top of page





Making the most effective, efficient, safe, and legal route between two sites is the goal of trip planning.


For you and your business, a well-planned vacation may result in time and money savings. A strong strategy can ensure both your safety and the safety of the weight you are transporting. Before you get behind the wheel, having a well-thought-out strategy can help you relax and focus only on the road. If you don't have a strategy, you're thinking about more than simply driving. You are worried about how and when you will get where you are going.


The Five Basic Steps of Trip Planning


The following are the five basic steps of trip planning.


  • Verify that all documentation is current. Maintain accurate records of your hours of service, your freight, and your permits and licenses.

  • Pick the path. Keep in mind that there are several factors at play, including weather, traffic, and load limitations.

  • Calculate your time and make stop plans. Plan to arrive at the appointed time, but take weather and road conditions, driver and vehicle considerations, into account.

  • Estimate fuel use and fuel stops.

  • Calculate the journey costs. Recognize the duration and type of the journey, the driving environment to anticipate, and prepare for the unexpected.




The biggest daily responsibility for a driver, after driving, is likely paperwork. Planning an effective and lucrative vacation requires making sure you have all the required documentation and that it is correct before your departure.


Generally, the paperwork you should carry with you falls under three categories:​ Driver;​ Cargo; and​ Vehicle.


Driver — The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations (FMCSRs) mandate that you carry certain documents to prove your eligibility as a commercial motor vehicle driver.


Operator’s license —To operate any kind of motor vehicle, you must have a current operator's (driver's) license. You need to have this license with you whenever you drive a car.

The class of license you must hold is based on the type of vehicle you are operating.


The commercial driver’s license (CDL) classes are federally mandated. (See Sec. 383.91 of the FMCSRs for details.) The CDL classes are as follows:


Class A — if the vehicle(s) being towed have a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of more than 10,000 pounds (26,001 pounds; 11,794 kilograms) (4,536 kilograms).


Class B — Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds (11,794 kilograms) or more, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle with a GVWR of no more than 10,000 pounds (4,536 kilograms), falls under the classification of Class B.


Class C — Any single vehicle or group of vehicles that do not fall within Class A or Class B definitions but are intended to carry 16 or more people (including the driver) or are used to transport hazardous items in quantities that may be placarded.


Non-CDL classes of license vary from state to state. Consult state require- ments for details.

Medical exam certificate — Physical requirements are heavily weighted in the driver qualifying rules. You must have the original or a copy of a medical examiner's certificate attesting to your physical fitness for driving as part of this requirement.


The only certificate that must be carried by you at all times when driving a commercial motor vehicle is the medical examiner's certificate.


Record of duty status (driver’s log) — Each motor carrier should require each driver to keep a record of his or her duty status every 24 hours (driver's log).


The record of duty status must be fully completed by you (in duplicate) in your handwriting or by utilizing automated onboard recording equipment. The record has to be clear and maintained up to date with the moment of the most recent change in a duty status.


Within 13 days of completion, you must provide the original record of your duty status to your motor carrier.


You must have the original record for the current day as well as copies of all the records from the previous seven days in your possession. While you are on duty, they must be accessible for examination.


Cargo — Before you leave on your journey, all of the paperwork related to the cargo you are transporting should be in order. This makes sure that the right person receives the items in a safe and precise manner.


Bill of lading — The bill of lading is the legal document that is used when a shipper and a carrier do business. The bill of lading performs three separate and significant functions.


It is a receipt issued by the carrier to a shipper for goods received for transportation.


It is a contract outlining the parties concerned, the fee or charge for transportation, and the understanding of the carrier's responsibility in the case of damage or loss of goods.


It serves as documentary evidence of title to the goods.


The carrier must deliver the cargo to the consignee listed on the bill of lading unless specifically told otherwise. The title to the goods is shown by having an original "order" bill of lading that has been duly endorsed.


Bills of lading must be legibly written.


The following information must be included on the bill of lading:

  • Names of consignor and consignee;

  • Origin and destination points;

  • Number of packages;

  • Description of freight; and

  • Weight, volume, or measure of freight (if applicable to the rating of the freight).

  • Vehicle — Throughout a voyage, paperwork related to vehicle operations is performed. The documentation provided below must be accurate since it may be required by law or regulation.


Driver vehicle inspection report (DVIR) — The DVIR must be completed on each vehicle you drive each day and evaluated as part of your pre-trip inspection procedure, even though the requirements do not require you to have this document with you at all times.


Section 396.11 of the FMCSRs requires you to complete a written report covering eleven different parts and accessories.

You must identify the vehicle and note any flaws or deficiencies that can jeopardize its safe operation or result in a mechanical breakdown on the report. You must also report anything you don't find to be lacking or flawed. You must always sign the report after the inspection is over.

Any elements classified as faulty or insufficient that might jeopardise the vehicle's safety need to be fixed before it can be driven again.


On the DVIR, the motor carrier must attest that the flaw or inadequacy has been fixed or that no further action is required for the vehicle to be used safely.


Before you may drive the car, the DVIR must have your signature on it admitting the remedial activity.


Trip report — A trip report or individual vehicle mileage report (IVMR) is used to record trip information including:


  • Date of trip (starting and ending);


  • Trip origin and destination;


  • Route of travel and/or beginning and ending odometer reading of the trip;


  • Total trip miles;


  • Unit number or vehicle identification number.


The trip report must be correct since auditors for the International Registration Plan (IRP) and the Inter-national Fuel Tax Agreement (IFTA) utilize it to confirm that taxes have been paid.

