No matter what career you are pursuing, you cannot grow without goals. Simply setting the goals isn’t enough to ensure progress, however. To grow as a truck driver, you have to set goals that you can and will follow through on.
Setting OTR Driving Goals
Whether you just started your OTR career or if you are a seasoned veteran that wants to improve your career, you need to have goals. Don’t worry; we are here to help! Here are some tips for setting goals as an OTR driver.
Find Your Objective
Without a defined objective, goals will not be specific or useful. It is essential to have a compelling reason behind the goal. To determine what this should be for you, start with finding your “why.” The “why” is the purpose that is driving you to grow. For tractor-trailer truck drivers, this could be as simple as being safer on the road or as personal as wanting to be a better provider for your family.
Once you have determined your ‘why,’ it is time to narrow the scope. Look for specific items that you want to change that can help you to achieve that purpose. At this point, you can form an objective that is specific to you and your current situation.
One example is, “I want to improve my sense of awareness while on the road.” There are several goals that you can focus on from this objective.
Create Your Goal
Now, it is time to turn your overall objective into a goal. With an objective like the above mentioned, you may have several goals. Feel free to break your goal into several if you need to.
Start with SMART Goals
Smaller goals make achieving an objective linear and more attainable. The bigger the goals are, the more complex they will be and the more difficult it will be to follow through. A goal like “Be a better driver” would be too large and too vague. Setting small, SMART goals will help you avoid that issue.
What are SMART Goals?
SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, and Time-based. Let’s unpack each of these to help you set the best goals for new career for yourself.
Specific: Clearly defined goals are easier to accomplish than vague goals. Take the time to be specific about what you want to achieve. For example. I want to drive 1,000 more miles in a month.
Measurable: Objective measurements make it clear whether you accomplished your goals. Consider having a numbering system for your goals so that you can clearly track progress. A goal about miles is easily trackable, but a goal like “be safer for other motorists on the road” might need to have factors like completing a pre-trip inspection every time.
Attainable: Set realistic goals that are possible, and be careful not to make them too easy. Goals that are too unobtainable will kill any motivation you start with, but goals that are too simple will not help you to progress. If you are struggling to make enough miles, set a realistic goal that is not too easy. This will help you in stages to meet a larger goal in the future.
Relevant: Make sure goals help reach an objective. Staying focused on your why gives you a reason to follow through. Don’t just set goals for the sake of setting goals; make sure they’re helping you grow in ways that matter to you. Ensuring that the goals are focused will also help you to stay committed to achieving them. Consider keeping a reminder in your truck to help you!
Time-based: Putting a timeframe on your goals creates a sense of urgency. If there is no time limit on your goal, it is easy to forget about it. This will also help you to have a reason to act on your goal every day, as the time to achieve it is limited.
Example: I will count every blue car I see every day this month.
Write Down Your Goals
Writing down your goals may seem unnecessary, but writing down goals turns them into commitments. If they only exist in your mind, you will forget them. Your brain remembers things that you write down, and you have them in writing if you still forget.
When you record your goals, make sure to include phrases such as “I will” instead of “I want to.” Using statements like that will help you to believe in your goals and to follow through on them. As OTR drivers, you are busy and have a lot on your plate, and this will help.
One way that you can write down your goals as a truck driver could be on a sticky note in your sleeper berth that you see every time to take a break. If you need a more constant reminder, you can set a repeating alert on your phone for set times in the day so that while you’re listening to music or a book on the road, you can still get that alert.
Make an Action Plan
Now that you have a goal, what is next? It is time to create an action plan. As you do this, you want to break your goals down further into daily actions. Breaking the goal down into smaller steps can make it less intimidating and help you to follow through. Each step can have a shorter time frame to help you. Consider setting goals for each load as well as for each month.
Record all of these actions into an action plan. It is best if you do this in the same place that you wrote down your goals. If you have set a SMART goal, this is where you would also track your progress.
Your action plan will show your goal, how you track it, and the time frame you are giving yourself. If your goal is to maximize your miles, this will be easy to make a plan around. You can start with your goal, maybe 12,000 miles a month, then you can track your miles each day for a month if that is the time frame you have given yourself. This way, you can see your progress in real-time.
