By Allen Smith
It is often very easy for veteran drivers and trucking company officials to overlook the importance of truck driver training for CDL students and new drivers. With years of experience, the possibility of becoming laxed over time can lead to deadly consequences. Many issues within the trucking industry have remained swept under the rug for years, including the lack of proper training for new truckers. The seriousness of proper truck driving training and the lack there of, was pushed into the main stream media through our blog about one and a half years ago, through the writings of a newbie trucker known as Trucker Desiree.
Originally met with a great deal of hostility by drivers and trucking organizations, today, the issue has grown into a more acceptable situation where many trucking individuals are finally realizing and commenting on the fact that the industry indeed lacks proper truck driver training skills in many areas. Although there are many excellent trainers in the industry, there is still a long way to go in order to bring about further stricter guidelines for driver trainers.
Calling oneself a trainer, does not make one a teacher. Teaching involves the skills and ability to present the lessons being taught, in an acceptable and understanding manner. Teaching requires the trainer to place themselves in the same situation as the student. Nervousness, fear and anxiety . . . all the emotions that a new CDL student will encounter, all have to be recognized and understood by the driver trainer . . . the teacher. A trainer may have thirty years of driving experience and a perfect record, but without the understanding of teaching and how to teach, the student can often experience higher levels of anxiety and disappointment.
There are endless stories of CDL students being yelled at and even having been “thrown out” of the truck by the trainer. Trainers in other professions are required to attend a trainer course and various other forms of class-training to become certified as a professional trainer. Within the trucking industry, most often it is a matter of the company telling an experienced driver that they are now a “trainer.” More thought must be placed in the equation when determining who can be a trainer and who cannot. Training and teaching goes hand in hand, and just because one can drive an 18-wheeler with the utmost skill . . . does not make them a teacher.
When choosing which driver will represent their company as a driver trainer, the trucking companies should look at some basic qualifications as to what makes up a good teacher:
- Explanation skills – Being comfortable with explaining content to students is an essential skill for teachers.
- Cool under pressure – Good teachers are able to successfully resist the urge to yell or scream at their students.
- Have a sense of humor – Research has shown that good teachers have a sense of humor, and that they are able to use this skill as part of their training methods.
- A “people” person – Liking people is essential for being a good trainer/teacher. Drivers considered as “Loners” are not the best choice for trainers.
- Are Fair-Minded – A good teacher is able to assess students on the basis of performance, not on the their personal or physical qualities.
- Have Common Sense – A trainer should be able to size up a situation quickly and make an appropriate decision.
- Set high expectations – A good trainer/teacher should set high expectations for themselves and their students.
- Have organizational skills – They should be organized in their professional and teaching duties.
- Understand time management – Managing time to achieve the best end results for both the trainer and student.
- Is a Leader and not a Follower – Being comfortable in a position of a leader within a very stressful industry.
- Not taking things for granted – You were once in the same situation as the student. Keeping this in mind will make you a better trainer.
Drivers who understand the importance of the role of a professional driver trainer can continue to release safe and skilled drivers out on the public highways. The driver trainee should never be released before the designated trainer has stated that they are ready. This means that the trucking company should allow the driver trainer to be the sole person to determine when that time has come . . . not because the company needs to get the driver out there ASAP.
It should also be noted that rules for driver trainers should be adjusted in order to meet the demands that are placed on trainers. Running the truck 24/7 is not a good idea for a trainer-student combination. At some point, trucking companies and the industry must realize that the trainer must rest and receive the required sleep that is needed to function in a logical and professional manner. If the trainer is sleeping in the bunk while the student is driving, where is the safety and professionalism? All too often, the company becomes laxed in their decision making all for the sake of getting the freight down the road. What is loaded on the trailer should never be more important than the safety of the driver trainer and student.
This video shows an 18-wheeler, being driven by a student CDL driver losing control of the vehicle while going down the 7,085 foot Donner Pass . . . while the driver trainer is sleeping in the bunk. Both student and trainer were killed:
Most professional truck drivers understand the importance of proper truck driver training. The time has come for the trucking companies to understand it more as well. Allowing for additional time between load pick up and deliveries . . . providing additional rest periods and understanding that both student and trainer will need added comforts, different from the solo driver . . . will prevent tragedies like this one from happening. It will also provide more safe and skilled drivers being placed on our nation’s highways.
© 2010, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.