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Saturday, August 17, 2013

What drives Driver Trainers crazy
I've been a truck driver trainer with my company now for over 19 years. I've always considered myself to be so fortunate, not actually having to teach new tractor trailer drivers to drive, as our company hires only experienced “professionals”. Of course there are a wide variety of truck drivers and they all have varying levels of experience, but the people we hire have a safe work and driving history and know how to drive.

I find after doing this so long and training several hundred drivers in our system over the years, my patience wears thin and it seems more frustrating as time goes on and each new driver comes on board. So, as therapy, I have decided to list my pet peeves with new drivers and see if that helps. And, if any of you readers out there are new drivers or have moved to a different company and had to be trained by a trainer, you might want to respond and list your pet peeves about your trainer.

Back in the early 1980’s, I went through the Diesel Driving School in Sun Prairie, Wisconsin to get my training. We had an old, grumpy trainer that would ride along in the passenger seat nicknamed Red. Every time I did something wrong behind the wheel, he would punch me on the arm, scaring the crap out of me. But it sure taught me not to make the same mistake again! In my class of 29 students, I graduated ranked number one. In this day and age, probably not a good idea to be punching your students!

My Pet Peeves:
If you are bob-tailing a tractor, why would anyone start in first or second and shift through every gear in the transmission? How long has it been taught that with electronic engines, you should start out in the highest gear that will get the truck rolling without using the throttle. Starting in first or second while bob-tailing or empty is ridiculous, wastes fuel and bounces me back and forth in the passenger seat.

I realize that every truck is different and it takes some time to shift it smoothly. Drivers are not used to having a trainer ride with them and are understandably nervous. If you can’t pick it up right away, try using the clutch! Seems like everyone insists on “floating” the gears, missing shifts and constantly grinding gears, making me cranky. You can shift a lot smoother, until you get more comfortable, by using that left leg.

Loading docks and yards are often congested and can overwhelm drivers that are not used to it. As we enter a yard that my driver is not familiar with, I try and give information on where to drop trailers or which door to back in. All the years of backing experience have taught me that properly positioning your rig before backing is half the battle. If you can position your rig to back straight into a dock instead of jackknifing, it makes for a lot less work and a much safer move. It amazes me at some who do not take a moment to think about where they are going, and how to line up for a backing maneuver.

Drive it like you normally drive! I have been a professional driver for over thirty years and expect a driver I’m riding with to drive like a normal professional person. Crawling around like a grandma and driving 5 or 10 miles per hour below the speed limit to demonstrate that you are a safe driver does not work for me. I know how you will drive after I leave the truck and have witnessed it hundreds of times. We hire drivers with a safe working history and we know you are a safe driver.

We provide map books for every new driver that show routes and directions for every place we normally go. When training a driver, we know the day before where we will be going the next day. Now, I would think that if it were me, going somewhere I haven’t been before, would at least look at the maps the night before. I've had a couple drivers hook their trailers up in the yard, ready to leave and ask me if which direction (north or south) out of Salt Lake! That makes me crazy.

Training new drivers on local routes almost always means an early morning start time. I tell each driver what time we need to meet to pick up the tractor. Now, if I was a new employee, I would make damn sure to not be late during my training period. When I get up at 3:30AM, drive to work and sit twiddling my thumbs, waiting for my trainee to show up, it does not start my day well. In fact, I got so mad one time that I told the guy if he was late getting up again with me, to not bother showing up at all. And he didn't. He only lasted a few weeks.

So, that’s a few of my peeves, anyone is welcome to respond of their pet peeves with trainers!

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