Maybe you have considered training truck drivers?
Nearly a decade ago I started my journey of teaching entry level truck drivers. I have traveled all over the world and never had to leave the cab of my truck. Some of the stories that have been shared with me and the friendships I have made are really quite extraordinary. I’m eternally grateful to have this opportunity.
When I first starting working with entry level drivers I had not the foggiest of a idea how to even begin. I was a solid and experienced truck driver with out the skill set to teach. Of course I made all the rookie mistakes by showing them all the wrong things;
- Speed averaging
- Rounding off miles
- Trip dropping
- How to by pass the scales
- Taught them how to be more aggressive in their driving so we could make good time, etc
In the beginning my patients was tested and my life was threatened due in part to my inability to truly teach;
- I have had drivers fall asleep behind the wheel
- Get robbed or thrown in jail
- Urinate or defecate on them self and the truck
- Jump out of the truck while they were driving
- Try to punch me while I was driving
- Just released out of the mental institution (no joke)
- Speak very little English
My first year was a real learning experience it took me a while but I slowly realized that even tho you might be a great truck driver that does not mean you have the ability to teach. I thought to myself “crap, I’m a horrible teacher” at this point I had two options;
- Seek out guidance from a good teacher
- Stop all together
Giving up has never been a option for me, so the decision was simple. I searched and searched for that one trucking teacher that could show me “the way“. Never finding in one driver what I was looking for I thought to myself “wow I’m not the only crappy trucking teacher.” I did find some that had very good qualities but lacking in others, then I found others that lacked any ability to teach and was putting their life on the line for a few extra dollars every week.
At this point I did a lot of observing, I watched those trucking teachers that I felt had good intentions. I also wrote a list of the things I do from beginning to end so I had a reference to compare to. At this time I started really noticing the flaws in the continual truck driver training paradigm.
First, the pairing (this is the process of matching a student with a trainer) often performed blindly by the training department. The pairing often goes like this, student smokes, trainer smokes, done! “Wow that was simple, next“ the training department thinks. Well that is wrong, you can’t send two guys out in a truck matching them up blindly thinking “well it might work.”
I understand the pressures for the training department to get entry level drivers seated to a truck promptly(as most entry lever drivers as starving for a paycheck out of the gate) taking a couple extra days could mean the difference between foreclosure on their home or not. Because most companies understand that they want to do everything they can to retain the driver. If they stall to long the driver will find another company to work for that will get him going.
However at the same time I think a little more consideration and judgment should be applied here. A lot of the common problems between trainer and student while on the road could be minimized, ultimately lowering entry level driver turnover and a slew of other problems. Companies that do manage this correctly see much better results.
I now work for a company that does take these things into consideration, for that I’m thankful. At the time I worked for a company who’s volume levels were so high this wouldn’t have been realistic. I done the only thing I could do to make this different. I attended the orientation class as if I was a new recruit, this gave me insight into who really wanted it.
It also allowed me to learn about them without the intimidation of my uniform on, it also helped them a little later in the process as they seen me as a human being not just their “TRAINER” which is highly important for their confidence levels. Sneaky? Yes! In my defense I had one of highest retention ratings at this company!
The second problem problem I noticed was, the grab and go ( the process where a trainer rushes to get going right from the get go) It seems to be real easy for a truck driving teacher to forget how incredibly overwhelming this is for the entry level driver. Chances are he has just been rushed through school and the last 2/3 months of his life have been nothing but a blur. Now he is going out over the road, away from his family for many, many weeks (1-8 weeks pending training program, generally)
It is fundamental that as a truck driving teacher that you build a solid rapport with the the guy you plan to be working with. After all if you don’t know him or how he learns how could you ever teach him anything? What I do is slow things down a bit. I hang out for a day or two, get to know about him, his family, his goals with trucking.
