With high fuel prices, low rates, and fears of a trucking recession, carriers must find ways to efficiently run their business.
In a tight economy, carriers and drivers need to reduce unnecessary costs, focus on preventative maintenance, and reduce any deadhead miles.
From a driving perspective, it is more important than ever to encourage proper trip planning because a well planned trip is profitable.
While this is common knowledge, we know that many drivers are not practicing good trip planning or journey management.
A lot of new drivers don’t give trip planning the attention it deserves or lack sufficient training on this topic.
You don’t want to be backed up against the end of the day facing the stress of running late, not knowing where to park for the night, or finding yourself in a dangerous situation.
So, below are 12 tips on proper trip planning.
Why Proper Trip Planning?
Before we hit the 12 tips, let’s quickly run down why proper trip planning and journey management is so important.
A trucker must plan around the daily and weekly hours of service regulations and the carrier or customer demands.
To make a good profit on the load, proper trip planning is key to reduce unnecessary costs and limit road risk.
On the flip side, a poorly planned route can have seriously negative impacts, such as:
- Running out of fuel
- Over fueling before scaling
- Inability to find food and rest stops
- Breaking down with nowhere to go
- Ending up in dangerous areas
- Wasted fuel and service hours
- Damage to your driving record
- No proper rest area or truck stop parking for the night
- Not knowing where repair shops are located, or other essential services
Beyond driving efficiently, a driver needs to weigh risk in trip planning. This is journey management.
A lot of benefits of trip planning and journey management go together. But specifically, journey management looks to:
- Eliminate unnecessary trips to reduce crash risk
- Minimize exposure to traffic hazards
- Reduce fuel costs
- Reduce wear and tear on fleet vehicles
- Reduce liability
- Increase fleet and driver efficiency
Drivers are your greatest safety feature and are the best defense in protecting the organization from risk and liability.
In the end, the goal is to drive more efficiently and reduce risk to make shippers, maintenance, insurance providers, and your bottom line happy.
12 tips for proper trip planning and journey management
- Do not overlook weather reports. No matter where you are driving, you don’t want to be stuck in a bad situation. The weather can have a huge impact on your day and will increase your driving risks. Listen for severe rain, dangerous winds, heavy snow, chances of ice on the roads, extreme heat, and chances of tornados. Plan on not driving during risky weather events or plan a location to stop early if you must. Road closures can derail your entire trip and an accident can derail your entire business.
- Consider areas of higher risk in your route for the day. In other words, know where the obstacles are. You should consider route terrain, peak driving hours, city driving, border crossings, and weigh stations or roadside enforcement locations.
- Set a realistic number of daily stops to assume average speed. This includes stopping for bathroom breaks, eating, fueling, border time crossing, traffic, and weather. A conservative daily average speed is 38mph but depends on your location. If traffic volume is high, expect fewer miles in a day. If in the middle of no-where, you will likely travel more distance.
- Figure out the total distance of your route for the day. You can base this on the assumed average speed, but be sure to calculate expected detours, miles off the main road to each delivery or stop, and the miles you will travel for breaks.
- Be flexible in your planning during the trip. In other words, pay attention to upcoming accidents or obstacles by looking for road signs or communicating with other drivers or dispatchers.
- Know your daily and weekly drive time hours. Let’s be real. Your ELD can be your best friend or worst enemy. Don’t let the ELD dictate your trip planning. Instead plan with your hours-of-service in mind. And remember, fatigue plays a major factor in traffic accidents. If planned correctly, your chances for drowsy driving can be minimized substantially.
- Locate essential service locations. This includes noting wherethere are repair shops or tire shops in areas of higher risk, like mountain passes, long stretches of empty roads, and more.Ensure you have somewhere to go and someone to call if you run into trouble.
- Plan fuel stops. With fuel prices swinging dramatically at gas stations, you cannot rely on a steady price. Often times, when you accept a load you may receive a fuel heat map, and/or suggested fuel stops, to keep your costs down. Plan ahead as a thrifty driver can save .10 per gallon or more from one state to another. Additionally, proper truck driver route planning also includes not over-fueling before a weigh station or inspection point. You don’t want a chance of running overweight. Plan your fuel stops ahead of time and use fuel rewards programs to save money.
- Plan for truck parking. If you don’t stop to land for the night early in the evening, you may not find a place to park and sleep for the night. Choose a good place to stop around 6pm or know a trusted place to park if driving late into the night. Staying away from dangerous locations, like high crime areas, and stay safe.
- Always pack an emergency kit. You should be prepared for the worst. This includes no cell service situations in 100 degree heat or -10 degree cold. So, make sure you have food in the cab, essential supplies, extra clothing, and emergency vehicle and health kits. These supplies could save your life in the event of a breakdown in the worst-case situations.
- Use multiple sources for directions. Don’t rely solely on Google Maps for route planning. Use the GPS, but consider the locations discussed previously. You may not be on a route with the least miles, but it will be the safest or best to meet your risk and safety standards. You should also take paper notes on the directions in case something happens to the GPS, your phone dies, or you need a mental task while driving to keep from becoming drowsy. For example, some drivers use dry erase markers on the corner of their windshield and wipe them away after each step.
- Communicate constantly. Communicating updates on your ETA with your dispatcher or customers will keep them happy, even if you are running behind. Sometimes not knowing what your travel situation is can hurt customer relationships. This communication can help the shipper or customer plan their arrival to be the same time or ahead of you at delivery or pick up point.
As a bonus, consistency and familiarity is ideal in times of a difficult trucking market. It may be time to run 3 to 5 dedicated routes around medium to larger cities. Then become an expert on the rates, seasonality of loads, and learn to negotiate load contracts. This will reduce the many headaches of daily trip planning and you can grow strong relationships with customers, repair shops, and more.
How can I get help lowering safety risk?
Carriers being proactive will put them in a better position to mitigate risk, improve efficiencies, reduce costs, and spend more time with their drivers in an effort to manage a safe and compliant fleet.
Not only will proactive safety help your fleet with DOT compliance, but it is proven to lower insurance premiums as you will have documented ways to show a reduction in risk.
Our safety management programs are perfect for combining multiple services and can be tailored to fit your needs, whether you are a new owner operator or a seasoned trucker or business owner.
At CNS, our DOT Compliance Programs focus on Proactive Safety Management (PSM), a mindset that will ensure your fleet’s safety and compliance is always in order and ahead of the FMCSA.
Our PSM Motor Carrier Program includes:
- ELD management
- Driver Qualification File Management
- New driver on-boarding
- Driver safety meetings
- CSA score management
- Policies and handbooks
- Vehicle maintenance
- and more