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What I wish I knew as a new driver

A truck driver grabs the steering wheel in his semi-truck

Being a new truck driver in the industry comes with its own set of unique challenges and opportunities to learn and grow. I first discovered this when I climbed into the cab of a Schneider Tanker truck in 2012. In addition to traveling through 48 states and six Canadian provinces, I’ve learned quite a bit along the way. My leaders and trainers taught me the skills and knowledge I needed to be a safe and successful driver. When I was a trainer, I got to experience the other side of the coin.

Here are a few tips for new drivers looking to find their way in this complex and exciting industry:

Develop a good relationship with your DBL

A driver business leader (DBL) is a unique position at Schneider that serves as a driver advocate to help and support drivers when issues arise, whether it’s pay or they need to get home for any reason. I knew I could always count on my DBLs and felt confident that help was just a phone call away. They educated me on the industry and showed me how to maximize my time out on the road to get the best paycheck possible.

Communication really is key when it comes to developing a strong working relationship with your DBL. Speak to them openly and proactively to create a good, respectful rapport. Call just to check in and provide status updates. Be the driver who gets things done without spills or accidents. Always bring possible solutions in the case of issues or questions. In a nutshell, be the driver they look forward to talking to.

Keep your cool

When I first got on the road, I was not the most patient driver in the Schneider fleet. When time on the road directly affects your paycheck, it’s hard not to feel like every moment you’re on hold waiting for your DBL is taking money out of your pocket. Sitting and waiting on the phone is frustrating.

The truth is, the DBL has about 20 other drivers who could all be calling at the same time with issues. My recommendation to new drivers is to be patient. Your DBL is there for you, doing what they can to take care of you and other drivers.

Your trainer has your best interest at heart

Every week I had the opportunity to tell new Schneider drivers in training that they are the most important members of Schneider. Without them, we wouldn’t be here. We rely on drivers to deliver exceptional customer service, and they rely on the training staff to give them the tools they need to be successful. It’s a team effort.

I think the training group catches grief for being sticklers about doing everything by the book, but it’s easy for drivers to develop less than strong habits. When I was a trainer, I called people out for small things like facial hair growth and wearing the wrong shoes. It’s not that we want to bust chops – we want to keep our drivers safe.

I’ve learned as a driver that sometimes you need to do and say things you don’t necessarily want to, but it’s required in that role to maintain our core value of Safety First and Always. That’s why Schneider has the best training in the industry.

Looking for a change?

Thinking about becoming a new driver or making the switch to Schneider but not sure where to start? Check out the various career paths Schneider offers.
About the author
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Lucas Karcher lives in western Texas. He has been driving for three years with Schneider. He started driving Tanker Over-the-Road, became a training engineer in 2013 and recently moved up within the company as a bulk driver safety leader. A featured All-Star and former English teacher, Lucas is always learning.

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