Over the last few months I have been noticing a larger number of photos surfacing on the internet of trucks in precarious position due to driver error. The two most common types of photo I see are those involving a driver who misjudged a turn and ran over something with the trailer tires, the other type is bridge strikes.
With the rise of the types of incidents comes a peak in interest as to why they are happening. If a driver is cutting their turns improperly then there certainly must be a reason, if a driver is hitting bridges then there must also be a reason. These things led me to question if drivers are getting enough training, if they are being screened prior to being accepted to a training school and if they are being trained by individuals who are qualified to do so.
All a person has to do today to see a major flaw in the training is to look in the employment section in the newspaper or type “CDL training” into their internet browser and see what they find. It is littered with sales pitches from carrier’s and CDL training schools, you are guaranteed to see things like “Have your CDL in 2 weeks” or “Pre-qualify in less than 2 minutes”. These are major players in the trucking industry who have thousand’s of trucks on the road running these ads to fill seats and it has become pretty clear that they don’t care how they go about filling them. The running joke amongst experienced drivers is that if you have a pulse then you are qualified to be a new CDL trainee for most companies, sadly it isn’t a joke in many cases. Many recruiters for trucking companies only look at it a criminal background and driving record of a potential hire and if it comes back good then that individual is offered a position, they take part in “round ups” at truck driver training schools trying to cull the best options from the herd of people getting their “2 week CDL”.
The ink doesn’t even dry on their paper license and they are shipped off to orientation at the company training facility which in many cases is a card table with a couple of chairs and some JJ Keller posters on the wall encouraging safe driving. These recruits are then asked to fill out the rest of their applications……yes that’s right, they weren’t even completed before the were put on a bus to orientation. They recruiter will toss in a questionnaire asking about what part of the country you want to run in, how often you need to be home, what kind of bills you have at home and so on. So they fill out the forms and watch a couple of safety videos before they are introduced to their “trainer”. Keep in mind that with many companies the “trainer” just completed this same series of events only 6 months prior. In one instance a friend of mine and a friend of his decided they wanted to drive truck, so they went to a truck driving school, got their licenses and were hired by a major carrier that put them each with a “trainer” and after one month they were put together as a team operation in their own truck.
So back to that new hire, he is now out on the road with his trainer who only has 6 months experience when the trainer discovers that this trainee has no mathematical aptitude and is less than proficient at reading a map. The trainer informs the carrier that the trainee isn’t cut out for the position…………whoa, wait a minute. Why wasn’t this individual screened prior to hiring them or better yet why did the school not screen them before giving them the shortcuts to acquiring a CDL? Performing this job in a safe and efficient manner requires basic math skills and map reading skills for proper trip planning, routing and logbook keeping. A person would think that would be a basic thing they look for prior to even putting them into a training situation. We now have an inexperienced trainer trying to teach a trainee something they should already know, which is now in turn taking time away from the basic instruction of safe driving procedures. We come to the end of the 30 day in truck training program and the trainer informs the carrier that the student is not ready or not qualified to move on to solo driving.
Upon receiving this type of notification from their trainer the carrier informs the trainer that he or she must continue to train the student, transfer the student to another trainer, or pass them so the student can get into their own truck. In many case the third option is the one utilized because trainers are threatened with pay reduction or termination if they do not pass enough students. We now have a poorly trained driver out on their own in the real world who cannot read a map, didn’t get enough education in proper turning and backing techniques or looking far enough ahead of the truck to avoid potential problems. This same driver chooses an improper route down a road with a low clearance bridge that they would have known about if they had been able to properly read a map, the driver strikes the low clearance bridge because they didn’t leave themselves enough lead time to stop in time.
This is the same driver who just recently picks up a preloaded trailer of product so he drops his old trailer, hooks up the new one and hurriedly rolls on down the road because he is under pressure not to screw up again. He or she is thankful they still have a job after hitting a bridge the week before and they can’t afford to be late. They make a quick stop for fuel and pull out in a hurry not even thinking about the position of the trailer tandems being in a “stretched out” position, they didn’t leave themselves enough room to make their turn and drag the right side tires into a ditch resulting in the trailer turning over. Where did they go wrong? Better yet who was to blame in the first place, the recruiter for the CDL school, the school itself, the recruiter for the carrier? It is important to remember that this isn’t always the case in the training process of drivers but the majority of those who speak up about it have seen at least one aspect of it in one of the phases of their training. Carriers need to stop filling seats with warm bodies and stop expecting the experienced drivers out there to keep being penalized because of the inexperience of the drivers the carriers are flooding the highways with. The practice of “CDL farms” needs to stop and recruiters need to be held responsible for the people they approve to come aboard. Once there is a level of accountability then you might see a change in the quality of person sitting behind the wheel as well as a change in the quality of training they receive. As long as it is an accepted practice to process drivers like cattle then the roads will become increasingly dangerous for everyone that uses them.