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Tips for the Driving Test

“Is this a test?” That’s a question that you hear often in school. There’s always someone wondering whether the assignment at hand counts for a grade. There’s no ambiguity about that when it comes to the driving test. You may be a bit nervous knowing that you need to do well on this test. The good news is there are plenty of strategies that can help you gain the confidence to take the test and pass it with flying colors.

Quizzing Your Knowledge

The driving test for truck drivers is like a rite of passage to be inducted into the long list of licensed drivers who take part in making the world a better place. The driving test can be a challenge but preparing for it and ensuring you know your stuff can go far in helping you curb the anxiety you may feel. The best things you can do to prepare are to attend a CDL training class (which is required by most driving positions), research study materials online, and talk to your instructor or other licensed drivers about their experience taking the driving test.

Taking the Test

The driving test is not designed to be difficult, but rather to assess your knowledge to ensure that you will be a safe driver on the road. Through your experience in the CDL training class, your prior experience driving with a CPL, and studying the rules and regulations you must follow on and off the road, the test will be a breeze. The most important tip for studying for the test is to take practice tests. Understanding the format and content of the test will greatly help with combatting stress. There are many free practice tests available online!

In addition to being familiar with the content of the test, being in tune with yourself and making sure you are feeling well enough to take the test, both physically and mentally, will allow your test taking experience to be as painless as possible. If you are feeling particularly anxious about the test, study and take practice tests until you are doing well enough to pass each time. Once you reach this level of knowledge, you should feel comfortable taking the test!

Pass With Flying Colors

Passing the driving test with flying colors is a task that you can surely handle with enough preparation and practice. Being sure to familiarize yourself with the content and format of the test will help to decrease your stress and put your best foot forward! Remember as you are preparing to take the test, to get enough sleep the day before and eat a good breakfast to ensure your brain is ready and that you are as comfortable as possible for your experience. Trucking is a great career, and we are glad you’ve decided to join in on the world’s greatest industry. Good luck on your test!

 

How to Handle Toll Roads

Whether you are a seasoned truck driver or new to the career, you are probably aware of the many expenses that go along with this profession, including tolls. Toll roads are currently in 34 US states and can pose major costs to freight carriers. As a truck driver, it is important to understand how different tolling systems across the US operate so you can avoid costly mistakes when transporting freight. 

Different Methods of Determining Toll Charges

There are three main methods of determining how much you will be charged for tolls.

  • Toll by Axle Count

Toll by axle count is the most common way of figuring out toll charges, with 5-axle, single trailer trucks being the most common configuration. Other stipulations such as single versus double tires, number of trailers, and axles-per-trailer will help determine the toll charges. 

  • Toll by Size

The dimensions of the truck is another common method used in determining toll charges. These dimensions include width, height, and length of the truck. 

  • Toll by Weight

Some tolling stations charge truck tolls by weight, which might be surprising to some. You may not realize it, but when you pull up to the pay booth you are driving onto a scale that is weighing the truck and applying the appropriate fee. 

How Do Truck Drivers Pay for Tolls?

Truck drivers pay for tolls two ways: cash or all-electronic tolling. 

Cash

Although paying with cash is still an option, there are an increasing number of toll stations that no longer accept cash. If you pass through a toll booth that is being managed by an attendant, you will be able to use cash. However, this can slow you down some. 

All-Electronic Tolling (AET)

AET is a cashless service that enables toll collection through transponders or license plate readers. It also gets rid of the need to stop to pay a toll. More and more toll stations are installing transponder readers and video cameras to capture the license plates of vehicles that do not have transponders. Drivers will then receive a bill by mail to the address registered to the plate. Two examples of common AET transponders are EZ Pass and NationalPass. The EZ Pass is a battery-operated machine that is mounted on the windshield and can be used in 17 states. It is activated by prepaying and allows drivers to pass through a toll booth without stopping. The NationalPass does cost more than the EZ Pass, but it provides access to all toll roads in the US without having to transport more than one transponder. As a truck driver your driving will involve much use of the interstate, therefore, you will want to invest in an option that covers all the locations you visit often. 

