Ms. Manners: New Drivers

New Drivers Ms Manners

By A.H. Bosley

The new drivers out here today have it harder than, say – someone who has been mentored. They read the CDL book, take a written, go to school, and within a few weeks, they are driving down the highway without any real knowledge of the road or how to handle a rig. Their trainer’s could have as little as 6 months experience!

The industry really needs change is in this area. No one should be a trainer after such a short amount of time in a truck. Any trainer should have no less than five years in before being allowed to start thinking about training, and then should have to go through some sort of testing by the DMV. Most companies are not taking the responsibility now to put qualified trainers in the trucks with their students.

In my opinion, companies shouldn’t put any new driver in a rig by themselves within just a month or two of getting a CDL. They simply don’t know enough. As WE all know, there is more to driving a big rig than steering. You need to know the rules and regulations, what to look for at weigh stations, how to scale, when to scale, and how to move your weight around from axle to axle. How to handle snow, ice, downgrades, take curves, route yourself, time management, anger management, how to read a map, how to handle the customer service side of things, thinking for others, expect the unexpected, leaving a way out, learn road rules and simple trucking manners – as they are different than driving a four-wheeler. Plus, common sense and a whole host of things too many to mention. I know it all seems so easy and it is, unless you are that untrained driver.

I have explained to a few DRIVERS, people with a new CDL, about mile-markers, and how the highway system is numbered. Some didn’t understand this at all, as it is not taught in school. One guy asked, “If we are on 35 North how do I get to 35 South?” I said, “WHAT?” not joking, THIS IS REAL.

What to do when you jump over your fifth wheel. I’ve done it, and I had not a clue as to how to get back under it. My co-driver made me figure it out first, then showed me the easy way to do it. I saw a young man just this week running down a steep grade and literally burned up his breaks. He had to stop and get out the fire extinguisher. This could have been a disaster.

Years ago I went thru a scale house and the weight cop asked me to check on the young man, who drove for the same company I did. He had crossed the scale and he was overweight. They gave him the opportunity to pull around back and fix the problem. Well, he went around back over an hour ago and hadn’t come back. I pulled around, spoke to the young man and this is what he said when I asked if he was okay: “I’m over weight.” I asked him if I could see his CAT scale receipt. He said he didn’t have one, “Why would I?” he said, It only shows how much the truck weighs, it doesn’t show each axle. I asked where his trainer was. He said, I’m not a trainee. I went and got my cat scale for my load and showed him. Long story short. He got his axles where they needed to be and got him through the scale house. He had NO IDEA about something as small as how to scale his load, or how to fix it. This was very alarming to me, and should be to you. It is a basic everyday task.

It is not truly his fault. He was improperly trained. He doesn’t even know WHAT he doesn’t know. It is scary and very sad. He doesn’t know what he is doing and apparently afraid to ask.

We take it for granted, all pretty easy stuff but it isn’t easy if you just don’t know, were never taught, or have never been on an interstate – or even out of your state (some have never been out of town.)

My nephew of 13 has lived on a farm all his life. He can drive anything and back anything, but he probably would have a hard time getting you from say New York to Seattle, Washington by himself.

So please, take the time to talk to these newer drivers. Talk to your safety department and let them know what’s happening out here. I was lucky and never had to ride with someone that didn’t know trucking when I started in this business. I was trained by my ex who had 22 years behind the wheel. I was also trained by my father before I ever got behind the wheel as far as trucker road rules. My mother loved to travel and taught me how to read a map and the tell-tale signs on the interstate. I certainly didn’t know everything, but I had a good start for newbie. I had travelled many times out of state by myself and had a good understanding of our highway system.

We have so many people out here driving the way THEY want to, brotherhood be darned. Sometimes I think it’s not to be rude, they simply don’t know, so they drive like they are in their cars.

Stick your neck out and get involved. If you aren’t part of the solution you’re part of the problem. I read a lot of comments on CDLLife and some are just like you have given up. “It’s never going to change.” “What is the point?” “I used to… BUT.” The industry will never be like it was, as things have -and do change. But the spirit of a driver hasn’t.

It starts with turning on your C.B., taking to drivers, and starting to form a tight brotherhood. We fight each other for no reason. Speak up – if only on the C.B. I had four semi’s behind me yesterday and they let a full-grown bear walk right up to my back door. Never a word. I spoke up, “Hey! Four of you back there and you allow a bear to all but knock on my back door. Come on brothers. I won’t let it happen to you.” Ten miles up the road I got a shout-out. “Bear rolling northbound at the 45.” So it worked, if only for one. Tomorrow I’ll get another and with help from you we will get it done. Communication is the key. Be safe out there.

Trucking is not just a profession, it’s a way of life.

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