Give Ps a chance

| January 03, 2006

For Thayer, trip planning plays a huge role in safe, accident-free, on-time delivery. “A million accident-free miles starts with trip planning,” he says. “The driver must know what he’s going to do at any given time – what routes he can take and where he can fuel, eat and sleep.” Thayer says planning makes drivers ready for whatever might happen. “You might get stuck on the side of the road for two hours, and suddenly your 10-hour trip takes 12 hours,” he says.

Vandenburg doesn’t drive without planning the trip. “When I start out, I have everything ready, and all I have to do is concentrate on the road.”

Planning minimizes mechanical problems, distractions, and stressful traffic and weather delays, thereby enhancing safety.

Trip planning helps professional drivers eliminate distractions. It’s the same for most drivers, but each has special concerns. “It frustrates me to be all stinky and dirty,” says Victory One Transport company driver Robert Vandenburg of El Paso, Texas. “So I make sure I’m showered and refreshed before starting each trip.”

Vandenburg’s trip planning includes stocking the truck with what he needs. “Make sure you have your logbook caught up, your snacks and drinks, cigarettes if you smoke, and all the information for the trip,” he says. “You’ll be all set to go, and you won’t be thinking about stopping.”

Vandenburg plans his routes around possible weather and traffic problems. All cities have special, trip-planning considerations like construction, but some traffic patterns are similar just about everywhere: “Between 11 and 2 you’re going to have the lunch drivers, and between 4 and 8 you’re going to have people going home,” Vandenburg says.

“I plan my trips around this stuff if possible.”

With the right predisposition or attitude, a driver can handle the stress and frustration that come with the job. For Vandenburg, that means getting in the right frame of mind before getting into the truck.

“You have to feel good about yourself before you go,” he says. “If you’re not feeling well, don’t even jump into the truck or you’ll ruin somebody’s day, probably your own.”

For Thayer, a “get along” attitude is as important as safety and planning to being an accident-free million miler.

“You have to get along with people on the road,” he says.

This also is part of the pro driver’s job description: driving with the right frame of mind, and doing what’s necessary to keep it that way.

“Understand the road,” Thayer says. “Understand what fatigue is all about, how it can ruin a good attitude and slow reaction time.”

Professional drivers accept and adjust to traffic and road conditions as they are rather than lamenting about how they should be and are not. It’s easy to find fault with construction and traffic. But that’s not in the job description, and that attitude won’t get you to a million miles accident-free.

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