How to Save Money on Tolls

Besides using a transponder, another way to save money and decrease the difficulties related to tolling is to use the Tollsmart Toll Calculator for trucks. This tool allows you to easily calculate toll costs for a route and find a different route with fewer tolls. As a result, you could save a large amount of money in some areas. The app also informs you of which transponders and method of payments are accepted at each toll station on your route. 

Toll roads and toll stations can be a frustrating part of anyone’s journey, especially for truck drivers who are expected to keep to a schedule and arrive at their destination by a certain time. Knowing ahead of time what to expect at toll stations, how your toll will be determined, and the options for payment will help ease any anxiety or problems that could potentially happen. If you have questions regarding toll stations, contact Direct Freight at (888) 894-4198. Any one of our staff members would be happy to answer your questions!

Keeping Your Mind Healthy on the Road

Mental health has not always been a major focus of the American social system, but with the removal of stigma from mental health and healthcare, there have been major improvements made to the availability and efficacy of care. Even if you do not struggle with any specific condition, it is important to focus on your emotional, mental, and physical health to be sure you are remaining happy, healthy, and ready to take on the roads. 

Physical Health

The type of health that most people focus on when they hear things about staying healthy is physical health since it is the most obvious type of health. It is very important to stay sufficiently healthy and this can be a challenge on the road. Even though it may be difficult, it is crucial to focus on your physical health because keeping up with your physical health can help preserve your mental health. 

Some tips on keeping your body healthy while driving include taking stretch and exercise breaks. While you may be seated for extremely long stretches of time, you can take advantage of your break times by moving as much as possible and focusing on your flexibility. Another tip to preserve your health is to avoid high calorie, low nutrient foods. Trying to choose healthier options in food stores and restaurants may sometimes be a difficult choice, but staying balanced in your diet can be a life saver. 

Mental Health

Mental health deserves as much, or more, focus than physical health as it is the true driver of all your actions. When you are mentally healthy, you are happier, freer, and more available to your loved ones. This will improve your life experience as well as others around you. Sometimes taking care of your mind can be as simple as taking a quick break to reground yourself and remember who you are, while other times it may be necessary to talk to a physician.

While you may be self-reliant in terms of keeping yourself mentally healthy, it is crucial that you make time in your day to ensure your thoughts are happy and healthy. If you need tips for mindfulness or mental health management strategies, there are plenty of clinician reviewed online resources. Also, never be afraid to talk to someone about what you’re going through.. If you are experiencing a crisis, 1-800-662-HELP (4357) is the national hotline for finding help for mental health and substance abuse issues.

Overall Health

Keeping yourself healthy is sometimes a more complex process than it seems to be at the beginning, but it is a necessary aspect of living. Being healthy increases your quality of life greatly and it makes it possible for you to do more with the time you have. However busy you are, make sure to take time for yourself and understand your personal health level and how to improve it. Always remember, there are people here to help you and plenty of great free resources online and near you to facilitate your health! 

Coping With Stress on the Job

Stress is a part of life. As a natural nervous response to perceived danger, it serves an important function in keeping you alert and safe even in difficult situations. However, in the world today, we are exposed to many more stressors than our ancestors so managing these and keeping from becoming chronically stressed is important. Chronic stress can cause many bodily issues such as high blood pressure, cardiac issues, along with potentially weakening the immune system. 

The solution may seem obvious, just avoid stress. However, staying away from stressful situations is not always possible, especially while working in any career. This isn’t the end of the world though, as stressful situations are able to be managed with the right strategies. Learning to handle stress productively will help you become a calmer, happier, and more motivated person.  

What Causes Stress?

Stress is a response that the brain has to a perceived threat. Since humans used to be more exposed to danger, like wild animals, storms, and other hazards, the stress response developed to keep them safe as it increases heart rate and brain activity to make it possible for the person to get out of the situation unharmed. Nowadays, there are not many wild animals that we have to worry about on  a daily basis, but situations that cause stress may be as simple as failing to do something or taking tests. In each of these moments, the brain is convinced that harm will come, so it triggers the stress response.

The stress response happens as the brain releases hormones that increase blood pressure and pulse, which causes hair to stand on end, and create a general feeling of anxiety. This is normal. Stress is a natural human response to fear-inducing events, but it can be controlled. There are strategies for managing stress like exercise, mindfulness practice, reading, and therapy. Talk to your medical provider about your stress and see what their suggestion is on the best way to manage it. 

