The last couple of times I worked on trip planning for work, it did not go very well. Emotionally, that is. The actual planning part was okay, meaning I figured out my directions and got places safely and everything, but for some reason the process was totally stressing me out.
I started to wish they’d gone over more trip planning in school. We worked on it a little towards the end, but it seemed a little rushed. And just not enough of it. We learned to read the trucker’s atlas and where all the important stuff was located, but it would’ve been cool if we had to plan a couple of trips from start to finish – on our own.
My last trip plan brought me to frustrated tears. I am disappointed in myself for not being able to hold it together a little better, but in my defense, pooey. I was tired as heck after a full driving day and had to plan four drops with three pickups afterward. That’s like seven trip plans in one shot. Oy.
It’s not the same as planning to head to your friend’s house for a party – plug it into the GPS and go. We have an expensive, large-screened trucker’s GPS, but the first thing you learn about them is that it is a tool, not a guide. They can’t be trusted.
So when trip planning begins, I think I’m just feeling overwhelmed. First of all, this last one started with no directions at all, so I was starting from scratch. Sometimes our load assignment gives us an idea of how to get there. We can also call the shipper and ask. I was planning on a Saturday for Monday deliveries. Nobody was open to call. So, okay. Off I go. Plan from scratch.
After entering the addresses into Google maps, I get a very, very general idea how long it might take to get there, and usually a few options of major highways and routes I can use.
Then I go to the trucker’s atlas and find my starting city and destination city. I decide which major roads I want to take. Truck routes in a trucker’s atlas are highlighted in orange.
Then I plug the address in the GPS and compare those to Google maps (which routes for cars, so really can’t be trusted). Most of the time they don’t match up. I need to figure out a better order for this process, but I like using both GPS and Google maps.
The GPS will talk me through directions enroute (as long as I determine the directions are accurate before I Ieave). Google maps allows me to switch over to satellite view, where I can visually see how traffic moves on or off a highway, how tight a particular turn is, if there’s a gate at the shipper, and I can even get an idea of how their docks are set up. I also use this feature to see if there are other trucks on smaller roads I need to travel once I’m closer to my destination. Speaking of which, I then need to check my atlas and the Google satellite for any low clearances (bridges, trees, powerlines, etc.) or restricted truck routes. Sometimes this info is there, and sometimes it’s not.
This process takes me a while as I’m still getting used to it. It also gives me a giant headache whenever I start – especially if I lose my patience. It will get better. Writing about it here actually made it seem a little easier than it feels, so that means it probably is. That’s good.
Since my last trip plan was so rough, I naturally started searching for a solution to alleviate some of the stress. I decided to look at it from a different angle. I’ve done a lot of trip planning for hikes and loved those processes. I know this is different, but what if it doesn’t have to be? I start here, end there, sleep here, fuel there, take note of these junctions, and plan these particular stops. I don’t think I will ever enjoy anything as much as I do backpacking and hiking, but who says I can’t use that love and passion to my advantage? It’s a bit corny, but I think it’s putting my mind a little at ease. Hopefully the next time will go better. And the next. And pretty soon it’ll be no big thing.
Tonight I love the feeling when I’m done with a trip plan. I’m all like, “Ducks. Rows. Ready to roll.”
Thanks for reading and being a part of my journey!