Tools of the Trade for the New Driver
New drivers who come into the trucking industry typically go through a minimal time learning how to pass the test for a CDL and then are worked through a trucking company’s training program. That gets them out on the road and on their own. But often overlooked are the items they should carry to work through, and overcome, some of the unexpected things that can come up while they learn by the school of hard knocks and experiences. Let me see if I can be of some help in this area.
A driver should carry a small toolbox containing the common tools that can help solve some of the issues he or she may face from time to time.
My “Top 20” include, but in no way are limited to:
- T-20 and T-25 Torx head screwdrivers. Most interior screws and even the headlight adjustment screws can be adjusted with these tools.
- A full-sized claw hammer for nailing down blocking and bracing.
- A three-pound sledgehammer for when you have a set of tandem locking pins that are stuck.
- A set of Vise-Grips to use on the tandem release bar when it needs to be pulled out beyond its locking point to release the tandem pins. You pull the handle out extra far and clamp the Vise-Grips onto the bar to hold it in place.
- A fifth wheel puller rod so you don’t have to reach under the trailer and get dirt and grease on your clothes and hands.
- A good quality flashlight and extra batteries.
- A wearable headlamp for working inside dark trailers and walking in areas where extra care is needed.
- A collection of bungee cords to secure items when needed.
- A broom. Store the handle in the load lock rack and the head in the side box so you aren’t trying to sweep a trailer with a broom covered in gunk.
- I like to carry a good strong crowbar to remove the nails in trailer floors. But if space is an issue, you can use your trusty Vise-Grips. Clamp them onto the base of the nail and work it back and forth until it breaks off. Tap the nail with a hammer to ensure no sharp points are exposed.
- Gorilla Tape. If you have small holes in trailers some customers will accept them being covered with this, and not reject your trailer.
- Aluminum faced trailer repair tape. This item can be found online or at trailer repair shops. I cannot begin to count how many times I’ve repaired small holes in a trailer and avoided rejection of the trailer.
- Quality Duct Tape. Its uses are endless, but putting down a layer on a trailer that needs placards, and then sticking the placards on the tape instead of the trailer will ensure they do not come off and can be very easily removed when necessary. Some of the new paper placards are utterly impossible to remove from the surface of the trailer once put on. And it is an expensive ticket to be driving down the road with even a piece of a placard on a non-hazmat load or empty.
- A Truckers Atlas. Need I say more? Some new drivers come into trucking believing they only need their GPS to get them from point A to point B. Not the case. A GPS is a tool, but like an atlas, the responsibility is on you as the driver to make the right choice as to what route or roads to travel.
- The Pocket Truck Stop Guide. Available in most truck stops, it is a great quick reference guide to truck stops on the major interstates. They are updated at least quarterly, so buy a new one frequently.
- The annual National Truck Stop Directory. A great resource for finding truck stops, both on and off the interstate, and on back roads as well. It lists all the services available at each location and whether they are open 24 hours.
- A CB radio. They aren’t as necessary these days as they once were, but if you happen to get into a traffic backup, you can usually at least listen to hear what lane you will need to be in.
- A window squeegee. I’m personally very adamant about using my own, and I will pick through several at a Walmart or other location to feel the edge and find one with a clean smooth rubber edge. I’ve seen drivers at truck stops scrub their tanks with them after spilling fuel and then just put them back in the bucket. You DON’T want to be the next guy who uses it.
- De-icer spray in winter. A godsend for helping to keep your truck running down the road with fewer stops. Today’s headlights do not create enough heat to melt ice and snow buildup. Applying a coating of the spray will keep them cleaner for a longer period of time. Also good for trailer lights, wipers, and the OnGuard sensor. It can even be used to defrost the inside of the coolers we use as refrigerators in a hurry.
- A good snow shovel and a 40-pound bag of ice melt. The snow shovel can also be secured in the load lock rack with a bungee cord. These can help get you out of a snow or ice covered downhill dock area. It’s a rare need, but when you need it, you NEED it.
- Just for good measure, make sure you have a tape measure.