Although you may not have realized it before, there is a close relationship between truckers and math problems when it comes to traveling on the road. If you think about it, you’ll realize that truck drivers must use math every day in several different ways to correctly perform their jobs. While being good at math isn’t necessarily a requirement for becoming a truck driver, you will need basic adding, subtracting, and estimating skills if you want to become a truck driver.

What are some ways truck drivers use math on the job? Truck drivers use math on the job when it comes to:

  • Keeping track of their resources like gas and oil.
  • Making daily electronic logs.
  • Completing daily paper logs.
  • Calculating fuel and mph
  • Figuring out their truck’s volume for cargo delivery.

Since there isn’t a lot of information available on the Internet today covering how truck drivers use math, we created this article to help you out. If you are considering becoming a truck driver and you’d like to know more about the type of calculations you’ll perform, don’t worry. We’ve got all of the details below, and we’ll give you plenty of examples.

Truck Drivers and the Necessity of Math

While you don’t need to have an “A” in Calculus to be a truck driver, you will need to understand some of the necessary mathematic calculations perform if you want to ensure your job success. When it comes to truck driving, you’ll have several responsibilities that extend beyond merely driving your truck. Much of those other responsibilities are mathematically centered.

Once you complete reading this article, you should have a solid understanding of the daily math calculations you’ll be performing as a trucker. Also, remember, you won’t have to do this math in your head without assistance. You can always buy a calculator and keep it in your truck. Trust me; you’ll save a lot of time and headaches with a simple calculator.

Now that you’ve gotten a brief overview of how truck drivers use math daily, we’ll cover these expectations in more depth below.

#1 Reading Maps

For thousands of years, people have used maps as travelers to help them find their routes. Knowing how to use a map is a foundational skill that all truck drivers must know how to do nowadays. As a trucker, you’ll be expected to know how to pick the most efficient way to get to your destination. So, knowing how to use a map will be the best way to accomplish this item.

Understanding proper map-reading techniques are essential. You’ll need to use skills like:

  • Scale measurements
  • Understanding special relationships
  • Learning to read a key
  • Basic arithmetic for determining mileage

While we have GPS nowadays to help us, GPS still requires some necessary map-reading skills. With an electronic device, you’ll be able to get a more accurate visual picture of your trucking route. Also, with GPS, you should know how far you need to travel, and what time you should arrive at your destination. So, knowing how to use GPS to make comparisons of routes will be a great help.

However, you won’t always be able to use electronic GPS everywhere you go. Some people are not comfortable with this kind of technology. If you feel this way, don’t worry. That’s quite alright. If you feel more comfortable using paper maps, you still have this option. Many truckers will tell you that you’ll still need to know how to use a paper map even if you use GPS often because paper maps are more reliable and accurate at predicting routes, according to AMS.

Ideally you would use both a paper map and a GPS and be comfortable with both to be ready for any situations. Many truck drivers swear by Rand McNally’s Motor Carriers Road Atlas, and it doesn’t hurt to have on in your truck with you.

#2 Resource Conservation

Truck drivers also need to know how to conserve the resources they use. While much of this is about fuel, you’ll also need to think about the essential wear and tear on your truck. So, don’t abuse your tires, oil, or any other fluids, and make sure you take care of the truck, but only use the correct amount of resources that you need.

Map Skills also Help Here

Knowing how to estimate distance is a bit easier if you’ve also got excellent mapping skills. If you can plan your travels through open freeways and highways instead of going through congested areas with several starts and stops, you’ll save far more gasoline on your drive.

With your map skills, you’ll need to do things like estimate distance, and measure the miles you’ll be traveling. That way, you can figure out how much gas you’ll need for the rest of your drive, for example. Also, calculating and planning out your route is another example of how truck drivers use mathematical processing.

Tires

Tires are another vital necessity you’ll need to learn how to preserve as a trucker. One way you can extend the life of your tires is by keeping the tire pressure within a good area at all times. The necessary tire pressure will depend on several things, including the brand of tire that you use, the temperature outside, and your load. Good truckers know their trucks well, so all of this usually becomes daily common sense with experience.

However, keeping your tires healthy still requires the use of some math skills. For example, truckers will need to know how to read a tire gauge and also be familiar with the road ahead so they can keep their tire pressure accurate. If their tires are too low or too high, they’ll need to do some math calculating to add and subtract a certain amount of air and create the correct tire pressure. While these things are basic, they are examples of how truck drivers use math when it comes to tires.

Oil

Another resource you’ll need to calculate is oil. Oil is the life force of your truck, and if you aren’t keeping track of it, you can harm the lifespan of your vehicle. The best way to ensure that the oil is functioning is to keep your eye on your truck’s temperature gauge.

Also, how frequently you change your oil becomes an important point. If your oil is dirty, then your truck will be less efficient, and it won’t run as well. You should typically change the oil in your vehicle every 5,000 miles or so. However, the kind of truck you own and the roads you usually travel on can also affect the frequency of your oil changes.

While reading an oil dipstick and figuring out how much extra oil to add is very basic, much like reading a tire pressure gauge, it is another example of how truck drivers use basic math daily while on the road. Again, when reading your oil dipstick, you’ll need to know how to use basic addition and subtraction skills.

Other Fluids

You’ll also need to know how to correctly maintain some of the other necessary fluids in your truck based on how many miles you are traveling and the weather. These other fluids include things like power steering fluid, antifreeze, fuel additives, and your transmission fluid. Ensuring that all of the fluids are topped off helps improve the efficiency of your truck.

Again, topping off the fluids in your truck is another example of learning how to read basic number gauges and using simple instances of addition and subtraction, but as a trucker, it’s something you’ll do daily, and you will become very good at this kind of math.

