December 15, 2020
Long-haul truckers, by definition, spend a lot of time on the road--away from home. This absence means leaving many creature-comforts behind. Driving long-haul also gives many truckers a chance to make the best money--which helps buy those creature comforts. The trade-off are many.
While you at your truck driving school in Washington state, your CDL instructors helped you learn to work through trip planning, and maybe even discussed making trips as easy as possible. They may not have talked much about comfort--making sure you enjoy trips as long as possible. So here are 11 things which will help your trip provide you with some comfort--and a feeling of being at home.
You probably already know this, but work gloves, a first aid kid, and sunglasses will be most welcome 12 months out of the year. All three items are necessities, and make it possible for trips to be comfortable.
Work gloves will reduce cuts and scrapes on your hands as you work on the vehicle. These can keep things more comfortable.
Good polarized sunglasses will reduce eyestrain and headaches, but you can probably count on losing a few each year. Balance quality with expense, and keep a few pairs in the vehicle. If you use prescription lenses, be VERY careful with them.
Your first aid kit should be yours--and not the company’s. You are the one who can keep it updated. Check it every trip, and frequently replace items as needed.
Truckers have a reputation for not eating well. Between long hours and rushed schedules, the reputation may have once been deserved. But in 2018, there are options for truckers.
One option is to install a small refrigerator in the cab of your truck. It will keep your water or soda cold, as well as help you have fresh food during the trip. You’ll be able to take leftovers with you safely, and also store food for the entire week.
You might also want to consider bringing several food warming devices with you.
A small microwave oven will fit into your cab, and provide you with a quick, easy way to heat up leftovers, coffee, ramen, or another snack. Several models will fit in convenient spaces for your comfort.
Small crock pots can be powered from your 12-volt outlets, allowing you to start dinner in the morning and find it ready when you get off the road in the evening. You’ll be eating healthier than ever, and not have to worry about being near an eatery when your hours of service are up for the day.
During the winter, when you stop for the night, you want a good night’s sleep. To make sure you get that sleep, you want to be warm. Getting an electric blanket will help ensure you remain comfortable while you sleep.
While we’re talking about warmth, having wool and fleece socks, warm gloves, and a wool cap will also help. We lose most heat through our heads, and a cap will keep your feet warm.
While you’re getting ready for your sleep, you may want to check in with home or find some entertainment.
Mini-satellite dishes are available for your truck--allowing you to connect with many networks, and possibly even the internet. You’ll be able to keep up with your favorite shows.
Couple the dish with a small TV, and you’ll be set.
Bring items to take care of yourself. Changes of clothes--especially underwear--as well as personal grooming products will allow you to project the right image, both on the road and at the truckstop, as well as at the loading dock. You never know when your next job is going to be--be ready.
Your overnight kit should have a toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, shaving cream, soap, deodorant, and mouthwash. If you are taking regular prescriptions, have plenty for the trip, and also try to keep a copy of the scrip with you--just in case.
Wet wipes will help you stay clean between showers--clean all over, including after going to the bathroom.
We all have GPS now--between a GPS device and our cell phones, we think we know where we are.
Having a supply of maps and local road atlases, however, can make sure you don’t get lost--sometimes we’re not able to access our GPS especially if plans change. If you’re flexible, you’ll get to where you need to go.
Have a high-quality truck tool kit on board. The big ones are stowed outside, but you should also have a small one in the cab.
Truck tool boxes come in a variety of sizes, and are made either of metal or plastic. The metal ones are probably more durable, but the plastic ones are much better than they used to be. Large tool boxes can carry smaller ones, which have focused sets of tools in them.
You need to feel safe while you’re out on the road. Some truckers may first think of carrying a firearm, but generally, they need to remain locked up with ammunition kept separately. If you are a truck driver in the Pacific northwest, also, you may be expected to drive into Canada, where it is very difficult to possess a gun.
You will want flashlights on board, including some heavy duty ones which are weighted enough to be useful in self-defense. You may also want to carry rechargeable flashlights which can charge during the day as you drive.
Everyone needs to go to the bathroom--that seems obvious. It’s also unhealthy to hold it for too long a time. And, while truckers should follow General Patton’s advice--paraphrased, he said, “Never miss an opportunity to go”--you might not be able to coordinate your required or planned break stops for when you need to go.
A portable toilet is both convenient and easy to use. The better models don’t leak or smell--especially when you use a deodorant in the tank, and are easy to empty at a truck stop--and not every time. Use a dish soap to clean the tank when you’re on home-stay or during a mandatory 34 hour rest period.
Your OTR trip is time to wear sensible footwear. You should have several pairs with you. Several pairs of good sneakers or walking shoes will service you well, while heaver boots may be helpful when you’re outside or in difficult weather.
Wool socks are crucial for cold weather, while comfortable socks will serve you well the rest of the year.
If you’re a newer trucker, you’re likely to be driving long-haul for a while during your first years out of truck driving school. As you drive away from your home in Tacoma, you should make sure your long-haul rides are as comfortable as possible.
You’ll find what works for you as the miles add up--but we hope these ideas help you make those long trips easier.