If you've made the choice to become a truck driver, you'll end up driving with a company trainer for a while. There are plenty of articles discussing what you can expect from the viewpoint of a trainee, but what about the trainer? I was a driver trainer for a large refrigerated carrier and would like to tell you what training is like from a trainer's perspective. I hope this article helps shed some light on what trainers go through so that you can better understand why trainers do the things they do or say the things they say.
Chances are, you'll be nervous about meeting your trainer. For the next 3 to 6 weeks (or longer), you'll have to share a tiny little space with a total stranger nearly 24hrs per day and 7 days per week. Well, guess what? Trainers feel nervous about it, too!
Sure, trainers sign up for it and do it voluntarily, usually for some additional pay, but there is still a ton of stress involved when first starting out. On top of that, trainers are expected to ride around with a brand new CDL holder. Most trainees have absolutely no truck driving experience other than what their CDL school taught them. The only way trainers can control the situation is to use their voice. It's a very helpless feeling seeing a curve coming up too quickly or noticing the trailer is about to take out a pole with zero control over the situation. To make matters worse, many trainees are either too nervous to take in everything they are told, or flat out don't listen to advice. That only increases the anxiety levels.
Lack Of Sleep
A controversial issue within driver training is the fact that most companies operate training trucks as team dispatched trucks. Meaning, after the first week or so, the trainee drives while the trainer sleep and vice-versa. Do you know what it's like to try and sleep while a brand new driver is cruisin' along the expressway at 65mph? It's terrifying! Any jerk of the wheel, curve, strange noise, or application of the brakes will jolt your trainer awake. This only adds to the stress for your trainer. It's extremely difficult to get quality sleep in that type of environment because trainers usually aren't ever in a deep sleep. They are one step below sleeping with one eye open!
It's fairly common for trainees to complain about their trainer "yelling and screaming for no reason." I don't condone trainers yelling and screaming unless it's an immediate emergency. But there is a very good reason this happens. Trainers are in constant stress and fear. Their job is not only to teach you how to become a safe and efficient truck driver, but they are also responsible for keeping you safe, keeping themselves safe, and keeping the motoring public safe. Combine that with the lack of quality sleep and a possible personality clash and it's a perfect setup for a trainer to temporarily lose his or her cool. That's what we call a blowout. Imagine a balloon being blown up with more air every time a trainer feels stressed, but suppresses that stress. Eventually that balloon is going to pop. Whether your trainer has a blowout or not entirely depends upon your specific trainer and situations you both go through together. Chances are, he or she will not have a blowout. But if it happens, just move passed it. Don't take it personal. Trainers build up a ton of stress and anxiety over the course of training and not all of them handle it perfectly all the time.
Inability To Communicate
The most frustrating thing for a trainer is the inability to communicate properly to a trainee. As a trainee, you'll be forced to absorb a ton of information in a very short period of time. As a trainer, I had a very short period of time to teach things to my trainee. So it's a double edged sword. While I didn't expect my trainee to comprehend 100% of everything I said, after 3 or 4 times it would start to get frustrating having to repeat myself.
Taking It Personal
While I can't speak for all trainers, I know that I took the success of my trainee very personal. I wanted nothing more than to see my trainee become a safe and happy truck driver. If my trainee were to get into an accident, quit, or get fired, I'd take personal responsibility for that. Even through the little arguments or personality conflicts that naturally comes with sharing such a tiny space, I never once wanted to see a student fail. The only thing I wanted was success and I took that very personally. Everything I did and everything I said was meant to further the success of my trainee. So remember, chances are, your trainer will be the same way. Even if you disagree on something, you and your trainer are interested in the same end result. Success.
Are you a driver trainer? If so, share with us some of your thoughts on this post below!
More About the Author
Mike Rogers (also known as TruckerMike) is a former OTR truck driver, CDL Instructor, and driver trainer. During his trucking career, he traveled through all 48 continental states in all weather conditions maintaining a perfect service and safety record.
Read more blog posts from Mike here