I was happy to read your commentary in the February issue of Truck News titled “Driver training: One step forward, two steps back.”While I agree with you on all points, I’d like to correct one small misconception. Just like most of us would anticipate, you suggested that a phoney A/Z licence holder would be weeded out during a road test. A few years back perhaps, but times are changing. The following is an excerpt from my letter recently sent to OTA as well as to Transport Minister Jim Bradley:
“One sunny afternoon of Aug. 23, 2006 a tractor with a tridem trailer loaded with premium Alberta beef destined for a Montreal customer was rolled over about 13 miles west of Moosomin, Sask. on a dry stretch of Hwy. 1 in good visibility. I happened to be in the bunk of that tractor at the time of roll-over. On several occasions during this trip prior to the accident, the driver exhibited a serious lack of judgement and the lack of basic driving skills.
“A few weeks earlier, the same driver was pulled from a tractor with a 13-speed manual transmission and was transferred to an automatic for not being able to shift. While being hired by a renowned Ontario-based transportation firm shortly before that, this driver passed a company driving test on an automatic.
“From the drivers’ perspective, driving with an automatic transmission truck is convenient and easy, but…some driving skills erode quickly on automatics. Other skills, such as the ability to free a vehicle trapped in a snow bank, or the sense of using lower gears while descending a steep hill never develop. If they do, automatic drivers develop them very slowly.
“Driving an automatic on longhaul trips may lead to increased monotony accompanied with a rise in passive complacency during which driver awareness may drop below safe levels. On the other hand, having to shift, increases driver’s active awareness through necessary planning for shifting gears through curves and hills.
“Moreover, to a transportation company examiner testing a new candidate during the hiring process, the candidate’s knowledge of proper shifting techniques provides certain assurance of the driver’s learning potential to become a safe driver with sound judgement.”
I wonder whether it was just a coincidence that out of the four “automatic” drivers I trained into the company, three had serious mishaps within a few months of being hired?
From my personal observation as a linehaul driver working in teams, the judgement, and skills of the strictly automatic drivers are no match to those of drivers with some experience on manual transmissions. Just to let you know that we’re facing more issues here. It is not just the driver training.
Paul Kauler Montreal, Que.
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