Key Trucking Safety Tips

Becoming a truck driver gives you the opportunity to earn competitive pay and see more of the country. However, operating such a large vehicle also comes with a great deal of responsibility. Safety should be your top priority at all times and it’s important to understand the key aspects of trucking safety before you even hit the road.

Here are some tips for safe semi-truck operation:

1. Maintain a Safe Speed

There is often a lot of pressure to deliver your freight as quickly as possible. Over time, you’ll learn how to plan your trips more effectively to do this while staying safe. One thing you should never do is speed to try to get to your destination more quickly. It doesn’t actually save you as much time as you’d think and, more importantly, it puts you and others on the road at risk.

Semi-trucks are significantly larger than the other vehicles on the road and already have a much longer stopping distance. When you increase your speed, you further increase this stopping distance. This means that by the time you see a hazard, it may already be too late to stop if you are speeding.

The safe speed for your truck will depend on the road conditions, so you may be driving unsafely even if you are under the posted speed limit. When in doubt, slow down. It’s better to take a little longer and get to your destination safely than to drive recklessly.

2. Never Drive Distracted

Driving requires you to pay attention to your surroundings and quickly respond to changing conditions. Anything that distracts you from this task is dangerous.

Texting is the most well-known example of distracted driving. Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. If you are traveling at 55 mph, this is like driving the length of a football field with your eyes closed. As we mentioned above, semi-trucks already have a greater stopping distance, so the danger is even more significant.

Other distractions include eating, talking on the phone (even hands-free), and adjusting the settings on your radio. Avoid these behaviors and keep your focus on the road.

3. Take Care of Yourself

At first, the link between your health and your driving may not be clear. However, fatigue is a form of impairment. Driving while tired brings many of the same dangers and driving while intoxicated. While it can take some time to adjust to the lifestyle of an over-the-road (OTR) trucker, it’s important to take care of yourself. Get rest when you need it, eat healthily, and exercise when you can. All of these things help you stay energized and alert while driving.

4. Manage Your Stress

Getting stressed or impatient on the road can lead to unsafe driving behaviors. For example, you may back into a spot without getting out to look because you want to park more quickly or because you are worried others will judge you. Remember that safety is your number one goal and that it’s okay to take your time. Find strategies that help you stay calm and reduce your stress. If you notice that you are starting to rush, take a few deep breaths and focus on the task at hand.

Learn How to Be a Safe Trucker

At Phoenix Truck Driving Institute, we teach you the skills you need to be a successful and safe truck driver. We go over important rules for safe trucking. Our program can help you earn your commercial license in as little as four weeks and we offer job placement assistance.

To learn more about our truck driving school in Phoenix, AZ, contact us today.

Local, Regional, or OTR Trucking?

There are a variety of jobs available to you after earning your commercial driver’s license (CDL). If you chose to drive a semi-truck, there are three broad categories based on route length: local, regional, and over-the-road (OTR) trucking. Understanding a bit about these types of trucking can help you decide which is best for your desired pay and lifestyle.

Some information about local, regional, and OTR trucking jobs:

Local Driving

Local truckers travel within a given city, county, or state. They will often have a dedicated route, meaning they travel to the same locations each day. With a local job, you will typically be home every night and will have one or two days off per week. The exact hours vary depending on the company.

Benefits Of Local Trucking

  • Home Time: Getting home every night is the biggest reason drivers are interested in local jobs.
  • Consistent Schedule and Route: With a local trucking job, you will generally know where you will be going and what you will be doing each day and your days off will usually be consistent. This makes planning life events easier, although some truckers also see it as a downside because a predictable routine can be less interesting.

What to Consider

  • Harder to Get Hired: Compared to OTR and even regional jobs, local driving jobs have more competition and will typically prefer to hire experienced drivers.
  • City Driving: Most of these jobs require a great deal of city driving, which can be challenging in such a large vehicle.
  • Lower Pay: Although the exact pay varies depending on the employer, local jobs will usually pay less than OTR.

Regional Trucking

Regional truckers spend one to two weeks on the road at a time. They work within a smaller geographic area, usually a radius of 1,000 from their home terminal. Depending on the company, home time can be as often as every weekend. Many regional drivers have a dedicated route although others get different routes each time.

Benefits of Regional Routes

  • Middle Ground Between Local and OTR: Regional jobs are a nice middle ground between local and OTR trucking. They pay more than local routes but offer more home time than long-haul driving.
  • Dedicated Routes are Common: Dedicated routes are more common for regional jobs, so you have the opportunity to get used to the driving and the customer over time.

What to Consider

  • Night Driving: One common type of regional trucking job is less-than-truckload (LTL) linehaul and these companies often schedule drivers to be on the roads at night due to the reduced traffic. Some truckers actually prefer this, whereas others would rather take an OTR job where they can schedule most of their driving during daylight hours.
  • May Be a Compromise: Being a middle ground between local and OTR trucking is both a benefit and a drawback. It may be a compromise on either home time (compared to local) or pay (compared to OTR).


