Being a Professional Driver is More Than The License Class
If you ask the general public to describe someone as a professional driver, they will often describe someone who gets paid to drive a vehicle. Although that seems like a true statement, there’s more to the answer than that. Professionalism as a driver should also include how we act behind the wheel. Driving attitude is a big part of making it safely through the roads daily. As a driver, are you professional enough to handle today’s traffic?
It is important to have a clear end goal in mind
Being a professional driver starts with the end goal in mind. Reaching your destination safely should be on the mind of all drivers, but how you get there should be just as important. Sharing the road with other users seems difficult for some people to accept. It appears that many drivers are in a different type of mentality. They seem to do whatever it takes to reach their destination, including driving in a careless and risky manner.
Effective space management
Some drivers battle other drivers for the same space on the road. Considering there is a lot of space on the road, allowing the other driver to occupy that space will give you the edge of becoming a professional driver. This type of attitude will help to create a cooperative driving culture. Professional drivers tend to use space management. These drivers occupy their available space and won’t force others to create space for them unless in emergencies.
If you think about it, adjusting speed to create space won’t stop you from reaching your destination. You’ll have to regularly slow down for slower vehicles ahead of you during your travels or when you stop at red lights. It’s normal. If another driver weaves through traffic, you will often catch up to them at a red light. Slowing down for other drivers is normal. Taking risks to get there sooner saves very little time, if any.
Allow other vehicles to merge
Another example is when you identify another vehicle attempting to merge into traffic flow near you, adjusting speed or changing lanes to allow them to merge safely will also help them and you. Blocking them could lead to an angry driver or perhaps road rage. When you let your emotions get the best of you, your decision-making abilities as a driver will worsen. Letting the merging driver do their thing safely helps to keep you and all the other traffic moving along smoothly and safely as well. Everyone blends in together, which is smart for a professional driver.
Not engage in destructive behavior
Professional drivers remove their distractions before they begin driving. They put their phone away and secure loose items that may take their eyes and mind away from the driving environment—even using the washroom while driving can become a mental distraction. Plan rest stops as much as possible. Having your eyes and mind focused on the driving task will help you make better driving choices. These choices a professional driver will always need to make.
Demonstrating proper driving manners
We all know that driving a commercial vehicle takes responsibility, not only to operate the vehicle safely but also to display the brand you’re working for professionally. Displaying good driving etiquette plays a positive role in becoming a professional driver. Driving a commercial vehicle could be similar to driving a moving billboard. The general public will know the company that employs you. Making a selfish or careless driving error, either a violation of the law or an attitude error could affect the company for which you work and could also affect you and your employment status with that company.
Remain vigilant and attentive
There seems to be no question that professional drivers must stay alert and up to date with the ever-changing driving conditions. This includes busy urban areas to quieter highways, from dry, sunny days to colder, wet, or snowy weather, there is always a challenge without too much time to prepare. Mentally preparing yourself can help you make the changes from one season to the next. However, driving in areas where the seasons change almost daily can be a challenge.
When temperatures change, the weather and road conditions can become challenging quickly for drivers. When warm air mixes with cooler air, fog tends to roll into the area, creating serious visibility issues for any driver. We know it’s always important to drive according to the conditions. Although there may be other vehicles on the road where the driver may take risks, that doesn’t mean you should.
Check the local weather
It’s always a good idea to check the local weather for changes before you make your daily run. It would also be a good idea to check the weather in areas where your route will take you before you arrive. Checking every few hours can help prepare you for inclement weather patterns so you know what to expect. Knowing what to expect can help you make early adjustments.
Reading the road well ahead
Reading the road well ahead means anticipating any potential hazards or obstacles and preparing to respond to them in advance. It is an important skill for safe driving. Since you can only respond to things you can see, once you see the fog begin to roll in, slow down early but gradually. If you are traveling faster than you are able to see, you may not be able to respond to problems in time. If at any time your visibility worsens, you will need to drop your speed. This means that you should be able to see a minimum of roughly 20 seconds ahead of your current position on the road. If your speed needs to be reduced a lot, the weather may be too poor to drive in. If you need to stop to take a break, avoid stopping on the road in a live lane. Pulling off the road completely into a parking area is a lot safer. Remember to keep your trailer lights on so others can spot your vehicle as you wait.
Reading the road well ahead as much as possible can help you navigate unfamiliar territory. Using lane markings and treelines well ahead can help you determine when the road begins to curve or if it begins to go downhill.
A professional driver looks well ahead of the traffic flow, anticipates the actions of other road users, and responds early to avoid any possible conflict. They avoid getting annoyed over the little things. They think situations through before acting on them. They often take the safest option, although it may take longer to reach their destination. I once heard a fleet manager say, “I would rather you get there safely and late than not get there at all.” Those are words to live by for a professional driver.