Truck driver training needs a complete overhaul within the industry. The CDL schools state that their job is to get the new driver ready just enough to be able to pass the driving skills test and after that, it is up to the trucking company to complete the training. The companies state that it is the school’s responsibility to have them road ready and skilled in the handling of an 18-wheeler. The one who is left holding all the responsibility is the new driver trainee.
Every veteran truck driver will agree that the real training does not begin until you are out in the real world of trucking. No CDL school or company can prepare a new driver for the actual challenges of long haul trucking; that will come with years of experience. Regardless, many aspects to truck driving are often missed in the class room setting that can help to prepare the new driver for many of the challenges they will face out on the open road. Professionalism not only comes with real world experience, but knowledge beforehand also can play a big role in the differences between safety and disaster.
One missing key element that I have seen over the years in relation to CDL truck driver training, is the failure to fully teach and explain the effects of Mother Nature. The basics covering snow, sleet and ice are usually covered within a few minutes with the add-on of “Just slow down” being the final words of professional CDL training. Most often, the CDL schools will leave it up to “common sense” . . . however, these are new and inexperienced trainees who often have no idea what it is like to operate such a large motor vehicle. Most will have no understanding, for example, about the wind effect that is created when two vehicles are side by side, passing each other.
Have you ever passed another semi when suddenly, the other vehicle “moved in” to your lane? Have you ever been “pulled in” to the other lane of the passing rig? We have all had it happen and veteran drivers know that this is due to the air turbulence being created between the two passing vehicles and experienced drivers prepare for it. This type of wind effect is one main reason why vehicles should slow down through construction zones. Workers have been “pulled in” to the path of the passing vehicle from this self generated turbulence.
CDL truck driver training should also consist of a more detailed learning experience as it pertains to Mother Nature and how her forces can effect a high profile vehicle. More specifically, the shear power of wind. Most trucking companies will have a policy in place that states all drivers should shut down when winds have reached 45 MPH or above, yet this policy is seldom enforced. Only until a few dozen semi rigs have been blown over on their sides, will the company begin to take notice. Furthermore, you must understand that this should not be construed as sustained winds . . . but you must be aware of the gusts that occur.
Large RV motor homes have been blown over by as little as 15 MPH winds. High profile vehicles, such as the 18-wheeler, can also fall prey to Mother Nature and her winds in as little as 25 MPH gusts. This video shows a state trooper following behind a semi during a wind storm in Nevada, when the winds gusts overcame the big rig:
Most likely, your CDL school will never cover the effect of wind on a large vehicle. Just understand that Mother Nature can wreak havoc on any size motor vehicle and when the winds reach an unsafe speed . . . pull over and shut down. When parking, park into the wind and do not continue driving until the winds have calmed down.
© 2010, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.