You may be extremely motivated when you create a plan, but this feeling will fade at some point. Growth is not easy, but giving up is. Regularly re-motivating yourself is essential to achieving your goals. The trucking industry is fast-moving, and with that much going on, staying focused on your goal will need regular reminders.
To do this, you need to find something to trigger motivation when you lack it the most. For example, if your goal is the miles per month mentioned above, you may want to update your daily miles at the end of your hours of service each day and have a mini celebration for your progress toward your goal. If your goal is to maintain a clean driving record, use an image that keeps that at the front of your mind and place it on your dashboard to remind you.
When choosing a motivation technique, remember your overall objective. You want to motivate yourself using your “why” that inspired the goal in the first place.
You need to hold yourself accountable for goal setting to be effective. If you do not take this step, nothing is stopping you from giving up on your goal and losing your progress. If motivation isn’t enough, you may need to manufacture immediate consequences for failing to attempt to reach goals.
Be careful not to become too hard on yourself, and don’t punish yourself for circumstances outside of your control. One way to avoid this trap is to have an accountability partner. Reporting your progress to someone else can help you stay accountable without beating yourself up.
Regularly reporting to your accountability partner will help give you a reason to keep trying. It can also be a great place for feedback when you are hitting roadblocks in your progress. As a truck driver, it can be hard to have an accountability partner like this. Consider reaching out to someone you call regularly to include that in the conversation or have another driver you are friends with check in on your progress.
Evaluate and Change Your Goals
Evaluating and adjusting is the most important step. This is when you can determine whether goals are realistic and then change them to become SMART. It will become clear if you have set an unrealistic goal very quickly. If your goal is to increase your miles, within a week or two, you will see whether the number you have set for yourself is achievable or not.
This doesn’t mean that you have to start over from the beginning; you can just make the necessary changes to help you progress. Your accountability partner can help you with this step. Being a better driver won’t happen overnight, but you can do it!
You may not succeed right away; succeeding in goals can take a while. It is important not to give up when it becomes more difficult. Achieving your goal will become easier over time, so you may need to create harder goals. This is all a part of the process. As you make the needed adjustments, make sure goals still align with the objective.
How to Become a Successful Truck Driver
To become a successful truck driver, you need to find your niche so you know exactly what you enjoy doing. There are many different types of driving jobs, and not all of them will fit you. New truck drivers can benefit greatly from the expertise of more experienced drivers.
Listen to the advice you are given and take time to learn what is best for you as a professional truck driver. OTR drivers can expect to spend more time on the road at a time, while regional drivers will stay close to home. Both have their benefits and could be a good fit for you. Whether you decide to do regional trucking or over-the-road, trucking jobs, you need to focus on safety first.
Take advantage of trip planning and other time management practices. The transportation industry is full of delays, and planning ahead will help you to maintain road safety even when driving long periods of hours.
Another essential aspect of succeeding as a truck driver is maintaining a social life outside of trucking. A healthy lifestyle includes mental health as well as healthy food, so you should not discount the importance of your social life.
As a driver, you can take advantage of video chat when parked during long trips. This communication can help you spend time with loved ones across long distances, which in turn can help your mental health. A good work-life balance will make all the difference.
If you do not have these connections as a truck driver, you can set goals to achieve them. You can continue developing your skills and grow throughout your trucking career, it is okay if you don’t start out with everything.
How to Become an OTR Truck Driver
To become an OTR truck driver, you first need to graduate from high school and get your state-issued driver’s license. This is your regular driver’s license that you earn before your commercial driver’s license (CDL).
Earning Your CDL
To earn your CDL, you need to first attend some form of professional training. There are truck driving schools that offer this all across the nation. Once you have finished driving school, you can take your CDL test.
Once you have earned your CDL, it is time to take additional tests for necessary endorsements. The endorsements you need depend on the driving career you are pursuing, so be sure to research the job that you want.
Gaining Driving Experience
After earning the necessary documentation, it is time to gain driving experience. New drivers should find a trucking company that values their OTR drivers. This can help the learning process be enjoyable instead of painful.
To experience being a driver for the best trucking company, drive for ShipEX. We value our drivers and help them to maximize their earning potential. Contact our recruiters to find out more!
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