MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Dave Cousins sounds like a patient man. When he talks, his voice is slow and gentle, and not at all intimidating. With a presence like that, the in-cab instructor must ease the jumpy...
MILWAUKEE, Wis. – Dave Cousins sounds like a patient man. When he talks, his voice is slow and gentle, and not at all intimidating. With a presence like that, the in-cab instructor must ease the jumpy nerves of the many new drivers that he has trained for Bison Transport.
“Everyone is nervous when they go with me at first, but usually by the end of the first or second day, it’s all pretty calm. I don’t think they’re stressed. I’ve got one of them sitting right here,” he says from a truck stop in Milwaukee, Wis. “He says there’s no stress.”
That student was from East Germany. He’s a professional driver who needs to acclimatize to North American road conditions and complex border crossings. The instructor indicates that explaining operations in a clear manner seems to work for him.
“Most of my trainees, english isn’t their first language. Sometimes I have to explain things in different ways so that they understand it,” Cousins says.
It’s a teaching role that has turned out to be a natural inclination for the seasoned driver. Cousins has enjoyed working with people from Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, England, and Canada, and he’s proud of the results.
“All the guys that have been with me have been pretty successful. They haven’t got themselves into too much trouble,” he chides.
There have been about 24 students that have driven with Cousins since the program began. They’re mainly a highly motivated group of foreign drivers that have invested greatly to migrate to Canada. Naturally, there have been interesting conversations in the cab, and Cousins has enjoyed the interaction, although he has heard some harrowing tales about life in East Germany. “There was a couple that had escaped, and taken back. It was pretty rough. I wouldn’t want to experience it,” he recalls.
The new drivers from Europe scoff at what most North American’s consider to be congested highways, according to Cousins, but are otherwise impressed with the North American transportation infrastructure – especially south of the border.
“What we call heavy traffic, they call light traffic,” he says. “Most of them are pretty amazed at the amount of country that you can travel in one day – in the US especially. (North American) highways are a lot more open. You can really cover a lot of territory in 10 hours.”
Cousins also trained with a new driver that arrived from a B. C. driving school, who impressed the trainer with his neophyte skill behind the wheel. The pair took a scenic six-week tour that covered B. C., California, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ontario, and Texas. “That worked out really well,” says Cousins. “He did very well.”
One of the biggest challenges with teaching a new driver, says Cousins, is to explain things clearly.
“It’s alright to tell somebody what to do, but you need to tell them the reason for doing it. For myself, at first, that was difficult. When telling somebody that this is not the way we need to do it here, you need to give them the reasons for it.”
The in-cab instructor has been asked to take on a leadership role with Bison, but until that happens, Cousins has been mentoring other new in-cab instructors.
“I advise them a little bit,” he says. “They all come to me, and they talk to me and tell me what kind of problems they are having, and I try to help them with it.”