Truck driver training schools are a lot like a marriage. Sometimes you get a great one, sometimes not.
What amazes me is once the rookie or newbie (greenhorn, for all you Albertans) is out of school and receives their licence, they feel they can now pursue a life behind the wheel. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If the truck driver training school has not prepared you for your new life-long career, odds are you won’t see the inside of a big rig, except to take a road evaluation and be told you are not up to the standards of the company. No marriage here. If the higher powers have their way, and they usually do, soon all companies will need a certified driver trainer or will need to hire one through a consulting company. So, if the school cannot put you behind the wheel as a professional or close to it, hope you don’t mind serving hamburgers, because that is where you’re heading.
After 20 years on the road, I decided to make a change. The manager of a truck driving training school thought I had what it would take to make it as an instructor. He was correct. After a year in the truck and classroom, I became team leader of six instructors. Not long after that, the school opened up a second facility and I was now a supervisor running the second school.
At the time, in my opinion, the school I was employed by had a program that was second to none. Forty hours in the truck, 40 hours learning the pre-trip inspection and the components associated with the pre-trip, 40 hours learning how to back up the truck and trailer. And 108 hours in the classroom. After 40 hours of backing up a truck and trailer, 95% of the students could perform a blindside backing into a dock and do it within one or two attempts. In my opinion, just about anyone can drive rig straight down the road. If you can back your rig into a dock door on one attempt, I tip my hat to you. I made a lot of money backing another driver’s rig into a cross-dock door, due to his lack of training in regards to backing up the unit.
Some of the schools out there, I find, are not strict enough with their regiment. For instance, some schools say that all you need is 30 hours behind the wheel to receive your ‘A’ licence. This may be true, you will receive your licence. However, you will not get a job with a reputable company or you may not get a job at all due to the fact that you do not have enough hours behind the wheel with a qualified trainer. The more hours the school can offer you in the truck and in the yard backing and learning the components of the truck and trailer, the better off you are.
I’ll be honest, back in 1978 when I went for my licence I paid a company $225 for an hour in the truck for four days straight. On the fifth day, with the company’s truck and trailer, I went to the licensing division in Alberta and was taken out for a road test. Back then the pre-trip was to kick the tires, check your signals and away we went. I was back in the licensing office in five minutes with the instructor informing me that I had passed and now I am qualified to drive a tractor-trailer. What?!
I started in a gravel truck and worked my way up to a tractor-trailer; something a lot of drivers out there should consider.
The usual six to seven weeks in the truck driver training school, in my opinion, is information overload. When the newbie leaves the school, they should have the opportunity to phone the school and ask questions regarding their training while they were a student. I found that most of the students forget a lot of the training that happened in class. There is a reason the governments of Ontario and Alberta have brought in their respective apprenticeship programs. They know the potential professional driver will need more than 30 hours behind the wheel. They know that someone heading down our highways doing 105 km/h with 90,000 lbs under them and only 30 hours behind the wheel is a time bomb waiting to go off.
To give you a little more insight to my meaning; I worked for a large company and was advised by the owner that the company had ordered 10 more trucks and needed them to be filled. My driver trainers took out 110 drivers. Of those, they brought me 10 and I failed two of them. My personal problem is: Where are all those drivers being trained? What truck driving school would allow a person to leave their facility when they know the person needs more hours behind the wheel or learning to do a proper pre-trip inspection? The scary part of all this is the drivers who we did not hire are now working for a company that handed them the keys and told them the truck was in the yard and full of fuel.
There may be a marriage of driver and company, however divorce will soon follow due to the possibility of collision, lawsuit and possibly civil court. I respect and tip my hat to those truck driving schools who push their programs with more than 20 or 30 hours behind the wheel. You ask any old-timer truck driver when he stopped learning things in regards to driving a truck and they’ll tell you they never stop learning. Sounds like a marriage to me.