The majority of our fleet is operated by team drivers, simply because we haul expedited freight. Expedite means anything that has to get there quickly. The loads often come in at the last minute, and the success of an expedite fleet is heavily dependent upon a network of available trucks across the country. By nature, a truck operated by a solo driver is able to move half as many hours as a team truck, so we aim to always operate with teams.
Today I’ve put together some tips to help team drivers with effective trip planning. These ideas are designed for a truck that is rolling nearly continuously, for several days in a row, on a long load (say coast-to-coast). Each driver will use his or her full 11-hour shift, and then take a 10-hour break in the sleeper berth. However, you can also adapt this schedule for shorter loads.
Switch on the 3s
Build your driving shift so that you switch drivers at 3pm and 3am. This way, no one driver will be doing all of the night driving. The driver who comes on at 3am is fresh from sleeping and will get an energy boost from the sunrise that will fall about four hours into the shift. Switch again at 3pm, so the driver coming on in the afternoon begins his shift with some daytime driving, too. We prefer to keep our clocks on Eastern time—it’s how all of our appointment times are sent, and it also simplifies the process of managing your hours as you move between time zones.
Go for 300
While driving, try to cover 300 miles without stopping. This will require some advanced planning to make sure you don’t need to stop for fuel or a break before covering 300 miles. When you see you’re at half a tank of fuel remaining, your co-driver can figure out the next fuel stop should be, which will give you a lot of flexibility to work fueling into a stop needed for other reasons.
Combine your stops
Pulling in and out of a truck stop can take 10 to 15 minutes off your drive time, and those minutes still count toward your on-duty hours. If you are only stopping to use the bathroom, use a rest stop—you can get in and out a lot quicker. When you must pull into a truck stop to fuel, try to do it at your half-hour break (fueling is on-duty time, but you can take your break afterward), when you need a shower, want coffee, etc.
Keep supplies on board
Be prepared to eat while rolling. This is another benefit to team driving over solo—your co-driver can get you a drink or snack without you having to stop the truck. We like to stock up on groceries at WalMart during down time so that we have food available when we need it.
Work as a team
Even if you start as strangers, you and your co-driver must quickly learn how to work together! Our fleet has some awesome teams who didn’t come in together. They know how to roll and they know how to enjoy their time together, too. When you’re off duty and not sleeping, what can you do for your co-driver?