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Hauling freight while managing the clock takes tenacity, but there are smart ways to work available hours

Drivers, Our People, Shippers

Approaching their hours of service strategically and planning several steps ahead helps keep professional drivers in motion.   

What’s happening: The clock is always ticking when you’re moving freight, and professional drivers must get strategic to maximize their hours.

Why it matters: Shippers can also play a big role in keeping goods moving and drivers available. Delays in loading and unloading can burn up hours and lower driver availability.

The bottom line: Planning ahead and making the most of the clock are among the most important skills professional drivers learn, and sharing that knowledge is one of the ways U.S. Xpress and Variant mentors help their colleagues keep goods moving.


The clock is always ticking when you’re moving freight, and professional drivers must get strategic to maximize their 11 hours at the wheel and 14 total hours they’re allowed to work each day.

“As soon as I wake up in the morning, and a lot of times before I even go to bed, I have an idea once I get rolling where my breaks are going to be, where I’m going to get fuel,” said Tonya Mosier, a professional driver, road team captain, and mentor for Variant. “I usually know about where I’m going to stop at the end of the day. I’m a big planner.”

Federal law governs the maximum amount of time drivers are permitted to be on duty, including driving time, and specifies the number and length of rest periods to help drivers stay safe. There will always be some surprises on the road, but there are also plenty of factors that drivers can predict to prevent lost time, including traffic in major cities, said Scott Hatchett, a professional driver for Variant with more than one million safe miles to his credit.

“If you’re going to try to make it through rush hour traffic in Atlanta, you will not,” he said.

Planning ahead and making the most of the clock are among the most important skills professional drivers learn, and sharing that knowledge is one of the ways U.S. Xpress and Variant mentors help their colleagues keep goods moving.

One of his best pieces of advice is to get rolling when your break is over, no matter what time of day that might be, Hatchett said.

“When that 10-hour break is up, I’m driving,” he said. “Doesn’t matter if it’s daytime or nighttime.”

Dani Calderaro, a professional driver and ambassador for Variant, said one of her best tips is to be 100% ready to roll when you’ve marked yourself available. Pre-trip inspections should be done, and wheels should be ready to turn, she said.

“If you say that you’re going to be up at 7 a.m. three days after you get there, you need to be in that seat at 7 a.m.,” Calderaro said.

Shippers can also play a big role in keeping goods moving and drivers available. Delays in loading and unloading can burn up the hours and reduce driver utility.

Whether it’s providing parking and other basic amenities or developing clear and consistent plans for loading and unloading, shippers can make or break a driver’s day. Here are a few quick tips for helping them make the most of their time at the wheel:

  • Lose the Wait: Having access to a trailer means nothing if it sits around waiting to be unloaded. Unload trailers quickly and cut down on detention time for drivers.
  • Provide Accurate Info: Provide accurate pickup numbers, delivery numbers, preload trailer numbers, or any other reference numbers, to keep everyone moving. Make sure addresses and pickup and delivery times are accurate.
  • Allow Flexible Hours: Finding a way to make preloaded equipment available for pickup after hours can make a huge difference in utilization and efficiency.

All these steps make it easier for drivers to plan their time on the clock, and planning is the name of the game when it comes to capacity.

“The key to success in this profession is planning,” Hatchett said. “I’ll be thinking about what I want to do two days down the line. I like being ahead of the game.”

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