Stressful Situations and Staying Calm

Stressful situations are everywhere! From being late to work, to forgetting a loved one’s birthday, each of these can cause a stress response. There are plenty of reasons for the stress response to be triggered, and driving can create some as well. From managing time, to the potential danger of cargo thieves, stress sometimes happens.

The good news is you can manage even the most stressful situations. Some quick strategies to keep your stress levels down are: exercise and move often, making sure to stretch, drinking less caffeine, and being mindful about what is causing your stress. Understanding your own stress response will help you to be aware of what causes you stress and create strategies to avoid becoming too anxious. If you try these and remain stressed, talk to your doctor, and they can give you strategies to manage stress.

Final Thoughts

Stress is everywhere, but you have a powerful mind that can work around being knocked down by stress. There are plenty of things that cause stress, but there are also many things that can be done to help ease stress. Don’t give up, and if you are feeling overly stressed for a long period of time, do speak with your clinician, and they can help you find coping strategies personalized to you. 

There’s an App for That

Everything is online nowadays and the common anecdote, “there’s an app for that,” rings true for the most part. There are apps and sites for nearly everything, from getting news and reading books to tracking your health and buying things online. Almost anything you search for in your smartphone’s app store will turn out results. It isn’t a bad thing that there are apps for nearly every utilization imaginable. In fact, it can be good for the trucking industry, as well as your own experience in driving, managing, or dispatching. 

Applications

With the rise of the smartphone came the rise of the application or app. An app is a piece of software you can install on your phone for a specific purpose. People all over the world create different apps for your phone that are available in the app store (sometimes for free, and usually for a low price). These apps are created to help make your life easier through providing entertainment, a hub for news, or adding technology to a part of your life that will make your day easier, such as creating to-do lists, shopping without going to the store, or ordering takeout. Apps are for people from all walks of life, and those in the trucking industry are no exception.

Finding Resources

Technology is everywhere, and there are plenty of ways to use it to your advantage. Most of the time, there are technologies created to address the specific issue you may be facing. For trucking and transport there are several apps to help ease the entire process, and the best place to look would be the app store first. Then check out the reviews and ratings of each app to find the best one for you. 

Many popular apps for drivers are GPS based and contain a logbook for you to track your routes. This can be important for providing information to your overseers, or for keeping track of your own business. The GPS feature of many apps allow for easier navigation and the ability to avoid high-risk zones, and plan around meals, breaks, and stops. Some apps are even available that allow you to locate loads or drivers depending on what you need. 

If you are unsure about an app, do some research online and you will likely be able to determine how well it works, and even which one would best suit your needs. Even if you aren’t using trucking industry specific apps, there are applications that are always a good idea to have on your phone as a driver. These include health apps to track your fitness, map apps to track your routes, reminder apps to be sure you stay on task, and some apps for entertainment like podcasts and music to stay mentally engaged while on your trip.

Final Thoughts

There are many benefits to living in the 21st century from updated medical care, to having awesome technology to make your life easier. Finding the right apps to put on your phone is important, and you can do this by taking a few minutes out of your day to see what things may make your life easier, and then searching for them on the app store of your choosing. 

All About the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Regulation, regulation, regulation- the government is very good at you guessed it, regulation. Sometimes the laws and rules around driving and the trucking industry or even the economy seem tedious and invasive, but governmental regulation can be a very good thing for the safety and prosperity of everyone in the nation. Following guidelines and keeping equipment up to date to the standards of governmental authority can sometimes seem like too much to keep track of but being sure to stay within the rules is a great way to stay safe and free of expensive fines and limitations.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is a governmental authority that plays a major role in regulating the national motor transport industry from long-haul to regional trucking and everything in between. The goal of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration is to “keep our nation’s roadways safe and improve commercial motor vehicle safety through regulation, education, enforcement, research, and technology.”

A History of Transport

The United States has had a long history of transporting goods, even before the nation was founded, farmers, trappers, and traders carried goods across the continent for trading purposes. After the days of horses and buggies, railroads and steamships came into the limelight as a great way to expediently transport goods across the nation, and even across the world. While cargo ships and railways are still used to transport goods daily, the American Trucking Industry is the primary means of transport for domestic cargo.

