Updated: Dec 18, 2022
Road rage, power grid failures, storms, civil unrest, dogs and people…the list goes on and on. If you’re driving gigs around town, you should prepare to be ready for any trouble that comes your way.
Sometimes you don’t know where you're going to end up after a delivery. Will you be in a safe area? And what constitutes safe? And even if you do know, you also know breakdowns and trouble finds us at the most inopportune times.
Heed this list.
Here they are, in no particular order of importance. You may want to add to this list to adjust for personal preference. Understand…these aren’t comfort or cool gadgets to have. They're necessary. This is also not a list of frequent repairs your car will need. There's another post on that.
Remember, your car is your cocoon.
All drivers should be carrying this by default. Hundreds of thousands of postal carriers will tell you about the importance of mace. If you haven’t had the experience of getting out of the car and walking twenty scary yards across a lawn with a ragged sofa, a rusted car frame, and an empty spiked dog collar affixed to a chain big enough to anchor a small ship (while wondering where the pooch is that belongs to that collar) then you must be new here.
It can be terrifying the moment it dawns on you that you have nothing to protect yourself with. And your vehicle couldn’t seem farther away.
I’m going to beg forgiveness from Nike while I modify their slogan. JUST GET IT!
I don’t care if you think you’re Usain Bolt. You can’t outrun a dog. Even if you could, you will have other encounters that justifies a can of mace.
It’s ideal. It’s small, cheap, legal, and best of all…it works on two legged predators as well! Get the one with a protective cap so you don’t spray it in your pocket. Also, check the laws of your state.
Get the spray, NOT the mist, as it will blow back on you. The spray is heavier and is supposed to shoot ten feet. But count on seven. And remember, a dog can do the 40 yard dash in 4 seconds, so time/distance.
2. Toilet Paper or Wipes
That’s right! Everybody’s fave. This is an old Realtor go-to. They carry a roll or pack while showing land or houses without power or water. When the primal urge strikes and you need to go…
As a delivery driver you may find yourself answering the age old question, “Does a delivery driver ***t in the woods?” You will need to answer natures call.
Just grab a half-used roll and throw it in a bag that you’ll keep other stuff of need in. You’ll thank me later.
As a contracted driver, you'll find yourself without a conventional workplace restroom. You'll also be in unfamiliar, and unsafe areas where you shouldn't leave the safety of your vehicle for a public restroom.
3. Battery Charger
The charger has come a long way. They aren’t the big, bulky boxes that graced many an auto repair shop back in the day. They’re portable, small, and very affordable. I recommend these for all, I especially recommend them for people who depend on their cars for a living.
Make sure you get the one that matches the voltage for your battery. Time is money and these bad boys will put you back on the road in no time. Road service companies can take hours to get to you to do something that you can do yourself in minutes.
You could also help someone else out in a pinch. How cool would that be?
4. Tire Pump
Plug that puppy into your lighter socket, attach it to your tire and let it rip! Puppy not up to it? Use the charger. Seriously, these are affordable and (time being money) you won’t have to stop and pay for air.
Low tires mean increased wear and gas cost. When that low-tire light comes on, you are at no one's mercy. You don’t have to wait in line at the air pump for the person ahead of you. They may have all day - you don’t.
These come in cigarette lighter plug-in or compact, rechargeable, cordless models. Make sure the connection to the tire stem is a flip top like the one shown and not a screw-on model, as they wear out faster.
5. fix a flat
You can’t fill a tire and keep it filled if it went flat because of a nail or other object. That’s where number five comes in. It’s a sealant and inflater to get you moving immediately. It's actually the brand name of it but you can use another brand that’s cheaper.
I would only use this as a last resort, like being in the middle of nowhere and my cell service was down. But I have used it - and will continue to do so. It’ll carry you about 50 miles or so. I carry two cans in my car in case I need them. I screw it on to the tire and wait until it finishes (2-3 mins). Follow directions on the can.
One with about 300 lumens should do. I would go with AAA or AA batteries as opposed to rechargeable, but that’s me. Redundant power sources are always good too.
I have a heavier style tactical light that I use as a weapon if needed. You’re going to be using this at night to find addresses and carry to the customers door. You’re not delivering to Motel 6, so don’t expect a light to be left on for you.
