The Importance of Training I (9/26/2022)
 
Good training is always important and a huge asset for those who are starting a new job. This is especially true for new truck drivers. It is often said that at the trucking school you learn how to drive a truck but once you’re on the road you learn how to be a trucker driver.

Companies that hire graduates train them until they are qualified to venture out by themselves. This means that they will spend time working alongside an experienced driver who is supposed to teach them all they need to know to be a safe and responsible trucker.

The success of that approach of course depends on how good the trainer is and his degree of motivation to do the job right. I had heard some horrible stories from trainees who were basically taught little or nothing by someone who clearly was in it for the extra money only.

The company I started working for had a simple program. Four weeks on board with a trainer and then four weeks with another trainee.

I was off to a good start. My trainer was a young guy who had been doing it for several years He was quiet, never raised his voice, he was very thorough and not afraid to put some extra effort into it. He had a dedicated run, hauling car parts from Arizona to Indiana and bringing back empty containers.

Fairly straightforward with the disadvantage that trip planning, like an OTR driver normally needs to do, didn’t really come into play. Oh well, I had enough on my plate as it was anyway.

On our first trip I drove us out of the terminal and for a few hours Michael rode shotgun, making some comments here and there. At around 8 PM, when he was sure that I would be fine, he went to bed but not before he made it perfectly clear that I should shop right away in case I got tired. I was fine and did most of the night driving from thereon.

Michael was very strict, after I parked the truck he checked if it was centered between the lines, and if it was not, he told me to straighten it out.

When backing into a dock the truck had to sit at a 90-degree angle, if it was too far off I had to do it again, until it was acceptable. I did at least twice the number of backups required by the company. Although I was pretty good at it Michael gave me extra exercises. 

On a Sunday afternoon he was outside in 105-degree sunny weather for about two hours guiding me while I attempted to master blind side backing. It was not part of the official company program, but he wanted to spend the time available usefully.

Of course, there was more than driving skills that had to be mastered. From early on he let me do all the paperwork, taught me how to work the Qualcomm computer, he let me plan imaginable trips and gave me all the information I needed regarding company and safety procedures. He even had me crawl under a trailer and adjust the brakes and made quite sure I did it right.

What really impressed me that he was always there when I needed him. He warned me about the turn off in St. Louis, it is a very sharp one and if you go to fast a roll over is very likely. Before he went to bed he asked me to wake him up when we got close, apparently he didn’t want to take any chances.

When I called him, almost instantly his head appeared between the curtains, and he didn’t go back to sleep before we were out of town, and he was sure that everything was under control.

With Michael I felt safe and comfortable, just what a trainee needs.

At the end of the four weeks, we came back to the home terminal and Michael had to turn around right away. Unfortunately, there was no trainee available, and he couldn’t do the run without one. His driver manager suggested that he should just sit this one out. Then I offered to stay with him for one more run, he needed the help, and some extra training was well worth it for me.

When I got my own truck I was well prepared and confident. While I may have developed some bad habits since (who doesn’t?) I remember the things he taught me very well.