The first modern type of tractor trailer was built and used in 1914 to transport a boat- ever since then, 18-wheelers have taken over the roads as the most efficient form of transport over land. With the ability to move huge amounts of goods faster than any other terrestrial vehicle, it’s a no-brainer that trucks became so popular. The increase in trucks prompted the need for regulation- for a while, the industry was in a wild west stage with little regulation and little safety but creating guidelines for those in the industry whether it be drivers, engineers, or managers helped in forming the trucking industry of today! 

A Useful Resource

The FMCSA is not only a regulating and enforcing agency, but also a useful research and educational base for drivers and managers. The FMCSA website is filled with articles about how to improve your driving or managing experience, and it also has news about the latest technology and how it impacts the industry. One of the most important tabs on the entire website is the safety tab- it contains information on keeping yourself and others safe from all the risks that occur with the industry.

The FMCSA also serves as a database for statistics, information, and driver data. Managers can use FMCSA Licensing and Insurance public record to ensure that they are hiring legitimate drivers which is important for keeping their business, other drivers, and the public safe. The FMCSA serves as a useful hub for everyone in the industry, allowing them to stay current and informed.

Final Thoughts

The FMCSA is a great resource for everyone in the industry, giving the latest news on technology, statistics, and regulations. There are many resources on the FMCSA website for making your routes safer, happier, and healthier through articles, rules, and press releases about current issues in the industry. It’s an awesome idea to check out the FMCSA website (linked here) to explore the regulation side of the industry!

Fresh and Fit: Tips for Eating Healthy on the Road

You hear all about it in the news, “eat healthy and be active for a long life,” and you for sure want a long life, but sometimes it’s hard to follow those two directives as a driver whether you’re in it for the long-haul or local transport. 

Healthy Lifestyle

Driving can make having a healthy lifestyle difficult, especially when loads are so frequent and time is so short. Finding time to exercise and plan out meals can become difficult to manage in between journeys. This can add stress to an already stressful day, week, or month. This is problematic because health is so important; it makes you feel better, thus making you a better driver, and it prevents the risk of health conditions associated with being a driver such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes. 

Some drivers may be struggling with these health conditions and are trying to become healthier. It is extremely important to form healthy habits over bad ones and create a lifestyle around these healthier habits. Whether you are already healthy and trying to remain so, or you are on the journey to becoming healthier, setting goals, planning routes, and learning how to eat to best benefit your body are all important steps to take to form healthy habits and eventually a healthy lifestyle!

Goals, Planning, and Healthy Food

Setting specific goals is important to your success. If you just set the goal of “I want to be healthy,” it is not likely that you will achieve it. However, if you follow this set of three S’s (Specific, Scheduled, and Sustainable) you can achieve your goals: Specific (make your goal specific, “I will lose 30 lbs.”), Scheduled (set a time frame for your goal, “I will lose 30 lbs. in 6 months), and Sustainable (make your goal attainable and explain how you will accomplish it, “I will choose healthy food over unhealthy food at least twice a day and exercise 3 days per week”). 

Reaching your goals can be difficult without a plan. While you are thinking about your route, do a search for healthy restaurants on your route, or even find healthy options at fast food restaurants. These may not be nearly as tasty, but the benefits will be evident as you do this consistently and become healthier. Finding healthy food may be difficult, but it is always a good idea to use the internet to assist you. Doing a quick search for healthy restaurants or healthy options at a restaurant can give you some guidance. Also, a talk with your doctor about creating a plan for healthy eating is a great start to creating a very healthy lifestyle!

Can I Habit?

Humans are creatures of habit. We even form routines subconsciously. This is especially true of our eating and sleeping habits. Sometimes our bodies do not know what is best for us, so we begin having strange sleep schedules to stay up and watch the Late Late Show or eat high sugar, high fat, high sodium meals at all hours of the day because it satisfies cravings. People don’t usually form these habits on purpose, but when unhealthy meals are so readily available it makes forming healthy eating habits extremely difficult.