You'll play the delivery driver version of American Ninja while navigating uneven yards strewn with toys, holes, and hoses. Broken cement walkways, and cluttered garages will be the bane of your existence. You'll do this in utter darkness or be at the mercy of the moon. Or, you could just flashlight.
Feel free to improvise with a headlamp if you want, but use a light. I use a handheld flashlight because I like to scan bushes and dark corners. A cursory scan of the walkway and surrounding bushes is a good idea.
I keep a gallon of water in my vehicle in case I need it for my own use or if my radiator needs it. It’s unlikely and I’ve never had to use it for either, but again, it’s good to be ready. Don’t forget, no matter how good a driver you are - you will still take the occasional run to nowhere. You'll want to rely on yourself and your well prepared vehicle to get back to friendly territory.
Despite everything you do, you may still run into a situation where you need this. It’s the biggest “just in case” item ever. But it’s like insurance, you don’t need it until you need it and then you really need it. A mylar blanket folds up nicely and takes up little space. A wool blanket is bigger and extremely warm.
9. New Tires As Opposed To Used
I’m as cheap as it gets when it comes to cutting costs. But through the years I’ve learned to not cut corners when it comes to tires. Tires are right up there with oil when equipping and preparing for delivery. Buying used tires, to me, is like putting used oil in your vehicle.
Over the years I’ve learned that used tires are more expensive in both time and money. Used tire quality is rarely guaranteed. If your $40 used tire springs a leak or gets a bulge in it you'll be returning it for another one, rinse-repeat. Now, you’re going to wait for another installation. You'll be losing money while you wait…if they have a good tire in the right size. That’s not to talk about unseen wear, or the right width or a host of other ifs.
New tires reduce wear on alignment and shocks. This prolongs the life of parts and spares the vehicle from vibrations that loosen metal and plastic over time. You get better mileage, a smoother ride, and a warranty - often including road hazard. New tires are usually care-free…for the most part.
Between glitchy apps, customers giving wrong addresses, and stores holding your orders hostage via long drive-thru lines - you have enough to worry about. Buy new and you won’t spend precious time waiting in a greasy room with pictures of tool porn hanging on the wall waiting while they look for an almost match.
Now, I’m not telling you to go online and order the most expensive performance tires for your 1996 Camry. A short trip to PEP Boys or Walmart is good enough. When you do replace tires, do them two or four at a time, like the two front or back. You’ll want to rotate them as the front tires wear faster than rear. I knew a guy whose idea of rotating tires was to replace only the front two with new ones and put the old ones on the back.
I’m not endorsing this method or any place to buy tires, I am endorsing that you don’t buy someone else’s discarded trash. And that you get decent new budget tires.
10. AAA Membership
Get this! It’s about $100 a year and it's an outstanding value. This company has a 100 year history with a stellar reputation so they must be doing lots of things right. I've had this for years and I've used it every year. I am endorsing this company though I don’t get any money or collect fees of any kind for it.
Do not get the roadside service your car insurance company offers. The free, or very cheap deal they offer you is neither free, nor cheap. You sign an agreement for the service that allows them to track your mileage and other info
Remember when you told the insurance company you drive 15 miles a year? Well, you got a tow. And the free, insurance-provided auto club you used reported you've gone 33,000 miles this year to your insurance company. If you’re like most drivers, you aren’t reporting that you’re using your car for delivery. They cancel your insurance, claim fraud - or worse.
11. Wrist Coil
A police favorite. Cops are in and out of their cars all day. They use the wrist coil as their go-to for keeping car keys at the ready. They leave their cars running and keep them locked and roll this handy key ring up their arms. It also saves them from fumbling for keys or locking themselves out of their cars. This five dollar attachment also saves your starter some wear and tear.
Ok, that rounds out the top things a driver needs to stay safe, stay on the road and make it home. There may be other things you want to add and that’s fine. Go ahead. Reply here and let us know what your experience tells you. This is not supposed to be a cover - all list. Unless you’re a mechanic, you won’t be replacing a fan belt or rebuilding an engine roadside.
This is only my list of things 40 years in the business tells me is necessary. By the way, I’m not a mechanic and I haven’t even changed my own oil in 30 years. Much like most of you, I barely own a set of tools.
There are other things I carry for my own safety including a Go Bag but that's for a different post. This post is to help keep you on the road with both temporary and longer term fixes and advice. I hope it helps.