If the situation allows I also take his family out to dinner so that his wife/girlfriend is comfortable with who he is going out with. For most guys this is a lifestyle shock and being slammed into it full force is no help at all, want to chase a guy off? Rush him into it. Teaching him to drive the truck is not the hard part, showing him how to slow down, relax and enjoy the many great qualities of the trucking lifestyle is the hard part, It is at its core what it takes to remain happy over the road. Sadly, many senior level drivers have been pushing so long they too have forgot how to do this. (Government regulations and being surround by negative guys can have that effect on you)
The third problem I noticed was, the ego trip (this is where the trainer/teacher thinks because of his position that he is somehow better then the entry level driver).
Like I said earlier “giving up was never a option for me“ that also applied to the guys I have worked with, the company I was teaching for at the time seen my proven track record. I never removed anyone from my truck and successfully soloed out every driver with a no failure rating. After a while I started getting many students who had spent time with 1-5 other teachers/trainers, the company said “if they can’t upgrade with you there is no hope“. Needless to say I got to hear many stories of other trainers/teachers, this really helped me hone my skills. One of the biggest complaints I got was how their trainers ego got in the way.
For example, I was sitting in Richmond, VA one morning doing my paperwork after just finishing up my post trip. When I hear someone screaming across the yard “Get that f-ing trailer in the hole you stupid n-word” I was like “what the heck is going on over there“. I step out of the truck look down the isle from me to see a so called trainer yell racial profanities at a rather huge gentlemen trying to back into a hole.
The gentlemen in the truck was so shook up he was shaking violently while the cab was jumping all around. My first thought was “wow this little dude is going to get pounded on by that bigger fella“, my second thought was “does he realize the full scope of what he is doing and that he is risking his life by taking these actions”
The trainer was having a huge power trip empowered by his uniform and rank as if that made him better then anyone else. I walked over and said “whats going on?” He quickly calmed down as he seen that I out ranked him and was certified to take away his mentor ship. In any case I asked him to come with me to the driver services department, the results, not good for him.
This is a obviously a extreme case, however there are many smaller cases that go unnoticed or perhaps the trainer/teacher is just not aware that he is crushing the entry level drivers confidence. You know it is bad enough that they’re in a environment completely foreign to them so they often stay right behind you following your lead as not to make a mistake or get in the way. Really it can be as simple as when your talking in a group you call him your student instead of addressing him by his name, again placing yourself higher then him.
Or perhaps, never allowing him to make his own decisions by telling him where to park, where were going to eat, when we’re going to leave, etc. I have never released a driver that couldn’t operate the truck completely from beginning to end with out my guidance.
The forth problem I noticed was the “the scared or inpatient trainer“. Some trainers/teachers feel the urge to take over for a entry level driver because they feel they could do the job more efficiently or are just flat out scared to let the guy learn. Of course you got it the other way around as well.
I have had guys on my truck after driving for 11 hours or whatever ask me “when we get to the costumer can you back it in for me?” I reply “And if I was not here would you ask the costumer to back it up for you?” They usually reply “your right, I should do it.”
A 25 year veteran trainer once told me “You’re not just teaching him to drive the truck you’re developing his confidence, encouraging him that he already knows how to do it” and you don’t develop his confidence by doing the job for him or talking down to him. It is important to set a good example tho, one of the first things my entry level driver and I talked about once we’re in the truck is the guidelines and expectations. I let him know that I will never ask him to do anything I couldn’t do myself or that would be unethical or illegal. I repeat several times that if at any point he doesn’t feel safe with the situation regardless of who is operating the truck, we will pull over and talk about the situation. Also if he is tired we will find a safe place to park, no questions asked.
It is important for a trainer/teacher to remember that driving can be very stressful for the entry level driver. You want to create the most stress free, peaceful environment possible. I let them know that I will never discuss stressful topics or tell them what they need improvement on while there operating the truck, every night while were eating dinner we discuss what could have been done different (including me, because I’m not perfect) and how we plan to make that different the next day(every driver should do this). Stay mindful of that because telling him “hey your going to — what ever“ while he is driving could put him into a panic and could cost both of you your life.
No related posts.
Category: Trucking in general