A BIT ABOUT MY TRUCKING BACKGROUND
While I was out driving a truck for the past 14 years I noticed, as time went on, a steady decrease in the quality of drivers sitting behind the wheel of 18-wheelers. Common courtesy seems to have gone out the window, in some cases to the point of intentional rudeness. I’ve seen way too many dangerous maneuvers while driving, one of the things that bothered me the most was constantly crossing the lines over and over. I’ve seen stupid things, like a trucker turning into a residential area with low hanging tree branches and power lines which could be seen before he started turning.
One of the most blatant examples of intentional rudeness is when I would catch up to a truck, pull out in the left lane to go by, the nose of my tractor would get even with his driver window, then he decided to speed up and keep pace with me. This happened more than once. I was in a truck that was governed at 65 so I couldn’t speed up to get around. On the other hand, if I slowed down, the risk is that someone in the line of vehicles behind me may not be paying attention when traffic slows and there will be an accident. So what do you do? Most of the time I would slow down gradually and hope for the best, and thankfully the best always happened. One time, that truck driver slowed back down again when I got back in behind him and when I pulled out to get around the same thing happened. After about five tries I was so angry that I just pulled off at the first exit ramp I came to and took a 15-minute break to cool off and put distance between me and that jerk.
Is it a coincidence that as cell phones became more and more prevalent driving was getting worse and worse? Obviously, it isn’t a coincidence. However, when you’re driving a vehicle the size of a tractor trailer attention becomes critical. If that truck, empty or loaded, hits something someone is going to get hurt. There really is no margin for error. A truck driver has to make the correct decision 100% of the time.
You will learn a lot more about my experiences as time goes on.
This leads me to my main point.
As a trainer, I worked with many new drivers. One of the first things a trainer has to do is figure out the personality of the person he is training and come up with the best method for training that person. Once they got on my truck, and after I talked to them explaining the training program, how to handle issues that may come up, such as personality conflicts, I would have them sit in the driver seat, which is their workplace for the duration. I would have them explain what all the gauges meant and explain the ones they didn’t know. Then I would explain the Qualcomm, which is the communication system on the truck. However, I would tell them not to worry about remembering all the qualcomm stuff right away because they would be using it often every day. They would know it when they got off my truck.
Once we got our load and hit the road I had to evaluate how they handled the vehicle and how well they were keeping track of things going on outside the truck. During their drive time, there was a lot of talk about the company policies and how they do things. This is what the company told me was the main goal. I found that a bit odd since they always preach safety, safety, safety. Maybe they just assumed we would deal with safety, I don’t know. Regardless of what the company told me I should do, I did things my way in an effort to teach the trainees as much as I could about things they usually don’t think about.
Training in the truck was a four-week course. In that time, we had to teach them the Qualcomm, trip planning, customer relations, the companies policies, how to work with the driver managers and the chain of command, how to handle problems such as getting home on time, etc. Trip planning was a problem because we were not run as a training truck, we were run as I was always run. So, we’d get a load that was 100 miles away and have 2 hours to get there. So I was supposed to get them to plan the trip and still get there on time. Right. So, in those situations, I would have to talk them to the shipper. This was the norm. I would assign trips for them to plan after the day was done but found out I needed to teach them to read a map, which we were explicitly told we had to teach. GPS was not allowed to be used.
I had one trainee that refused to use a map, he relied totally on his GPS that was designed for cars, not trucks. I just let him use it because his attitude wasn’t particularly good and I didn’t want any serious issues. As it ended off, I dropped him at a terminal a few days later after he decided he was going to shout at me and tell me how he was going to do things.
There was one other I had to have removed from the truck because he had one year experience and I couldn’t tell him anything. He had a bad habit of crossing the line on the right side of the lane and not paying any attention to exits. Three times he stopped in the middle of a road because he missed a gear. So, yes, his driving scared me.
The rest of the trainees I had were pretty good people and most were very willing to learn which is always a help because they would ask questions rather than having me try to figure out what they weren’t comprehending.
So, back to the point.
I was so tied up trying to teach basic things like qualcomm, backing and parking, trip planning, dealing with customers and other drivers, truck maintenance, talking about company procedures, getting them to the point they could deal with the driver manager without my help, etc., that I really had no time left to get into detail about the things I’ve learned over time. Oh, I talked a little bit about it but not nearly as much as I liked.
The list doesn’t look that big, but the time spent on the qualcomm things alone took up a vast majority of our off time. A lot of the off time was spent with backing practice.
What it boils down to is the companies are in such a hurry to get people into their trucks they allow the least amount of time they think is necessary for training.
What results is that the roads are less safe. There are trainers out there with only 6 months experience. How much could they possibly know? So you have an inexperienced driver training another one. Personally, I believe trainers should have no less that two years experience, but would prefer more. I know it’s hard for the companies to find good drivers who are willing to train, but even harder to find drivers who have been with them for two or more years. There are reasons for that which I will get into in a future post. My thinking is that if they don’t have enough experienced driver who will train they either need to stop as a training company or bring in students in smaller amounts, but either way the system now has to be stopped.
I hope veteran drivers will participate in both sites so different approaches to the business and more personal experiences can be shared. There will be things here veteran drivers can enjoy as well.
Being a trainer was when the seed was planted in my mind about creating a business or finding a way to further help along the learning process for our new drivers.
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