OTR truckers haul freight over long distances throughout the 48 continental United States. At some motor carriers, they may even travel into Mexico or Canada. Long-haul drivers are usually on the road for three to four weeks at a time. The amount of home time differs depending on the motor carrier.

Benefits of OTR Trucking

  • Higher Pay: OTR jobs pay higher since they require more time away from home. Many companies offer sign-on bonuses, tuition reimbursement, and other financial incentives that further increase the amount of money you can earn.
  • High Demand: Due to the truck driver shortage, there is a large demand for qualified OTR drivers. This makes it easier to find a job after graduation.
  • Freedom of the Open Road: The OTR trucking lifestyle is unique and if you love the idea of waking up somewhere new each day and seeing more of the country, it may be a great choice for you.

What to Consider

  • Time Away from Home: Long-haul driving requires spending time away from home.
  • Less Predictable Schedule: You may not always know where you will be going next and will frequently be driving on new and different routes, especially as you are gaining experience. Some drivers enjoy this, whereas others find it overwhelming.

Job Placement Assistance

At Phoenix Truck Driving Institute, our job placement assistance team can answer any questions you may have about the different types of trucking and help you find companies that are hiring. Most graduates are able to find jobs at OTR companies more easily, but we can discuss your options with you and help you make a plan for your career.

To learn more about our commercial driver’s license (CDL) program, contact us today.

Types of Specialized Trucking Jobs

Truckers keep our nation’s economy moving. Semi-trucks transport over 70% of our country’s freight. In many cases, goods and materials are hauled in dry vans, which are what many people think of when they think of a semi-truck. For food and medication, refrigerated trucks (reefers) are also common. In addition to these more well-known types of transportation, there are a variety of specialized trucking jobs where drivers haul unique freight. Due to the additional training and skills these jobs require, drivers often earn high pay.

Some types of specialized trucking:


There are more than 250,000 livestock-transporting trucks in the United States according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). These vehicles haul animals such as cattle, chicken, horses, pigs, or even bees across the country. Overall, cattle haulers are the most common.

To be able to succeed as a livestock trucker, drivers need to understand how to care for the animals they are transporting. In many cases, they will have previous farm experience.

Livestock transport is often seasonal in nature. Additionally, it is subject to regulations from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in addition to needing to follow guidelines from the FMCSA and Department of Transportation (DOT). Certifications beyond a commercial driver’s license (CDL) may be necessary depending on the type of work.

Car Transport

Fun fact: the first semi-truck ever invented was made to haul cars to buyers without causing unnecessary wear and tear. Over the years, the act of transporting cars to dealerships has become more advanced. Instead of moving one vehicle at a time (as was the case for the first semi-truck), specialized car haulers typically have an open trailer with several vehicles.

Car haulers need to know weight regulations to avoid large fines for noncompliance. They also need to understand how to safely load and unload the cars and inspect them for damage. Since this type of freight is highly valuable, truckers who haul automobiles need to build a strong reputation. Many of them are owner-operators with extensive experience.


Hazardous materials (hazmat) include any substance that is potentially dangerous to humans or to the environment. Gasoline is one of the most common types of hazmat that has to travel by semi-truck. Without fuel tankers, gas stations would be severely negatively impacted within less than a week. Jobs hauling gasoline require both the hazmat and tanker endorsements, which together are known as the X endorsement. In fact, many hazmat jobs require both, not just gasoline.

Motor carriers who handle hazmat prefer to hire drivers who have experience with non-hazardous freight first. These hauls are high-risk and it’s important that drivers have a strong safety record.

How to Start a Specialized Trucking Career

Are you interested in a trucking job and think you might want to try something more specialized? First things first, you’ll need to earn your CDL and may need endorsements as well, depending on the type of driving.

For the most part, you should plan to start with a traditional over-the-road (OTR) driving job to get experience before you apply to specialized companies. It takes time to get used to trucking in general, and most motor carriers with unique freight will require you to have prior experience and a strong record of safe driving.

There may be some exceptions to this rule if you have prior experience in a related non-trucking industry. One example of this is if you have a background in farming and want to transition into livestock hauling after earning your CDL. You shouldn’t count on getting a specialized job right away even in these circumstances, however, and it’s important to make a realistic plan.

If you attend Phoenix Truck Driving Institute, our job placement assistance team can help you consider your options for building industry experience.

Earn Your CDL and Endorsements

Our program can get you on the road and earning in as little as four weeks and we offer three endorsements: hazmat, tanker, and doubles/triples. We aim to give our students valuable skills that they can continue to use throughout their trucking careers, no matter which niche they eventually choose.

If you are interested in a specialized trucking job, take the first step and earn your CDL with us.