Every three to four years I am given the privilege of moving into a brand new tractor. As I clean out the old tractor, I have the opportunity to look at all the things I’ve been carrying around with me for the past four years and to make a decision as to its value.
Do these items still serve a purpose? Are they of use? The criteria I use to make this decision is pretty simple. If I have not had an item in my hands and put it to good use over the past four years, then it doesn’t warrant taking up valuable living space in the truck.
I discovered I own a lot of maps and map books that I don’t use regularly – or at all. So I took them home and discovered I have even more maps. A lot of maps. I think I have a map problem. My wife of almost 40 years had a practical solution.
“Why don’t you just get rid of them if you don’t use them? They’re just taking up space.”
The look in my eyes told her I’d already been down that road. She left me to stew.
On reflection, it became obvious to me pretty quickly that these maps are a tactile connection to my memories and experiences of the past 20 years. They are a reference point.
When I open one up, the stories pour out – even recent ones – despite the fact I’ve been using Google Maps pretty much exclusively for the past four-plus years.
Each map is a trucking diary, and it’s just fun to get lost in the experience and the lessons each one holds.
That led me to thinking about the reference material that does warrant taking up valuable living space in my truck. That reference material is filled with lessons, and
I use it to tap into my experience and expand my knowledge.
The only map I ended up taking back to my new truck was my commercial Rand McNally road atlas. This atlas provides all the information I need to get where I need to go without batteries or internet access. It is basic information for truckers and a must-have.
I keep the most recent editions of Ontario’s Truck Driver’s handbook and Air Brake Endorsement. This material provides me with all the basic laws, regulations, and routines I am obligated to follow as a professional driver.
Third, I retained a drivers’ hours-of-service reference guide covering all the jurisdictions I drive in.
Fourth, operating manuals for the truck and engine of the truck I’m driving as well as manuals for all the various accessories that may have been added on.
These are the basic reference materials I always want with me. Having access to the internet is fantastic, but it is only of use if you know what questions to ask. As truckers, we all need a contingency plan in place that maintains our independence when all else fails. This is where the rubber meets the road. This is Trucking 101.
Independence is about accountability, especially to ourselves. In my opinion, it does not matter if you are a new driver, a novice driver, or a well-seasoned professional, I believe it is incumbent upon all of us out here to stay up to date on the laws and procedures we must follow.
In addition, it is up to us to remain well versed and knowledgeable about the equipment we use. We can’t communicate effectively with other professionals in the industry – especially diesel techs – if we don’t have a basic working knowledge of the equipment we drive and the policies we are responsible to uphold.
The bottom line is that you need to read and review the operating manual and you need to read and review the regulations that govern your profession on a regular basis if you want to grow, prosper, and remain independent as a professional driver. When we do that, everyone benefits.