I am a big believer in making the best use of my time during my workday. Like most truck drivers, I am paid by the mile or as we like to say: “I’m earnin’ when the wheels are turnin’.”
Outside of shippers and receivers, traffic and weather are really the two things that can trip me up while I’m driving. Yes, things like blowing a tire or having some other sort of mechanical hiccup can occur, but they are essentially unpredictable events that you have to respond to.
I love ending a driving day near a city that I have to drive through the next day, because I’m usually up and running by 0300 or 0400 and traffic basically doesn’t exist at that time. As the morning hours go by, however, there comes a time where another city before me needs to be crossed and I have to work out a schedule that will let me do this efficiently.
Consider today’s run:
I began today just north of Columbus, Ohio so even though the traffic there is dreadful in the mornings I wasn’t concerned because it would be behind me by the time everyone else woke up. But there is Cincinnati, Ohio as well, about two hours beyond. If I start around 0400 (local time) then it will be 0600 or 0630 by the time I get down to that area.
With few exceptions, I’ll head in towards a city before 0700 and not be too concerned with traffic (mega cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, etc. excepted). I was in and out of Cincinnati by about 0645 just as the northbound lanes of I-71 were filling up with the inbound commuters.
Now I have to worry about Louisville, Kentucky. It is about 90 minutes further and this could be a problem: I would be approaching the city around 0830 or so which is the height of most traffic congestion. So, instead, I stopped short at Pendleton, Kentucky at one of the truck stops there, enjoyed a long shower, made breakfast and caught a nice nap. I got back on the road at 1015 and blew through Louisville, hardly having to touch the brakes.
Next is what I consider the worst of the lot, Nashville, Tennessee. For a city of its size it has massive congestion and the roads are very poorly laid out. It is one of the cities I use a feature of my GPS unit to memorize the lefts and rights (eg “Stay right to I-40” or “Keep left on I-65”) so I know when and where I have to switch over quickly. This time it was simple: right, left, right, left, like cadence.
Nashville is about two-and-a-half hours south of Louisville on a good day and today was a poor day, with lots of rain and a lot of holiday traffic. Still, I took a short 30-minute lunch break at a rest area in southern Kentucky in order to time my arrival after the lunch hour (gained an hour going from Eastern to Central time). By the time I made my arrival, the traffic was heavy but flowing well and I had no problems getting out the western side efficiently.
Finally, there was Memphis, Tennessee. I know from previous experience that afternoon traffic heading inbound to Memphis is light unless you come in around 1700, so I went directly from Nashville through Memphis and across the river into West Memphis, Arkansas in one shot, arriving at 1500.
Today, on one of the busiest traffic days I have seen this year, I didn’t get caught in a single traffic jam or come to a complete stop even once. There were delays here and there, but despite spending the first two hours or so in a 55 MPH state, I averaged 64 MPH for the day (615 miles in 9.5 driving hours).
That, to me, is effective time management.