I was driving through north Oklahoma on the Saturday after Thanksgiving when I hit that snow/ice storm that blew through. My family and I were headed home from Texas to Kansas, so we caught most of that storm in the teeth as we trudged up I-35 at 40 miles-an-hour for hours and hours and hours. Around 1am, we stopped at a truck stop for gummy bears and to recoup our sanity.
As we drove along the lines of trucks squeezed in to every available space, I thought of something. Right at the end of the row were a few rigs that had obviously pulled in early and snagged the spots closest to the on-ramp. These guys had figured it was better to stay put and wait for the plows to clear most of the slush than to forge ahead. Because of this, they were:
- Out of the dangerous traffic as cars and trucks slipped, slid, and veered off the road.
- Rested for the next leg instead of tired-eyed from all the concentration on traction, visibility, and other drivers.
- Reset on their 10 hours if they stayed that long, or at least able to take advantage of the Split-Sleeper Berth Exception with a shorter break.
- Positioned at the end of the lot without anyone in their way so they could get out just as soon as they wanted.
Now, I’m just an observer. I’m not a dispatcher or a safety manager. And I didn’t go over and talk to any of those guys to confirm their amazing foresight and strategy. The angle I’m coming from is this:
As I driver, you can be reactive or you can be proactive.
In my job, I handle reactive guys all the time. They ran out of hours, so they pushed a little farther on Personal Conveyence to get to a stop. They got caught in traffic, so they missed their scheduled break. They were in a rush, so they didn’t do a pre-trip inspection and missed a loose pigtail. Whatever it was, these reactive drivers got into trouble because of things they could have prevented.
Proactive drivers check their route and the weather and the timing in congested or high-traffic areas. They pack for the trip in case of unexpected delays. They plan their breaks to take full advantage of road conditions or timing. They check their truck and trailer, their papers, their ELD. And they check them all again, and again.
What’s the benefit? Proactive drivers cut away almost every preventable error violation from their records.
They come out looking way cleaner over the span of months and years than drivers who don’t put in the work. And that doesn’t just benefit their carriers. It makes a difference when these drivers need a promotion or a sweet new job with twice the pay and better hours. And it makes all the difference on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in the freezing slush between drivers ready at the start of the line and drivers stuck in the ditch.