Therefore, forming healthy habits on purpose is important. Rather than breaking old habits, which is nearly impossible, form new ones and the old ones will eventually fade away as your brain pays attention to these new healthy ones. So, how do you do that? The best way to form a habit is repetition, and to remember to repeat the action, you may have to write it down or set a reminder on your phone. Sometimes it may be hard to choose that grilled chicken and veggie plate over a burger and fries, but remember your goal and your reason for choosing health and it will become easier. 

Final Thoughts

Your health is incredibly important and it will help you to live a long life with less risk of developing major medical conditions. If you are unsure where to start or how to set your goals, have a conversation with your doctor and do some research to figure out how to create the best healthy lifestyle for yourself!

2021 is the year for electric trucks. What does this mean for the trucking industry?

It’s electric! As the popular dance song exclaimed in the 90s, electric vehicles are all the rage these days and for good reason. Electric vehicles are now being manufactured by more than fringe corporations, and they are more reliably and neatly constructed than the somewhat disappointing electric vehicles of the past. Touted as the wave of the future, electric vehicles are becoming increasingly more popular as they increase in efficiency and range. 

Electric Vehicles

Electric vehicles are far different from most conventional vehicles in the United States. Most cars, trucks, and even planes run off fossil fuels. Instead of combustion engines, electric vehicles use rechargeable batteries (in various formulations, though lithium-ion batteries seem to be the most popular) to power motors. Until the 21st century, electric vehicles were mostly niche, short-range contraptions that were yet to fully pass public scrutiny.

With the rise of mainstream automotive companies making hybrid and electric cars, there has been an upsurge in public trust of these vehicles. A major player in the electric vehicle industry is Tesla. So, what is the benefit of electric over gas? There are actually quite a few benefits for both the consumer and the environment. Electric vehicles do not require fuel to recharge, so they take advantage of a power source in either your home or an electric vehicle charging station (this usually costs about $9 to fully charge an electric car, making it much cheaper than conventional fuel). Also, they do not emit fumes and gases into the atmosphere which is beneficial from a climate conscious standpoint, as well as preventing traces of lead and other heavy metals from entering the air, soil, and waterways.

The Way of the Future?

Average electric trucks are currently only equipped with about 300 miles of range, at maximum, so they are still a ways away from becoming the sole vehicles of the transportation industry. However, most of the trucking in the United States is performed fairly locally, and electric vehicles shine in short-range transportation. Along with no major fuel costs, electric trucks are also less prone to breakage due to the fact that there are not as many intricate moving parts as in the engines of conventional vehicles. 

This reduction of necessary repairs and replacements will save time, stress, and money which will allow drivers to transport more goods more frequently. While this will certainly be a cheaper model for companies to adopt, it will be a challenge to ensure there are enough charging ports at stations. All things considered, electric vehicles will not likely take over as the sole mode of transportation just yet, as there are many improvements and innovations to be developed.

Final Thoughts

Electric vehicles are becoming more popular, but there is no doubt that the trucking industry will persevere since people depend on this intricate system of transportation to receive the goods that they need. There will certainly be challenges as the industry shifts to adopt a more electric-friendly mode. These challenges will be worth it, due to the reduction in repair times and costs for the vehicles. The trucking industry should be excited about the potential benefits of going green, as this will be a cheaper and more sustainable model in the long run. 

What will self-driving trucks mean for truck drivers?

Who is driving that truck? The answer may be nobody. It’s a strange thought for most people since vehicles have been operated by a driver for as long as they have existed . There seems to be something odd about a driverless vehicle, but unlike wild horses before being trained to pull a buggy, these autonomous vehicles are strongly regulated and programmed for safety before they are allowed onto the road.

The idea of autonomous vehicles is concerning to people in the industry, especially those who are employed as drivers, as these vehicles could potentially pose a threat to their jobs. This fear is currently not warranted though, as most autonomous vehicles in production require human intervention and supervision. It is impossible to replace human intuition with a machine. While there are certainly more autonomous vehicles than there ever have been, there is no doubt that truck drivers are still important and will remain important pieces of the United States economy, despite an increase in vehicle autonomy. 

Self-Driving Vehicles

The first self-driving vehicle was produced in 1958 by the General Motors company which was “guided by radio-controlled electromagnetic fields generated with magnetized metal spikes embedded in the roadway” according to TitleMax.com. Self-driving vehicles now work differently and are controlled by a series of sensors, cameras, processors, and programs that detect and interpret real world data while navigating through the obstacles and pathways of the world.

