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How to Have a Smooth Truck Driver Orientation Experience: 8 Tips

July 19th, 2023

John Hayes

John Hayes

With over 7 years of experience in the transportation industry, John is a leading driver consultant on the ATS team. His focus is to find high-quality, professional, safe drivers – whether they are independent contractors or company drivers employed with ATS.

Is there anything worse than getting sent home from driver orientation? You’ve invested a ton of time, money and energy getting to orientation and now you’re being sent home on a Greyhound bus. What gives?

Even though you’re at truck driver orientation, that doesn’t mean you’re hired. The time you spend at driver orientation is like an extended job interview. You still have some tests to pass before you can become a certified driver for the company. 

And, there’s a chance some consumer reports or work verifications are still coming through — which means if there’s something in your record you may have forgotten to disclose, you could no longer fit within hiring guidelines. 

If you’re looking for tips to navigate orientation unscathed, look no further. As recruiters at Anderson Trucking Service (ATS), we schedule drivers for orientation and make sure they arrive safely (and on time). We help drivers navigate orientation, and, unfortunately, we’ve had to send drivers home before. 

These eight tips will make sure your orientation process is as smooth as possible so you can get back on the road and make some money. 

Driver Orientation Tip #1: Turn Your Old Truck In

Your first step occurs before you even get to orientation. There’s a lot you need to take care of before orientation to make sure you have an easy transition.

First and foremost, put in your notice at your trucking company and turn your truck in. We’ve seen this situation countless times: A driver doesn’t put in their notice and doesn’t even quit their current carrier. They come to orientation at a new company to see if they like it. If they don’t like it, they go back to their current carrier like nothing happened. If they do like it, they end up with two trucks. They may simply abandon their old truck — which will automatically disqualify you from most carriers — or they’ll try to get a few days off right after orientation to bring their truck back. 

This isn’t a good look for any driver and is frowned upon by most major trucking companies. It’s enough to get you sent home.

Related: Why you should never abandon your truck 

Driver Orientation Tip #2: Check Off Every Item on Your Truck Driver Orientation Checklist 

You’ll need to have some important information with you for orientation. Your trucking company will provide you with a list of the documents you need. Review the list carefully and make sure you pack what you need. 

The carrier should also give you guidelines on how much to pack (a week or two of clothing, etc.). Typically, they don’t want you to bring a whole truck’s worth of stuff — it’ll be difficult to travel with it all. They’ll try to route you home right away so you can grab everything you need. 

Sign up for the Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse, if you haven’t already, and allow your carrier to view your drug and alcohol testing history. 

Finally, make sure the team knows who’s coming with you to orientation if you’re bringing a partner with you or a pet. If the carrier is providing meals, let them know if you have any food allergies. 

Driver Orientation Tip #3: Arrive on Time

We can’t stress the importance of this enough: Get to driver orientation on time. If you’re supposed to arrive by 4 p.m. the day before, make sure you’re there no later than 3:59 p.m. 

While you certainly can’t control if a plane or a bus is on time, you can control if you’re there on time when you’re in a rental car. Give yourself plenty of time to arrive. If your plane or bus happens to be late, communicate with your recruiter.

Showing up late is an immediate red flag. Red flags add up and can get you sent home (remember, this is like a job interview — you’re not guaranteed the job just because you’re invited to orientation). If you can’t arrive at orientation on time, the trucking company may worry that you won’t be able to deliver freight on time, either. 

Driver Orientation Tip #4: Pay Attention  

We get it; orientation can be boring. It’s several days of sitting in a classroom listening to training sessions, filling out paperwork and taking a few tests. It probably feels like school, and if you didn’t like school as a kid, you probably won’t like it as an adult either. 

You want to be out on the road, driving. But, it’s a necessary evil. Trucking companies need to make sure you fill out important paperwork and you’re a good fit for the company. 

Sit and listen. Participate and ask questions. Don’t be on your phone during class and don’t sleep in class. You can miss important information you need to succeed at the trucking company. 

Empty doctor's office complete with desk, examination table, and skeleton.

Driver Orientation Tip #5: Prepare for Your DOT Physical

If you need an updated medical card and you haven’t been able to do a Department of Transportation (DOT) physical recently, you can do one at driver orientation. Make sure you have all the paperwork you need ready to go. 

If you have any medical conditions, you’ll need to have your prescriptions with you and any relevant test results. For instance, if you have a CPAP machine, bring along the paperwork from your doctor. 

Failing to have this paperwork can hold up your medical card. If you don’t have a current medical card, you can’t drive.

Driver Orientation Tip #6: Don’t Refuse the Drug Test

As part of the pre-employment screening, you’ll have to take a drug test during orientation. If you refuse a drug test, it counts as a failed test. 

If you fail a drug test, you aren’t allowed to perform DOT safety-sensitive duties until you go through a SAP program. Working with a substance abuse professional, you’ll need to go through an evaluation, referral and education or treatment process. This can take anywhere from months to years. 

There isn’t an abundance of SAP-friendly carriers, either, so it can be hard to find a trucking carrier to drive for following a failed or refused drug test. 

It’s best to not use drugs or alcohol as a truck driver. Even something like CBD oil, which is legal, can cause you to fail a drug test.  

Driver Orientation Tip #7: Prepare for the Road Test

While some small carriers don’t, most carriers will make you take a road test during orientation. 

It’s a good idea to know what to expect from a road test — especially if you’ve been out of trucking school for a while and haven’t had to take a road test in years. Brush up on your driving skills and pre-trip inspections. 

If you don’t pass the driving test, the carrier can’t hire you. 

Related: What to expect from the road test

Driver Orientation Tip #8: Ask a Lot of Questions

Before you leave orientation, all your lingering questions about the carrier should be thoroughly answered. Take the time to ask the orientation team and your new driver manager questions to make sure the carrier still aligns with your wants and needs. 

Be sure you’re comfortable taking possession of the keys and getting into the truck. Make sure you’re clear on what’s expected of you and you align with the company’s values and mission.

Man teaching at the front of the room in driver orientation.

What Happens if it Doesn’t Work at Driver Orientation? 

Ensuring a smooth truck driver orientation experience is paramount to starting off your career on the right track. These eight tips will help you navigate the orientation process with ease. 

First and foremost, before even arriving at orientation, make sure to turn in your old truck and officially leave your previous company to avoid any complications. Secondly, meticulously review and pack all the necessary documents and items required for orientation, following the guidelines provided by your new company. Arriving on time is crucial, as punctuality demonstrates reliability and professionalism. 

If a DOT physical is needed, ensure you have all the required paperwork and medical documentation ready, including prescriptions and relevant test results. It’s essential to comply with the drug test during orientation and avoid substances that could compromise your ability to pass. 

Brush up on your driving skills and pre-trip inspection knowledge to prepare for the road test that most carriers require. Lastly, don't hesitate to ask questions and seek clarification from the orientation team and your new driver manager to ensure a clear understanding of expectations and alignment with the company’s values and mission. 

By following these tips, you can enhance your chances of a smooth and successful truck driver orientation, paving the way for a rewarding career in the industry.

If you get sent home during orientation or you aren’t happy with the company, here are some tips for the next steps you can take in your driving career.