As a vendor, you may log a lot of hours on the road driving vending trucks. A lot can happen while doing this, so it's good to be prepared for any possibility.
This is obvious but it needs to be stated: Maintain the life of your vehicle through regular checkups and oil changes, and keep your insurance and registration current.
In California, you'll need to put your initials on the side of your truck in order to go through a weigh station.
Driving skills you need
You'll need to learn how to maneuver a small/large truck or van.
When driving a normal car, parallel parking is about as hard as it gets. A vending truck, on the other hand, must be able to maneuver in such a way as to not disturb the product in the back of your vehicle. You don't want to open the back of your truck at your location with a mess all over the place! To avoid this:
- Don't turn too quickly or accelerate, decelerate, or brake during a turn. Keep a constant speed whenever turning.
- Slow down considerably when entering or exiting businesses from the street or driving over speedbumps or railroad tracks.This will help dull the sideways rocking motion of your vehicle.
- In general, try not to brake or accelerate suddenly. Instead, favor smooth changes in speed and velocity.
- Also, check out the article on loading your vending truck for more tips on how to secure product in your vehicle.
When parking a vehicle where you access the product from the back using a roll up door, you'll need to learn how to back the truck to and around curbs, through open garage doors, to loading docks, and generally anywhere you can get the truck to go that will make unloading product easier for you. Your cart will be fairly loaded down at times and it will be quite difficult to go up or down a curb or any such obstacle when wheeling it into a location.
For bigger trucks, try to park such that you leave a lot of room behind you, so you can efficiently back out without doing a hundred three point turns.
How and where you park can save you a lot of time.
Going through the scales
Scales, or weigh stations, are a checkpoint along the highway that are maintained by the Highway Patrol for vehicles over a certain weight. At each scales, you move through slowly so they can check the weight of your load measured against the type of truck you have. It is illegal to be both too heavy for being on the road and too heavy for being considered "empty." This is to protect against people smuggling things.
Unless otherwise marked, you must stop every time you encounter a weigh station while driving on the freeway. I know it's annoying. If you have long drives to your location or lots of different highways you traverse, you might have to visit a weigh station three times in one day. Also, the employees at the scales do periodic checks on your vehicle for things like your registration, license, etc.
Once in the scales, what you should do next is based on the traffic signal in your lane above you. If the color is green, you are free to drive back on to the freeway. If it's red, then follow the arrow that displays after the red signal. If instead the signal displays an X, then you only need to stop to wait for another truck to drive past your lane before you drive away.
If your vehicle is called, directions will be given to you over a loudspeaker. From there, the employee will direct you through the rest of the process and let you know what, if anything, you need to change, fix, or update on your vehicle.
Don't break the law
The current law (in California at least) is that it's illegal to talk with the phone to your ear while driving. As a vendor, you will drive far more than many professions and you will most likely make business and personal calls while driving. Spend $40 for some good headphones with a built-in microphone and protect yourself against hefty tickets for doing something you know you'll do if you have no other option.
Other obvious things to do include staying within the speed limits, stopping at stop signs, and all the things your mother told you to do. Obeying them is a good rule to follow, since you will drive more and more as your business increases.
Dealing with traffic
Schedule your route to avoid traffic. If at all possible, avoid freeways at busy times. Often times if your schedule is flexible or your locations are open longer than 9am-5pm, you can go early in the morning or late at night when there is a lot less traffic on the road and reduce your service cost instantly.
If you're unfamiliar with the area, get a good GPS and try to take a different way to each location each day. This will prime you for things like road closures or an emergency trip to the hardware store. Failing that, make sure you have some maps handy or a way to search for local stores on your phone or other device.
Speaking of hardware stores, it's good to know the location of the nearest gas stations, hardware stores, restaurants, office supply stores, and even clothing stores . You never know what you're going to need out on the road, even if you already have all your tools for your truck.. You may drive 100 miles from your warehouse some days and need any or all of the above at a moment's notice.
Cultivate the skill of timing how long it takes to get from one location to another. For more on this subject, check out the article on vending route scheduling. This way, if some new situation arises, you will be able to adjust immediately and accordingly.
Finally, try not to stress out or rush. Your schedule will change and you'll be tempted to drive recklessly to get to locations on time. The larger your business is, the larger your vending truck will be, and the larger the potential accident you can cause by driving unsafely. Your well being is more important than servicing your customers.