should go without saying, but it’s important to make sure to clean up after yourself at truck stops. If you are trucking with your pets, pick up after them as well.
Be Kind and Help Out When You Can
It doesn’t cost anything to be friendly. No matter what kind of day you are having, try to be polite to those you meet at truck stops, whether you are talking to the cashier or another driver.
Additionally, try to help out your fellow drivers when it’s safe to do so. Especially after you have gained some more experience on the road. You can assist other drivers who may be dealing with the same things you did during your first year. Even as a rookie, you can help spot for someone while they back in, let a driver know if they are able to hit something, and generally lend a hand when you can. These small actions make life on the road a little easier for everyone.
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If you want to earn competitive pay while enjoying the freedom of the open road, our CDL school can help. Our program can take as little as four weeks and we give you the skills you need to succeed.