Sometimes I think, well lets be honest I do a lot of thinking being a trucker. Providing that truck driver’s travel a lot of miles on a regular basis, does that indeed make them the best of all drivers on the highway? Let’s see if we can answer this in some straight forward manner.
A Truck Driver goes through training to enable the truck driver to travel across the various highways and roadways throughout the United States of America. With this additional training comes additional rules and regulations that one must abide by as a trucker.
However, just because a truck driver may spend more hours being trained to drive on roadways, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are the best of all drivers.
Many different professions are also trained for driving under various conditions. In reality, it all comes down to the individual, and their ability to apply what was learned during training to the field of work. Although, did you know that truck drivers are taught some of the craziest things? Read below to find out, or you’ll never know.
What Is Learned In Truck Driving School?
Given most truck drivers can log anywhere from 2,000 miles a week to just over 3,500 miles weekly easily. These numbers are based off of being Regional and OTR (Over the Road) driver types. Also, these numbers are based off of if the freight is available to consistently transport.
Truck drivers must first take a written exam, just like anyone else that ever wanted to drive anything that is regulated. With this, you obtain a permit, which allows you to operate a CMV (Commercial Motor Vehicle) while accompanied by someone with a valid CDL (Commercial Driver License) or an Instructor Certificate for CDL and CMV.
During this time period, you will operate a CMV while being accompanied by another driver or a certified instructor. You will learn how to shift the transmission, learn to backup, and learn to turn left and right. You will also learn a lot of additional things during this training.
Normally training in a truck driver school currently takes about 3 to 16 weeks to complete. This is based off of how the structure of the knowledge to be learned is put into place. This includes classroom teachings and actual driving knowledge.
With at times a short classroom atmosphere and other times longer more in-depth versions, we can see that truckers on average spend about 9.5 weeks learning how to be a truck driver. (3+16 = 19 divided by 2 = 9.5) Just over 2 months for the most part.
With this knowledge comes the ability to know how to maintain control of a semi truck in a safe manner. Most Trucking Companies and Truck Driver Schools teach The Smith System. This system teaches truck drivers to foresee dangerous situations in advance through the methods that are taught within the program.
The Smith System has 5 components within its program. These Are:
- Aim High In Steering
- Get The Big Picture
- Keep Your Eyes Moving
- Leave Yourself An Out
- Make Sure You Are Seen
I’ll explain each of these areas of the Smith System in a little more detail to help you understand the purpose of each segment.
Aim high in steering is obtaining information while driving that consists of being more than just a few feet in front of you. It’s noticing that 3 blocks up a white car with tinted window’s just ran a stop sign.
It’s evaluating information up ahead of you, that allows you to react at a great distance to be prepared on what to do before arriving at danger or situations up ahead.
Get the big picture basically consists of being aware of everything that is around you at all times. Your ability to avoid potential accidents is based on how well you observe everything around you, from pedestrians to how other driver’s act.
This is everything directly next to you, to the 3 blocks away example and everything in between. Being able to process everything that is occurring and could occur is important as a truck driver.
Keep your eyes moving is a method used to scan the area. This enables the truck driver to stay alert and to know what is occurring around them, by constantly checking all mirrors while knowing what is ahead.
Leave yourself an out consists of positioning the semi truck and trailer while driving so that the trucker doesn’t become boxed in by traffic. The purpose of this, is in the event of an emergency or needing to avoid any type of incident, the trucker can do so safely without imposing additional threats to anyone or anything near or around the semi-truck.
Make sure you are seen is a little more than just being seen. It’s basically a way to tell other commuters that here you are. This also helps other drivers anticipate what your next move is going to be.
This is shown through using turning signals, horns, brake lights, and hazard lights. It’s more than just using these components, it’s also them being used with enough advance notice to help others be aware of what the trucker is going to do or trying to do.
Being in truck driver training school or some similar with a trucking company driver training program. Both will provide you with real world experience. After you go through the in-class knowledge learning, you will be taken out to learn some basics.
These include, things to do before you even start the semi truck and trailer. Things like Pre-Trip Inspections, Post Trip Inspections and during these inspections what types of things are you keeping an eye out for.
During these inspections that a truck driver is mandated to do, there are over 100 components and the trucker must know how each of them functions in a safe and correct manner. Truckers must also know how a damaged component appears and any possible signs of that could result in a malfunction.
A malfunction that occurs while driving becomes either a break down, resulting in the semi-truck and trailer being parked on the shoulder of a busy highway. Which can become very dangerous, rather quickly.
