In some professions, a gap exists between book smarts and practical experience. For truck drivers, getting a CDL learners permit and then passing the road skills test is just half the battle. That’s largely because delivering goods and materials to communities isn’t just a job. Trucking is a lifestyle that requires long hours on the road and determination.
Whether you are a newly-minted CDL holder or a seasoned veteran, there’s always one more thing to learn about the trucking culture. At CDLjobs.com, our platform provides essential trucking information and news, and we hope these 12 unspoken truck driving rules serve you well on the open road.
1: Passing Distance Truck Driving Rules of Etiquette
Not passing from the right may be an obvious no-no to first-year truck drivers. But when you are out on the interstate, experienced truckers rely on enhanced safe distances when using the passing lane. One of the unspoken truck driving rules calls for a minimum of 200 feet between the rear of your trailer and the nose of the tractor-trailer behind you. If that seems like an excessive amount of distance, consider the following reasoning behind it.
If you pass another trucker in tight quarters, you basically blind your counterpart from seeing anything except the back of your trailer. Should a vehicle suddenly brake ahead, debris be strewn over the road, or an accident occurs, the trucker in the rear will be hamstrung from successfully making an emergency stop. The 200-foot rule keeps truckers and passenger vehicle drivers safe.
2: Trucker Driver Communication: The Wave
Over-the-road and regional drivers all spend a lot of time away from home. Many sleep in their vehicles at rest areas and truck stops as they keep the supply chains across America flowing. Needless to say, it can get a tad lonely out there at times. Tossing a wave to a passing comrade or one stretching their legs before getting back behind the wheel is generally appreciated.
3: Truck Driver Communication: The Honk
Batman, Wonder Woman, Spiderman, and Truck Drivers all have at least one thing in common. They are all heroes to kids. When a youngster makes the gesture to blow the air horn, consider yourself duty-bound. And one little-known secret about this unspoken truck driving rule is that adults get a kick out of the blast as well. Besides, it’s cool to honk your own horn.
4: Truck Driver Communication: Safe Passing Notice
One of the common courtesies that truckers routinely offer each other involves passing safety. The unspoken rule is to flash the headlights to let drivers know they have a safe space to re-enter the travel lane. Sometimes they’ll just give you a shout on the radio. The essential point is that communication helps everyone stay a little safer.
5: Truck Driver Communication: CB Radios
It’s no secret that people take on an alter-ego on social media and make regrettable posts and tweets. To say this is considered completely unacceptable on trucker-to-trucker CB radio channels would be a huge understatement. There are wide-ranging reasons why unspoken truck driving rules ban outlandish smack-talk. First and foremost, professional CDL holders expect the basic courtesy and respect they are due. Another reason it’s in your best interest to conduct yourself appropriately because the trucking industry is a lot smaller than you might think. Once you go postal on the CB, you’ll lose the respect of your colleagues.
6: Know Your Truck Driver Lingo
C.W. McCall immortalized truck driver lingo in his 1975 Number One hit song, “Convoy.” The second verse goes something like:
Was the dark of the moon on the sixth of June
In a Kenworth pullin' logs
Cab-over Pete with a reefer on
And a Jimmy haulin' hogs
We is headin' for bear on I-one-oh
'Bout a mile outta Shaky Town
I says, “Pig Pen, this here's the Rubber Duck
“And I'm about to put the hammer down.”
The song topped both the pop and country music charts and created a fascination with truck driver lingo, particularly used on CB radios. If you’ve been on the road a while, you probably know how to sling the jargon. If not, there are online resources such as CB World, Trucker Country, and Thrillist, among others, where you can brush up before sounding like a novice. If you’re going to talk on the CB, know your truck driver lingo — 10-4?
7: Never Talk About The Load Your Hauling
As the saying goes, “loose lips sink ships.” Although you will meet a lot of great and honest people in and around the trucking profession, let commonsense prevail. There’s no telling who the wrong person might be and who could overhear your conversation. According to FBI reporting, reports of cargo theft topped $33 million in 2018, and the stolen goods ranged from clothing to consumable goods and everything in between. Experienced truckers typically don’t talk about their load because it can put a target on your back.
8: Pay it Forward: Lend New Truck Drivers A Hand
Whether the situation calls for helping a driver back into a tight dock or lending some advice, truck drivers are all in it together. Upstart drivers will find that tractor-trailer veterans will get out of their cabs and offer you hand signals when backing up. Long-standing professionals have a lot of insider information that will help you successfully navigate a career. When you accumulate useful information or see another trucker who could use a hand, pay it forward.
9: Unspoken Truck Stop Rules of Etiquette
Truckers would be well-served to approach driving through rest areas and truck stops as if they were parking lots — which they are! Regardless of your hurry, steadying through at 3 to 5 mph is perfectly reasonable. And if you are a newer driver worried about gaining enough speed to reacclimate your rig to a highway or interstate, truck stop speed is not the solution. You’ll only make a risky name for yourself on the CB radio. Got it, good buddy?
10: Only Use The Squeegee To Wash Your Windows
This may sound like a quirky trucker rule, but take a moment and consider what happens if you use the squeegee for anything but windows. Take, for example, a fuel tank covered in stuck-on grit caked into leaky diesel. It makes sense to get that off while cleaning the tractor’s exterior. Then the next driver picks up the same squeegee and soils their windshield with grime. If you don’t already know how hard it is to get filthy diesel off a windshield, you don’t want to know. It’s one of those unspoken driving rules until someone does it. After that, the other driver will be speaking to you.
11: Educate Newer CDL Holders Who Are Still Learning
Every professional requires some degree of on-the-job learning. The problem the trucking industry struggles with is that the learning curve can have tragic consequences. Some truckers call pointing out mistakes “policing.” Given that the vast majority of truckers are good, hard-working people, a friendly head’s up about an issue should suffice. Truckers need to take care of their own and cover each other’s backs.
12: Give Fellow Truckers A Head’s Up About Career Opportunities
Seasoned drivers typically earn higher salaries than upstarts. The trucking industry requires everyone to pay their dues and earn their way into the top-paying truck driving positions. By that same token, every CDL professional deserves to maximize their earning potential. That’s why one of the unspoken truck driving rules is to tell your buddies about career opportunities like the ones listed at CDLjobs.com.