You’ll learn some things about conserving fluids as you gain more experience with driving. However, many of the calculations you’ll be doing is mental math, including monitoring and documenting things. Then, if you notice you need to do something, you can act on it. By paying attention to conservation and fluids, you’ll increase the efficiency of your truck.

#3 Using Electronic Daily Trucking Logs

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) started requiring truckers to use an electronic logging device (also known as an ELD) back in December 2017. There is some variation based on the brand of the ELD, but these electronic logs have helped cut back on many of the manual math problems truck drivers needed to focus on previously.

As you go on about your day, your ELD will keep track of things like time, date, miles, engine hours, and location. If your ELD is very precise, it can also tell you things like air pressure and fuel efficiency. However, much of this depends on the brand and type of ELD you are using.

These new, required ELDS help cut out a lot of the necessary math and daily logs that truck drivers needed to perform. However, even though the FMSCA started requiring truck drivers to use ELDS, not all truck drivers are forced to utilize them. For example, this new rule doesn’t apply to short-haul driving situations.

So, in many trucking situations, you’ll still need to keep logs or records of your duty status. So, there will always be some logging and record-keeping to do, depending on the types of trips you take.

#4 Using Paper Daily Trucking Logs

As we mentioned above, in some cases, you’ll still need to keep your data on paper. For example, if you are driving a 2000 or older mile-truck, or your drive short-haul, you’ll probably be using paper. In these situations, truckers keep track of their day-to-day events and record hours on duty, hours driving, and hours off duty.

Every day of a trucker’s log, once it is tallied together, needs to cover the full 24 hours. As a trucker, you’ll be required to keep your records in your truck for a particular amount of days. Typically, most truckers keep at least the last week’s worth of complete logs in their vehicles when they travel.

However, keep in mind the number of days of logs that you’ll have to keep in your truck can change depending on the states you travel through, and the employer that hires you.

Truckers use math when adding or subtracting their daily mileage, or totaling up the hours they worked that day. While these are simple addition and subtraction skills, they are still another example of how truck drivers use math on a daily basis.

#5 Figuring Fuel Taxes

Also, paper logs help with other issues as well. A trucker can use his or her paper log to figure out the taxes that will be paid in each state by knowing the overall fuel consumption of the truck. So, if you don’t have an electronic log, you’ll need to know how to calculate the distance you traveled between your starting area and your destination. If you are going through different states, then you’ll need to figure out the total miles you will be driving in each state you cross.

Sometimes a trucker is responsible for keeping track of fuel tallies. Often times, it depends on the company with which you are driving. So, if you fall into this category, you’ll need to make sure you keep your fuel receipts and create accurate expense reports. That way, the company will reimburse you for the expenses you incurred on your trip relatively quickly.

For accuracy’s sake, it is probably a good idea to keep a calculator handy, but most of this math can be done the old fashioned way- pen and paper.

#6 MPH & MPG Calculations

A few other calculations you’ll need to know as a truck driver will be calculating your miles per hour as well as miles per gallon. It isn’t too difficult to perform this type of math if you are already keeping your numbers filed and organized. We’ll cover how you can figure out these equations below.

Miles Per Hour

You can calculate your miles per hour (MPH) by dividing the distance you drove your truck by the number of hours it took for you to cover that distance. So, if you traveled three hundred miles in about six hours, you’ll need to divide three hundred by six, which means you went on average of about fifty miles per hour.

Fuel Efficiency

When you are trying to determine your fuel efficiency, you’ll also need to use the same type of calculation. To figure out the miles you used per gallon, divide the miles you’ve completed by the number of gallons your truck used.

So, let’s say your truck used up 143 gallons of gasoline throughout 676.8 miles. To figure out what your miles per gallon were between fill-ups, you divide mileage, or 676.84, by the total number of gallons used, which is 143 in this case. So, based on the example, your MPG would stand at 4.73.

#7 Cargo Delivery and New Orders

With cargo delivery and new orders, you’ll need to know how to document the cargo that is leaving as well as the cargo that is being delivered. So, you’ll most likely be doing some simple, basic common sense math depending on what your payload is.

Many trucking companies require drivers to bring back new orders or another load of products after they deliver an amount to the same destination. When drivers have to do return loads, they need to verify and document that information, which is another example of using mathematics.

#8 Volume of Your Truck

Sometimes, you’ll need to know how much space you have ready in your truck when you arrive at a destination. There are times when you’ll make separate pickups before you take everything to its final destination. Sometimes you may not know the size of everything before you arrive at the destination.

However, knowing a thing or two about the space available inside of your truck will help you out. Let’s say your trailer is 53 feet long, 8 feet 6 inches in width, and 9 feet in height. You’ll also need to remember that you cannot always fill your truck correctly with every product.

So, if you want to estimate the volume of the room in your vehicle, you’ll need to calculate that by taking down the dimensions and keeping track of your actual space—52 feet in length, 8 feet in width, and 8 feet 6 inches in height.

The formula for volume is length times width times height. So, you are calculating 52 ft x 8 ft x 8.5 ft, which equates to 3,536 of square cubic feet in your truck. Knowing that information, you can then figure out the volume of space you’ll need for each stop, and plan how to load your vehicle more accurately.

Final Thoughts

When it comes to knowing how truck drivers use math on the road, you’ve learned there are typically eight different ways truckers use calculations while driving. So, if you want to become a truck driver, make sure you understand these fundamental math skills because they will help you pass your truck driving exam.

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About The Author

Blythe Brumleve
Blythe Brumleve
Former editor in chief and broadcaster turned business owner helping companies with their web and marketing goals. Apathetic fan of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Game of Thrones supporter.

To read more about Blythe, check out her full bio here.