A Colorado trucking school director says that there may be an unusually large number of brand-new drivers out on the road this winter thanks to the recent uptick in demand for truck drivers and subsequent increase in trucking students.
Harold Trent, director at the United States Truck Driving School in Wheat Ridge, Colorado, says that the upcoming winter weather always presents challenges for truck drivers, but may take a particular toll on those new to trucking – a group of individuals that he says will be particularly large this year.
“Of course you factor in the weather. If you’re not experienced and you don’t know what you’re doing then you set yourself up for failure,” said Trent to CBS Local Denver. “Winter conditions, you’re not going to come off of that mountain, 30, 35 miles an hour.”
Trent says that the way the industry has worked this year may have left new drivers with extra gaps in their experience, pointing out that with all the delivery backups in the last year or so, new drivers have spent more time waiting and less time driving than a typical green driver.
“This COVID thing has created a monster,” he said.
“You’re still looking at drivers behind the wheel of commercial vehicles with three months of experience which is pretty typical of today’s world,” Trent continued. “I’m getting calls weekly from trucking companies I didn’t even know existed, ‘when are students graduating? How much training do they get?’”
While Trent says that standard rules and regulations help ensure that all new drivers get comparable training, some trucking schools may just be better than others.
“Now does it mean that some trucking companies may cut corners to get the job done? I would be a liar if I didn’t say yes that’s absolutely true,” he admitted.
Dan Kalland of Dillon Towing says that he has three trucks sitting in his yard that he towed after they lost control right now, and winter has not even begun yet.
“At 35 miles an hour they’re thinking well this is really slow, I can probably go a little bit faster than this. So they’ll zoom up to 45, 50 and the next thing you know they’re halfway down the hill losing brakes because they’ve had to keep pumping their brakes now, and they’re heating their brakes up and it’s a little too late.”
“It’s lack of training and experience is what it is.”
Trent also points out that drivers trained in southern states will simply be less experienced in wintery conditions all around, at no fault of their own or their trucking school.
“A driver from Alabama for example, probably a good driver, in summer weather conditions, but then he comes to Colorado and he’s faced with uphill and downhill grades he might now be used to. Then you’ve got snow and ice and fog and wind and all that factors into it.”
In addition to an influx of new drivers, Trent also points out that trucking companies that previously required years of experience to join their team have become so in need of drivers that they lowered their requirements, even accepting drivers fresh off of trucking school graduation.
“I’m seeing companies like I said that normally had a two year hiring criteria. Now, you know three months, six months, ‘hey we’ll take them right out of school now.’”