26 September 2010

An insiders' point of view

"Trucking down the road" by Quilly @ www.quildancer.com

Quilly and her guy were out visiting family last week, and when they returned she posted this little blip about trucking. I don't know Quilly, but she and my sister are friends. Her site is varied and very interesting. I'm truly envious of her talent. Quilly is right...there seems to be plenty of freight to haul, and if you want a job as a truck driver it's easy enough to get one. But I'm getting side tracked.

Trucking isn't for the average John or Jane Doe. Trucking is hard work! Let me tell you this from my fifteen years of experience in the industry. Driving and maneuvering one of those big rigs down the highways ans byways of the United States takes practice and skill. They say practice makes perfect. In this case it isn't the perfect you're after, it's being a highly skilled professional that you're after. It isn't as easy as it looks.

Today, if you don't know someone who is already in the business and is willing to teach you, going to one of the many truck driving schools is about the only option one has to get into a big rig. The school is 160+ hours of classroom, skills learning and road practice. Unfortunately, the road practice time is never enough and basically all you learn in the school is enough to pass state and federal complaince guidlelines and laws to hold a Commercial Drivers License.

The real learning doesn't start until the day you climb into the rig with the driver mentor or driver trainer who is going to be your constant companion for the next six weeks or so. A driver mentor or driver trainer is the guy or gal who has spent at least a winter on the road, hopefully more experienced than that, and been through the training program with their company and has been certified to mentor/train and assist you in refining the skills you have already learned, teaching you the rules of the road, and the company policies. This second phase of learning can be an excellent experience, it can be mediocre, or it can be disasterous. Fortunately, while I was learning, I had excellent mentor/trainers, and I learned a great deal. I have a short story to share, too.

I've rescued a number of lady drivers from ill fitting situations with their driver mentor/trainers. These scenarios have many faces, from verbal abuse, lack of hygeine, the second logbook syndrome (this is someone who is in it just for the extra money they earn), and lastly to the driver who really doesn't have the necessary skills or mindset to do the job they've been certifed to do, which is to mentor and train new drivers entering the industry. This is a huge, huge issue within the industry, one that is difficult to remedy. I won't go into it here and will save it for another posting.

There are excellent mentor/trainers, there are average, and those who do it just for the money as I noted before. Add to this the stress of the time spent away from family, the lifestyle, and the fear of being in a confined space with someone you don't know 24/7 for at least the next six weeks. It's an emotionally charged situation, and this can be just the beginning. If by chance or by fate, you get one of the good guys or gals as a mentor/trainer you have a good chance of beating the odds and becoming a decent operator. So you're on your way, good luck!