Every professional practices good personal hygiene by regularly taking showers or baths.
When they are on the road in their trucks, however, many professional truck drivers lack the standard home bathroom facilities that most of us take for granted.
Depending on the lengths of their runs, truckers can be separated from their home facilities for days, weeks or months at a time.
What options do you have as a driver and how can you save money in the process?
We have published many truck stop shower reviews, based upon our own observations and expectations. And we have also published reviews of truck stop showers by other truckers.
The availability of showers is comprehensively summarized in the National Truck Stop Directory, aka "The Trucker's Friend" -- which we have listed here from Amazon.com, with which we have an affiliate relationship.
Since your personal appearance depends on good grooming and cleanliness -- and since the way you present yourself can leave a long-lasting impression on customers -- it behooves you to make arrangements for getting clean.
What happens when truckers don't practice good hygiene?
Mike related the true story about a fellow trucker who only just walked by him at a customer's location.
Another driver told Mike that the guy took a shower before going out on his week-long run and did not take another until after he got home!
With flies buzzing around the smelly trucker -- who had a very strong body odor -- Mike had to quickly leave the building because the stench about turned Mike's stomach.
Imagine the impact that this driver's lack of personal hygiene had on the customer!
In trucking, the driver is often the only physical representation of his trucking company that the shipper or consignee will ever see.
Personal presentation is important.
Contracts for hauling freight can be won or lost based on "little things" like this.
Don't blow your chances for more business through slovenly personal appearance.
Many of the larger travel centers and stopping centers have what is known as "truck stop showers."
Being as how anyone who shows up with the cash can buy these services, their use is not limited to professional drivers.
Once, when we lived in another state -- before we entered the trucking industry -- we woke up to find no running water in our residence,
Mike traveled to a local truckstop and freshened up there before going to work.
To get the maximum benefit from the information on this page, you as a professional driver must
an objective standpoint,
a person who wants to buy a shower would expect access to a clean room
- a stall and sink, both with plenty of clean, hot running water and good drainage;
- a working toilet;
- a mirror positioned for seeing oneself when shaving or grooming; and
- a working electrical outlet for AC-powered razors, blow dryers, etc.
Depending on the truckstop, a key or PIN number may be issued by which the user accesses the assigned room.
The user is given a towel and washcloth -- and sometimes a paper bath mat and a small bar of soap.
Users issued keys need to return them.
Some truckstops prefer for towels and washcloths to be left in the shower rooms; others like towels to be dropped in a centralized bin, sometimes near a cashier.
Occasionally, truck stop showering facilities have a blow dryer in each room.
When we traveled regionally and long haul, we took our blow dryer with us, as is shown on our personal packing list (available through our Free Downloads page).
Some facilities have installed a fan in each wash room to prevent or reduce mirror fogging.
Some shower rooms have been constructed with a separate heater unit which users can set to warm the room.
There are many different configurations of shower rooms and different sizes of showers with some being extremely small and others appearing to be gigantic.
We have found that, generally, there are standard size showers and larger ones for either handicapped users or teams (such as where a husband and wife professional truck driving team can wash up together).
When we drove as a team -- and again when Vicki road full-time with Mike as a passenger -- we got a "team shower."
Because Mike is tall, he always got an extra towel, meaning that we got a total of three towels between us.
In our opinion, a solo driver should never request a larger wash room unless a family member is riding with him/her.
If you find that the room to which you're assigned is not up to that business's usual standard of cleanliness, bring it to management's attention.
We're sure that they would appreciate knowing.
They have employees whose jobs it is to make sure that the wash rooms are clean.
Depending on usage by others, the facilities may be available right away or there may be a waiting list.
You will want to plan to clean up around time-sensitive loads and times when the facilities are in heavy demand.
While we have never found a time limit on the use of a shower room, it is best to take care of one's washing up as quickly as possible, because others may be waiting.
Some of us enjoy the relaxation of standing under a stream of hot water after a hard day at work.
This credit is good from the date of fueling until the expiration date (usually about 10 days).
If the credit is not used during that time, it expires and can no longer be used.
Mike kept up with his credits in a small notepad in his truck.
He wrote down
During route planning, he always planned out where he would stop to wash up.
To our knowledge, using an automatically-issued shower credit is the most common way that professional drivers clean up on the road.
(One truck stop chain offers a free shower every day within that monthh once a minimum fill-up of 500 gallons has been achieved.)
Most truckstop chains have a driver rewards program and point system that gives drivers a "point" (which is equivalent to one penny) for every gallon of fuel purchased at that truck stop.
These points may be used like cash to buy things within the truckstop or businesses operating therein (like a fast food restaurant).
We are aware of these truck stop chains that have driver reward systems in place (listed here alphabetically):
If you do not have a credit at your disposal, you may pay for one with your points.
Of course, using your points on getting clean reduces the amount you can spend on other goods or services.
Drivers can freshen up out-of-pocket with cash; but if at all possible, we recommend against it.
The last we knew, truck stop showers generally cost (in U.S. dollars) about $7 to $10 apiece.
The cost may increase over time.
The other options are much more affordable.
you may be able to pay to clean up with a combination of the remainder of your points and cash.
We don't figure that this option is used often, but it can be, depending on the facility.
If a professional truck driver drives for a trucking company that has one or more terminals with such facilities, another great cost-saving measure is to clean up there.
Some companies take better care of their washroom facilities than others.
You must personally weigh the cost and convenience of using a shower at your company's terminals with the cleanliness thereof.
Not showering every day may seem repulsive to those who are used to it.
For regional and cross-country drivers who do not thoroughly clean up in their trucks, it is part of a way of life.
Mike's OTR shower policy was that he washed up no less often than every third day, no matter what a load's time constraints were.
He prefers to clean up frequently, but that is not always possible.
Some drivers wear their "outside clothes" for two or three days running (until the next time they wash up).
We did it when we teamed; Mike regularly did it as an OTR solo; and Vicki did it when she rode with him.
Depending on how dirty Mike's outside shirt became in the course of his work, he may have changed that daily, too.
Our practice on the road was to change underwear and socks daily.
In between showers, we freshened up with baby wipes.
We liked using a "thicker" baby wipe for this.
It's possible to use soap, water and a washcloth for freshening up between showers.
Depending on the driver's in-truck set-up there may be issues with warming up the clean water and disposing of the dirty water.
Select a bowl that you don't mind "bathing" from.
Here's the procedure we would use if we were taking a "sink bath":
If you use this procedure, you may need to experiment with the amounts of soap and water used for washing and rinsing.
Assuming that you have room in the waste tank, a portable toilet can serve nicely as a disposal unit for your waste "sink bath" water.
Some owner-operators may have fancy trucks with stalls built in.
This can be very convenient.
Since we're not familiar with how these units work, we wonder:
We encourage truckers to review truck stop showers, especially if you believe that these facilities should be built, cleaned and maintained to the same quality that a household bathroom is.
For a list of the showers we have reviewed so far, please see our truck stop reviews page.
Money saving tip: Assuming that you shower on the road at least twice a week and that the cost of the service is $10, you can save $20 a week by using the shower credit or driver reward points.
Over the course of a year, you would save over $1,000.
As stated above, there can be an actual cost to not being clean and presentable before customers -- in the form of freight you never haul.
Present yourself before your customers as the professional that you are and you won't go wrong.