Additionally, you must complete a travel expense report. It keeps track of the costs spent during traveling. A trip cost report contains comprehensive information on:​ Fuel purchases;​ Brokerage fees;​ Permit fees, tolls, scale fees. 


Route Selection


The selection of the best route is influenced by a variety of variables. The shortest route (in terms of miles) can seem to be the greatest when looking at a map, but this isn't always the case. An effective route must take into account the terrain, weather, traffic, road construction, limits on vehicles and goods, and other factors.


Reading maps — Being able to read and understand a road map is the first step in selecting an efficient route.

The road map is a necessary tool, helping you determine routes and locate specific destinations. Essential map reading skills you need to be proficient in include:


  • Locating the starting point, intermediate stops, and the destination;

  • Laying the route out on a map;

  • Estimating point-to-point mileage using the map scale; and

  • Reading map symbols.


You need to completely plan a journey by understanding the different qualities of maps.


The majority of maps include numbers along the sides and letters along the top and bottom in a box or grid format. The locations of destinations (cities, towns, and streets) and where to locate them on the grid system are listed in a box or key on the map.


Every map has a scale. The scale indicates how many inches correspond to each mile. Map scales are useful for estimating an approximate distance. True distance may be better estimated with mileage charts.

Symbols are also included on all maps. Symbols represent everything from the size of a community to where to find a rest area. Symbols vary from map to map and all maps include a legend explaining the symbols used.


There are two types of maps most drivers rely on, highway maps and city maps.


  • Roadway maps display the whole of a state or area. Major cities are sometimes mentioned in some depth. Major roadways, different road types, toll roads and freeways, population centers, and train crossings are all features that differ depending on the map. Locating important roads and routes for long-distance travel is best done with highway maps.


  • The most detailed maps are those of cities. On these kinds of maps, subsidiary streets may often be seen, and major street names are easily accessible.


Maps are also available online via several search engines and other providers.


Keep in mind that maps do not include information on delays caused by road construction or poor weather conditions. This information is available via the Internet from several sources including the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA):


Vehicle and cargo restrictions — Even the best planned trip can run into some unplanned delays and/or problems. Issues such as restricted routes and weight limits on roads and/or bridges must be dealt with while on the road.


Legal weight limits — Your vehicle must stay within legal limits. Federal requirements outlined in 49 CFR 658.17 are as follows:


The maximum gross vehicle weight (GVW) is 80,000 pounds except where a lower GVW is dictated by the bridge formula.


The maximum gross weight on any one axle, including any one axle of a group of axles, or a vehicle, is 20,000 pounds.

The maximum gross weight on tandem axles is 34,000 pounds. Vehicles are not allowed on interstate highways if the gross weight on

two or more consecutive axles exceeds the limitations prescribed in the

Bridge Gross Weight Formula.


This To lessen the possibility of damaging highway bridges, this formula restricts the weight of groups of axles. The maximum weight of a vehicle is determined by the number of axles it has and the spacing between them. For any axles that are not more than 96 inches apart, the single- or tandem-axle weight restrictions, however, take precedence over the Bridge Formula limits.


Truck routes — Communities often designate certain roads as truck routes, frequently forbidding trucks from traveling along any other routes.


Estimating Time


Planning pauses, adhering to hours-of-service laws, calculating arrival times, and meeting timetables all need an estimate of the length of a journey.


For every 100 miles driven, allow two hours. This amount of time is enough to account for the time spent driving, eating, stopping for gasoline, and taking breaks.


Distance x 2/100 miles = Hours


It's possible to average better than this if you drive mostly in western states, but it's crucial to remember that this is only an average. Don't plan your whole journey at 75 mph simply because that's what the stated speed limit is in the state you're going through if you drive 75 mph sometimes and 55 mph other times.


The opposite is true if you run mostly in the northeast. Even though the majority of the area's regulated limits are 55 mph, you could only average 45 or 50 because of increased traffic and congestion.

Keep in mind that the weather, traffic, and other factors may impact the length of your journey. Keep in mind that no motorist is ever able to go at the top speed limit.


The rules governing hours of service should also be taken into account. Following these rules, which are included in Part 395 of the FMCSRs, a commercial motor vehicle driver is not permitted to:


    • More than 11 hours following 10 consecutive hours off duty; or

    • Beyond the 14th consecutive hour after coming on duty, following 10 consecutive hours off duty; or

    • Following the completion of more than 60 or 70 hours of duty on any 7 or 8 consecutive days.


Estimating Fuel Usage


Fuel usage estimates are needed to plan fuel stops.


The range of the vehicle must be determined as the first step in determining fuel consumption. The tank capacity (in gallons) of a vehicle is multiplied by the miles per gallon it achieves to determine its range.


- Tank capacity (gallons) x Miles per gallon (mpg) = Range


- Average fuel usage is based on several factors including:


- Highway driving;


- City (town) driving;


- Slowdowns; and


- Idling time.


When calculating gasoline usage, you should also take into account variables or circumstances that may not happen every day, such as:


  • Idling for an extended period of time;


  • Driving at higher speeds;


  • Driving in the mountains; and


  • Headwinds.


Estimating Trip Expenses


When calculating the cost of a journey, it is important to account for food, petrol, tolls, and overnight breaks. When calculating costs, take into account the


  • Distance to be traveled;


  • Time the trip will take; and


  • Possibility that emergency funds may be needed.


Meals, layovers, tolls, rest breaks, and fuel stops top the list of expenses. You could want money in an emergency for a tow, a service call, or an unanticipated stopover.




A well-planned vacation may save your business time and money. Planning may save you from having to worry about specific things while driving, enabling you to focus on doing so safely.

bottom of page