20 road trip tips from professional truck drivers

The first summer of COVID-19, people hopped in the car for road trips. It was the safest way to travel. One AAA forecast estimated nearly 700 million road trips during the summer of 2020. With borders still closed and travel largely discouraged this year, road trips will again be the vacation of choice. So to help you prepare to hit the open road, we’ve compiled a list of tips from professional truck drivers to help you drive safely and enjoy your summer vacation.

  1. Wear sunglasses. Driving in the midday sun is no joke. Road glare can be a serious safety concern, especially in hot climates like our home state of California. Invest in a good pair of sunglasses to avoid straining your eyes.
  2. Check your load. This is the number one rule that truck drivers follow. Always check your truck and load before your leave. You may not be pulling an 18-wheeler, but you still have to make sure that everything you’ve packed is securely stowed. If you’re towing a trailer or have a car topper make sure everything is properly secured and in place.
  3. Be careful using cruise control in bad weather. Cruise control is great for fuel efficiency and it makes long trips easier. But if you are driving in poor weather, turn it off. It’s best if you’re able to adapt your speed to road conditions quickly.
  4. Plan your route. Good drivers always plan out their routes ahead of time. They plan for stops, breaks, and contingencies. Do the same and make sure you know your route well.
  5. Get good sleep. Did you know that professional drivers are required by law to take rest breaks? In addition, they can only drive a certain number of hours in between breaks. These rules were put in place as a safety precaution by the Department of Transportation to ensure drivers are always in good condition to drive. If you want to drive safely, plan plenty of time for proper rest and sleep so you can be fully alert while driving, just like the professionals do.
  6. Pack healthy snacks and hydrate well. Road trips can be expensive if you stop to eat every time you’re hungry. Gas station treats are a surefire way to trigger heartburn and nausea. Pack healthy snacks to keep you full and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
  7. Take breaks every 3-4 hours. Regular breaks are good for your health. They give you a chance to stretch your muscles and use the restroom.
  8. Watch your surroundings. Good truck drivers are always focusing on the road around their rig. They pay attention to the drivers in front, beside, and behind them. As the biggest vehicle on the road, they have to stay alert to avoid accidents because it takes more time for such a large vehicle to slow down. Follow this practice to stay safe on your road trip. Pay attention to your fellow drivers and keep an eye out for risky situations.
  9. Use music or audiobooks to stay focused. For some people, the open road is as soothing as a mother’s lullaby. If you’re one of those people, it’s time to download your favorite music, audiobooks, or podcasts to stay awake and alert.
  10. Know the road signs. When was the last time you tested your road sign knowledge? Take this traffic and road sign test to see if you can pass. If you can’t, brush up on your sign knowledge before you hit the road.
  11. Make sure your car is in good condition. We all have family stories of hitting the open road for a trip, only to break down in the middle of nowhere on the highway. Don’t make your parent’s mistakes. Get your car checked out before a road trip to make sure it’s in the best shape possible. Follow this guide for basic road trip maintenance. Ensure all your fluids are topped off and get a good oil change before you hit the road.
  12. Don’t follow too close. According to research compiled by the Insurance Information Institute, in 2018, 7.2% of all fatal crashes or 2439 accidents were collisions with the rear end of a vehicle. Following too closely to the vehicle in front of you, especially at high speeds, is reckless and dangerous. Be careful and make sure you have enough room to stop in an emergency.
  13. Check the weather. You can’t always prepare for bad weather, but you can do your best. Check the weather report for your whole route before you hit the road. If you hit bad weather, pull over and wait it out.
  14. Avoid drugs, alcohol, or stimulants. Driving while intoxicated or under the influence is illegal. Don’t drink and drive. But also be careful of overusing energy drinks or other substances that could impair your judgment. Avoid excessive caffeine or other stimulants to stay awake. Pullover and take a rest instead.
  15. Don’t speed. The number one cause of accidents is driving too fast. In 2018, 16.7% of fatal crashes or 8,596 crashes were caused by driving over the posted speed limit. Stay within the speed limit, avoid a ticket and stay safe.
  16. Check the route for construction ahead of time. There’s nothing worse than hitting highway construction when you are road tripping. Check the road trip report before you head out to avoid it if you can. If you do hit construction, don’t get mad. Just adjust your timetable, follow the posted speed limit, and eventually, you’ll make it to your destination.
  17. Take shifts (if driving with a buddy). One of the best parts of road tripping with friends is the ability to shift off driving duties. It’s a great way for everyone to stay rested and to cover a lot of distance fast. If you have a family member or a buddy you can travel with, take shifts to cover more ground.
  18. Make sure you know how to pass safely on the highway. How well do you remember the rules of highway passing from driver’s ed? Probably not as well as you think. Here’s a quick refresher: make sure you’re allowed to pass, check your mirrors, shoulder check, turn on your signal, recheck mirrors/shoulder check, move to left lane for passing, speed up 10-15 mph to pass the vehicle in front of you, safely merge back into your lane.
  19. Share your travel plans with others. You never know what will happen on the road. Make sure you share your travel plan details with a trusted friend or family member, including your expected arrival and departure times. If something changes while traveling, update your contact to make sure they know you are safe.
  20. Use the GasBuddy app to find the best gas prices. Gas prices can vary widely across the country. If you want to make the most out of your road trip budget, download the GasBuddy app to find the cheapest places to fill up on your route!

As California fuel and lubricant suppliers, we’ve driven all over the country delivering orders for our customers. Our delivery team is the best, and they know their stuff. Follow these tips, and you’ll be sure to have a great and safe road trip!