Whether families are hitting the road to soak up the last days of summer or sports fans are making the journey to support their favorite team, planning the perfect road trip and knowing the best places to stop along the way can be difficult.
As the experts of the road with over 273 billion miles logged in 2015, according to the American Trucking Association (ATA), professional drivers are a great resource for tips and tricks to successfully navigate long distance road travel.
Pilot Flying J, the largest network of travel centers in North America, is sharing tips for motorists from those who are on the road most – professional drivers. Pilot Flying J surveyed ATA’s America’s Road Team Captains, professional drivers from the company’s tanker fleet, to get their seasoned advice on saving time and staying safe while on the road.
Here are the top tips from the pros of the road:
- Pre-Trip inspection and plan: Don’t wait until the car is packed and everyone is buckled to inspect the vehicle and find directions. Plan ahead of time, making sure the vehicle is in good working order, and know the best route – considering weather, places to stop and traffic.
- Best time to travel: Avoid rush hour, especially when going through big cities by planning to travel through congested areas early in the morning or late at night. Explore alternate routes if those high traffic times can’t be avoided. Weekends and holidays have increased traffic, so planning ahead can save lots of time.
- Keep your distance: Be aware of your surroundings, leave proper following distance and allow enough room when changing lanes. “Don’t pull so close to the vehicle ahead that you can’t see their tires on the road,” advised Scott Childs, lead driver for Pilot Flying J. “This will give you room to move to the left or right if needed.”
- Be alert & avoid distractions: Drinking cold water and keeping the vehicle cool helps drivers stay alert. Some of the more unsafe driving practices that Steve Smalley, a professional driver of 33 years and ATA America’s Road Team Captain, has observed are looking at phones, applying make-up, reading a paper, and juggling food and drinks. “Give yourself time to do these things before you drive. It’s not worth your life or the lives of others,” he advised.
- Avoid drowsy driving: Get enough rest before traveling and eat healthy while on the road. Snacking on healthier items, such as PJ Fresh fruit and protein cups, or sipping on a beverage like coffee will help maintain blood sugar levels and provide longer lasting energy. “When you find yourself getting tired, yawning or swerving from side to side at all, pull over at a rest area or safe place and take a 15 minute power nap,” said Christopher Dowdy, a professional driver with over 2.5 million accident-free miles. “I have done this many times. There is no reason to push yourself to get there.”
- Stay entertained: Keep the mind awake and the drive interesting with music, podcasts, audio books, or sports radio. Enjoy the scenery and when stopping, consider a rest area that has greenway nature trails to get your legs moving.
- Share the road: From large semi-trucks to motorcycles, be considerate of other drivers. Everyone wants to get where they are going safely. When driving near semi-trucks, it’s important to know that there are four main blind spots. If you can’t see the driver in the mirror, the driver can’t see you. “The passenger side has the worst blind spots,” said Smalley. “The driver’s side is the preferable place to pass a truck, but be aware there is a small blind spot behind the drivers cab. When you pass the truck from either side we have a blind in the front as well, so please move into our lane when you see the whole truck in the mirror. This will also give us room to stop if you have to stop suddenly. We need a little more than a football field to stop fully loaded.”