You'll learn a lot during your time at truck driver training. Everything you're taught is crucial to your success as a professional driver, but some lessons stick in the minds of students more than others.
We asked some CDL training students what they learned during school that's stuck with them the most since hitting the road on their own. Here are the five things we heard most often...
1. Pre-trip inspections are really important.
"Learn pretrip, early and often." -- Ben
Performing a pre-trip inspection before you leave on a trip can make or break your experience as a professional truck driver. If you don't perform one before every single load, you put not only yourself in danger, but everyone else on the road.
The point of a pre-trip is to check to make sure your vehicle is in proper working condition. Failure to do a PTI at the beginning of every load can lead to accidents and legal incidents on the road. It's worth noting that a failure to perform a pre-trip can lead to points on your BASIC and thus, points on your carrier's score and the potential for termination (they won't be too happy if you screw up their safety rating).
So as you can see, pre-trip inspections are a big deal. They prevent the loss of equipment and lives, one of which could be your own.
2. Watch your speed.
"Watch your speed. Take the space you need; they'll move." -- Edward
You're driving an 80,000 pound chunk of steel down the road. It's important to maintain a safe speed, not only for your safety, but others as well. Imagine you're flying down a city road faster than you should be and a car in front of you slams on its brakes. You probably wouldn't be able to stop 40 tons in an instant, right? This is why it's so important to maintain a safe, consistent speed and space cushion. Plus, you never know what other inconsiderate drivers will do. Remember -- you're the professional. Drive like one.
3. Be prepared for any situation.
"Always have an out." -- Frank
Always having an out means always being one step ahead of the game. In trucking, you'll need to play every possible scenario through your head and figure out a way to get out of it should it happen.
For example, debris up the road are blocking your lane. You don't have time to switch into the left lane, so you'd want to make sure there was somewhere to zip to quickly in the shoulder to avoid the obstacle.
Trucking is largely dependent on perception. You need to make sure you're paying very close attention to the road conditions and other drivers' behavior, because they sure won't!
4. Don't be afraid to GOAL.
"Get out and look. It's saved me several times!" --Rory
GOAL is something that students hear from day one of CDL training. If you're having trouble backing up to a dock, don't be afraid to get out and look! Do not ever feel like you're "too experienced" to get out and look when backing. This is where you'll fail, because the minute you think you have nothing more to learn is the minute you should quit trucking. Getting out and looking will prevent you from hitting another truck, the dock, your trailer, scraping a mirror, or hitting a person/vehicle behind you.
Make getting out and looking a habit and you'll never have to worry about backing accidents.
5. Take your time and be patient.
"Take your time. It's better to arrive a few minutes late than arrive dead." -- Charlie
You're in a big truck. You're not going to move very fast. This is why it's important to slow down, take your time, and be patient. You're not going to be able to stop at the drop of a hat. Four wheelers will be annoying and cut you off. This is where that patience comes into play.
If you got mad every time a 4-wheeler did something stupid, truck driving would be 1,000 times more stressful. This means patience is important for your sanity as a truck driver. You're not in any hurry (or at least, you shouldn't be, assuming you left a reasonable amount of time before you are scheduled to deliver). Even so, like Charlie said, better to arrive a little late than arrive dead.
As you can see, many things that you learn during CDL training will come into play in the professional world of trucking. It's important to take in everything that trucking school instructors throw at you, for they will all help to better your skills.
What lessons have stuck with you the most in your trucking career? Let us know in the comments below!
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