Or a malfunction that occurs while driving can result in being involved in an accident of some sort. Any accident whether small or big, in my own opinion, is never a good thing.
Let’s face it, knowing this alone and retaining this information is normally what gives people issues passing an exam to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License. This makes up a portion of what helps most truck drivers be some of the best drivers.
After this information is learned and many times during the learning process of all of this begins the real-world driving knowledge. The new recruit will go out with a trainer of some sort. Sometimes a few recruits at a time with one trainer.
They’ll go to the semi-truck without a trailer (bobtail) that is parked in a parking lot for semi-trucks. They may even drive around the parking lot. If it’s a manual transmission, some of the ideas about how to shift learned in class may now be practiced.
Though this is where the information learned in class begins being applied in the real world. After a while of this, sometimes an hour, sometimes after a few days or more. Depending on the learning ability of the students, the next step may be to drive the bobtail around the block, or at some training facilities, just a regular personal vehicle will be driven around the block executing the various areas of the smith system.
After the trainer feels comfortable with the student(s) then they may take the bobtail for a couple mile drive. Each time, the driving becomes a little bit longer in duration, or somewhat different in population of traffic.
Truck Driver Training Simulators?
At some locations that teach everyday people to become truck drivers, some of these businesses (trucking companies or schools and etc.) may have a Truck Driver Training Simulator set up. Now keep in mind, this is not the video game version.
This are built with real truck parts that you would find inside of a semi truck, in the area that a truck driver would sit to operate the semi truck. From the seat to the steering wheel, down to the gear shifter and pedals back up to the dashboard.
Though it doesn’t stop there, also there are normally 3 or more flat screen monitors that provide the visibility that you would see out the windows and mirrors. Along with all the sounds, bells and whistles.
Talk about intense computer software, this can be manipulated to change weather conditions, traffic, anything you can think of, it can be implemented through a truck driver training simulator. The purpose of this is to help make learning safe. Safe for the new recruit and safe for the public.
By maintaining this level of control and safety during training, this helps truckers become some of the best trained drivers on the highways and roadways of America.
It does this by allowing the trucker trainee to be confident in their abilities without being too cautious. At times over cautious can be just as dangerous as not being cautious at all. Each new truck driving student needs to find their own level within these boundaries.
When an accident occurs on a training simulator, sure you could rack up points, maybe fail a simulated driving test, or maybe you will have to do the entire class over again at very worst-case scenario.
Though on the bright side, you didn’t receive a citation for the crash that occurred on the training simulator, all while nothing other than your own pride was injured. This is why I think this has nothing but positive outcomes for anyone that “begins” learning how to be a truck driver through a simulator.
With a training simulator for learning how to become a truck driver, there are so many possible variables and situations that are taught. It becomes almost endless in the amount of information that can be learned on the what to do’s and what not to do’s while driving a semi truck.
Training simulators are another tool some truck drivers have available to them, to help them not only maintain a level of professionalism and safety, but also place them above many other drivers for why some truckers are some of the best drivers on highways and roadways.
What Is Skid Pad Training?
Another type of training that occurs is called skid pad training. This in a sense brings some of the types of training out of a training simulator and places it in a controlled environment in the real world.
The outcome of this, is a semi-truck and trailer that has been wired from the passenger seat, to enable a trainer to individually lock any wheel on the entire rig. This while traveling on a man-made slippery surface at controlled speeds will cause the semi-truck and trailer to jack knife.
With the truck driver in the driver seat, correcting the jack knife. At times, the trainer (at their own discretion) can lock up the wheels multiple different times, at various moments throughout a “run”.
A run is simply from a starting point to an ending point, usually about a football field length or so of distance. These semi-trucks and trailers are equipped with chains that will only allow the trailer to jack knife to a certain point.
While the truck driver may feel nervous, may feel like they have lost control at some point. The entire time it was in control by the trainer that was along for the ride in the passenger seat.
When any driver can practice a dangerous situation in a controlled environment, where safety is the utmost importance in the workplace, it’s a positive in my book. The applied skills learned through these training methods are shown in drivers results of knowing when to counter steer, when to speed up, when to brake, and so on.
From the basic knowledge of understanding how to avoid a malfunction or possible accident. To learning on a training simulator and taking that knowledge and applying it in the real world. Hundreds of hours of training, studying, becoming knowledgeable of all the rules and regulations they tend to change from time to time.
Help make Truckers some of the best drivers. The only other thing that can help any truck driver, become a better truck driver is:
- Practicing and using the knowledge learned daily and making it a habit to use that knowledge safely.
- Experience over time.