Self-driving vehicles are not a one-size-fits-all innovation. The autonomous capabilities come in a variety of constraints from levels 0-5 with 0 being a non-autonomous vehicle, and 5 being a fully driverless (and without a steering wheel) vehicle for all conditions, according to Synopsys.com. The majority of newer vehicles are actually in the level 1 category of autonomy with lane control and parking assistance. There are currently no level 5 vehicles on the road as of yet. Reports are mixed on the timeframe for these vehicles becoming a reality.

Self-driving vehicles do pose some benefits, especially in the safety and continuous transport sectors, as they do not suffer fatigue or require breaks from service as human drivers do. This continuous service could definitely save time and reduce the potential for accidents and mishaps on the roadway, but this technology is currently imperfect and cannot function on its own. However, with the supervision of an experienced driver, the machine and human effort working together could potentially create a smoother trucking industry. 

What About the Drivers?

There are currently level 4 autonomy rated vehicles being tested for service right now, but it is important to note that these vehicles are not entirely driverless. While they can manage speed, navigation, and traffic for the most part, when conditions become more challenging, they still require the help of a human driver. It is not expected that level 5 trucks will become available any time soon, and even when they are, it will likely be required that a human operator be supervising their navigation and speed.

In short, drivers will never be able to be fully replaced and autonomous vehicles don’t pose a real risk to their job security. The demands of the career may change, and it will likely be that your foot may not have to always remain on the pedal or your hand on the steering wheel, but your input and service as an operator will be valued and needed for the foreseeable future. You still have a major role to play in the industry, so it’s not time to hang up your keys just yet!

Staying Flexible while Truck Driving

We all experience it sometimes, stiffness is the bane of the human experience after long spells of sleeping, sitting, or driving. Without constant motion our joints decide that they want to stay in the same position, and this can be an uncomfortable situation. The good news is that even for people in careers that require long spans of stationary work, such as truck drivers, stiffness is still avoidable.

Stretch Like Armstrong

While you won’t always be able to stop and walk around once you feel stiffness coming on, there are plenty of stretches you can do at pick-up and drop-off locations, as well as stops along the way to keep yourself limber for the long drive ahead.. To get the greatest benefit, you must be consistent. Stretching every now and then may be helpful, but the real benefit comes from stretching regularly.

Stretching is something everyone does naturally. Concentrated stretches to loosen up your body include toe touches, swinging your arms in large circles and then small circles, twisting your upper body back and forth, and performing a downward dog and seal stretch if you are able to lay on the ground. There are more stretches online that you can find with a quick google search for all fitness levels and time constraints. 

Exercising isn’t just for Bodybuilders

In addition to promoting your overall health and reducing your risk of injury, exercising regularly can also help you stay flexible. Isaac Newton’s First Law of Motion says that “an object in motion stays in motion.” This is a fact that is applicable far beyond the reach of high school physics classes. Even though driving requires you to stay seated for long periods of time, moving as much as you can during stops and time off is important to maintaining your wellbeing and flexibility, which will translate to more comfortable drives. 

There are many exercise options, for those of all fitness levels, to build their health. Taking a run or walk around the block may be the most viable choice for some, while going to the gym or practicing calisthenics may be beneficial for others. Try different workouts to keep your body and mind engaged and prevent burnout from repeating the same thing constantly.

Fit and Free

Growing older means that you will inevitably become stiffer, but even this age-related stiffening of the joints and muscles can be combated through purposeful motion. The more you move the fewer injuries, pain, and stiffness you will face as you continue enjoying your chosen career. Maintaining a routine of stretching and exercising, whenever possible, will help you stay safer and freer from worry for much longer than simply letting time run its course. 

The most important thing to remember while combating stiffness is that stretching and exercising must be a consistent part of your routine to see any real improvements in your flexibility. The more you move and stretch, the more your body will feel stronger, limber, and ready to tackle anything life throws your way. It’s as simple as taking a walk at your next stop and adding in a few toe touches every day. Then building up to more difficult stretches and workouts as you go.