An OTR Trip Planning Strategy for More Profitable Driving

In the trucking industry, how much money you make is directly tied to how you use your time.

Customers want on-time pick-up and delivery, while the government limits your hours of service and requires ELD tracking to verify compliance.

Clearly, just cranking the engine and stepping on the accelerator isn’t going to cut it. To satisfy customers, regulators and your bottom line, you’ve got to plan ahead.

Let’s take a look at why proactive trip planning is essential for success in the trucking industry, along with a few helpful hints.

Why Truck Route Navigation Planning Is Important

Effective trip planning means you have a strategy for every run. Not only can this translate into more profits for your business, it also offers other benefits:

  • Greater driver comfort
  • Lower driver stress
  • Better reputation among dispatchers and customers

On the other hand, when you neglect or skimp on trip planning, it can lead to a number of otherwise-avoidable problems:

  • Running out of fuel
  • Overfueling before scaling
  • Difficulty finding a convenient place to stop for meals
  • Trouble locating proper break areas
  • No nearby repair shops when you need them
  • Greater risk of ending up in unknown, possibly unsafe areas
  • Loss of revenue and expenses incurred from taking the wrong route
  • Damage to your driving record and reputation

Tips for Effective OTR Trip Planning

One bit of good news is that you can invest in trip planning software or apps to help you account for all of the variables that will affect each run. Here are a few things to consider for every trip.

  • Set daily goals and plan total distance. Just Googling the distance between your start and end points isn’t enough. You need to input the required pickup and delivery times, as well as breaks for sleeping, eating, fueling and other tasks. Anticipate factors that could slow you down, such as bad weather, road construction, traffic congestion or rough terrain.

  • Look for profitable routes. If you’ll be making a round trip, take the time to consider loads and rates available in both directions. Look at inbound and outbound rates in every market where you’ll be making pickups and deliveries, and position your truck for the most profitable loads and routes to get you back home. In some cases the best strategy may be a triangular or other “polygonal” shaped route that takes you through three or more markets.

  • Got an empty trailer between loads? Plan a break near a washout location. Send a free form message to dispatch and communicate that you are available to haul a new load.

  • Never leave a trailer unattended. And don’t take it home either, whether it’s empty or loaded with cargo. Locate the best place to drop an empty trailer before home time, and send an ETA or PTA to dispatch. Call if you need to go over more specifics that you can on the Qualcomm.

  • Communicate. Whenever you receive a new preplan from dispatch, plan your trip as quickly as possible. Promptly communicate whether you’re able to haul the load and be realistic with customers and dispatch about estimated pickup and delivery times. Provide consistent updates regarding delays, running ahead of schedule or discrepancies in bills of lading.

  • After pickup. Scale every load as quickly as possible after pickup, and wash empty trailers immediately after delivery. The trailer must be clean and full of fuel before you drop it with a customer. Complete a pickup and trailer inspection report, and fuel within two hours, scanning your receipts, for the Reefer Fuel Reimbursement program.

  • Include pre-trip inspections. Report any issues to Road Assist, including problems with the equipment or trailer, as these could interfere with on-time delivery and present other service issues. Learn to use your Qualcomm and reefer unit intelliset settings, and contact dispatch with any questions.

  • Be careful with seals. Never break a seal unless told to do so by a customer or receiver. The seal number must be on your copy and the shipper’s copy of the bill, and make sure the receiver signs that the seal is intact.

  • Plan all activities in advance. Locate repair shops and other essential services ahead of time, so you know exactly where to go if necessary. Identify locations with cheaper fuel, and plan to refuel there. Decide when and where you’ll stop for meals and breaks before you hit the road, so you don’t waste time and miles wandering around looking for a place to eat or sleep. Want to save even more time and money? Install a mini-fridge and microwave in your cab and stock up on grocery items before your trip.

  • Prepare for the unexpected. Even with the most meticulous planning, mishaps will still happen. Whenever feasible, plan to arrive slightly ahead of schedule, so you’re not tempted to speed, violate HOS limits or run out of fuel. Use extra care when planning trips along the eastern seaboard, where break time spots fill up fast. Stay abreast of weather emergencies and traffic accidents so you’re prepared to take an alternate route if needed.


In addition to the helpful hints above, power fleet trucking helps you plan ahead and save time by offering pre-loaded trailers ready to be hauled. As a partner with Prime Inc.’s Power Fleet Advanced Fleet program, you just connect your truck to one of our state-of-the-art trailers and off you go. Prime also has an entire department that enforces strict detention policies to cut down on time wasted on loading and unloading.

To learn more about how power fleet trucking can facilitate more effective trip planning, contact the Advanced Fleet team today!