"The Road Home" Podcast

Episode 17: 12 Tips For Surviving Your Time On The Road With A Trainer

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Episode 17: 12 Tips For Surviving Your Time On The Road With A Trainer

Your time on the road with a trainer is always a very challenging time in your career because you're out on the road for the first time doing your job as a professional, and you're forced to share the truck with a complete stranger for an extended period of time.

But it's also a very important and necessary stage of your training. Believe me, you would not want to come out of school with your CDL and run solo immediately.

So here are twelve tips for surviving your time on the road with your trainer.

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Transcript: 12 Tips For Surviving Your Time On The Road With A Trainer

Hey folks, this is Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our podcast, 'The Road Home', where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road.

Today I'm going to give you 12 Tips for surviving your time on the road with your trainer.

For those of you who aren't familiar with the way training is done in the trucking industry, you will go on the road with a trainer when you begin your driving career at your first company. Even if you attend a private school you will spend anywhere from a few weeks to a few months running team with an experienced trainer.

This is always a very challenging time in your career because you're out on the road for the first time doing your job as a professional, and you're forced to share the truck with a complete stranger for an extended period of time. But it's also a very important and necessary stage of your training. Believe me, you would not want to come out of school with your CDL and run solo immediately. Life on the road is far more difficult and complex than most people ever imagine. Having an experienced driver by your side in the beginning is a blessing, although you won't always feel that way about it, because it can also be very trying.

So here are twelve tips for surviving your time on the road with your trainer.

Tip #1: Be Patient With Yourself

During your time on the road with your trainer you're basically trying to cram everything there is to know about being a professional in this industry into a very short time. You're going to make a ton of mistakes. You're going to feel at times like you're never going to get this. You'll miss your family and friends, you'll forget important information, and you'll have a heck of a tough time doing even the most basic tasks. Relax and be patient with yourself. You'll get it, but it takes time.

To be honest, you're still going to be terrible at your job even once you've completed your training. We all were. It's going to take a full year before you'll really be able to consider yourself a solid driver in all aspects, and it's going to be three to five years before you're really what I would consider a top tier professional. So don't expect to be great after a short time with your trainer. Just learn all you can and understand that there will be a lot more to learn even after you go solo.

Tip #2: Expect Some Rough Patches Along The Way

I'm telling you right now, there are going to be some tough times. You'll have days you can't do anything right, or you won't get along with your trainer, or you'll think you've gotten yourself in over your head. Believe me, you are in over your head. Again, we all were. So you have to expect to make some pretty dumb mistakes sometimes and you're going to have some days where you're feeling down. You have to push through it. It won't be a bed of roses, but it won't be a bed of nails, either. Keep your thoughts positive and keep looking forward to better days.

Tip #3: Try To Be Independent

One of the best ways to learn how to do anything is to try to do as much of it by yourself as you can. When you're doing pre-trip inspections, organize your trip plan, or gathering your payroll information, try to do as much of it as you can without help. Really try to think things through. If you let your trainer do everything for you or tell you each step as you go you'll never learn it. Forcing yourself to think through situations and remember the details will accelerate your learning tremendously.

Tip #4: Be A Great Student And A Good Natured Person

Try to think ahead a little bit and look for opportunities to help out. Clean up the truck once in a while without being asked. Jump out when it's time to fuel and get that windshield cleaned off, maybe grab the windex and do the windows. If you're going inside without your trainer, make sure you ask if he'd like anything. Don't just be selfish or needy. Being in training isn't like Kindergarden. You're not a child. Go out of your way to be a great student and a thoughtful person at the same time. I know the pressure you're under and the change in your lifestyle can be overwhelming as as student, but it's also overwhelming at times for your trainer. Be considerate and your relationship with your trainer will be a lot nicer, and that will make a huge difference with the quality of your time together and the knowledge you'll gain.

Tip #5: Ask A Lot Of Questions

Don't just sit back and expect to be told everything. Ask a lot of questions along the way. If you're trying to do things yourself and you're really beginning the grasp the full scope of what this job entails you should have questions going through your mind all the time. If you think you know what you're doing then you're obviously not aware of how many duties you have to perform or how many situations you'll have to face in the coming months and years. Keep trying to learn more and understand the finer points of this job by asking a lot of questions.

Tip #6: Take It Slow And Don't Worry About What Others Think

Listen, as a rookie you're going to be holding people up all the time, and that's not something most of us are used to. On the highways you're big and slow. In parking lots you're terrible at backing and unsure about your maneuvering skills. At the shipping offices and in the shops you're going to be unsure of the procedures. It's critically important for your safety performance and your mental stability that you learn patience and take things slowly.

Accept the fact that you're going to be holding people up on a regular basis, and one of the most important times to exercise this patience is with backing. The overwhelming majority of mistakes new drivers make are bumping into things when backing up, and a lot of that is caused by rushing things because you're worried about looking dumb or holding people up. Trust me, you look dumb and you are holding people up. But we all did when we were new. There's no way to avoid that. It's part of the learning process. Forget about what other people think and focus on the task at hand. You have to make sure you don't put a scratch on that truck. Back up very slowly and get out and look every single time to prevent yourself from getting too close to something, not just to see if you're about to hit something. A lot of people only get out and look if they think they might be too close and misjudge the situation. Be proactive. You want to make sure you have plenty of room and never get yourself into a bad spot in the first place.

Tip #7: Drop Any Preconceived Notions You Have About Training

Listen, it's only human nature to try to predict what will happen next. You're going to have all sorts of ideas in your head about how training should be done, how your trainer should conduct himself, and what life on the road will be like. I'm telling you right now, you're wrong about almost all of it. Nobody knows ahead of time what any of this will entail. You've never lived this lifestyle before, you've never had these job duties before, and you've never been through training in this industry. This job really is like no other. It's far more complex than most people would ever guess.

So expect to be surprised all the time by life on the road, your job duties, the realities of life in this industry, and even the tactics your trainer might use. For example, your trainer's job isn't to hold your hand and prevent you from getting into difficulties. Your trainer's job is to push you a little bit, challenge you, and teach you to think for yourself. So you might expect him to try to make things easy for you and when you find that he's let you get into a tough spot you might think he failed to do is job. On the contrary. He almost certainly did it purposely so you could learn to handle the stress and work through challenging circumstances.

So roll with the punches and do not make the mistake of thinking your trainer isn't doing his job right or your company isn't a good company because things aren't going as you expected. They're not going to go as you expected, I guarantee that. So relax and go with the flow.

Tip #8: Keep Your Emotions From Getting The Best Of You

You're going to have emotional swings during your time in training like you may have never had before. There are going to be some incredible highs when you see beautiful scenery or conquer difficult challenges, and there are going to be very low lows when you're homesick or you make a big mistake. The emotional turmoil is one of the big reasons new drivers drop out of trucking early in their career. They go through these wild swings of emotion, make mistakes, wear themselves out, and simply become overwhelmed by it all.

Again, expect this and try to manage it. Enjoy the good times as much as possible but expect there to be some tough times so try to stay positive and keep your cool. Don't get too caught up in the moment. Trucking is a rollercoaster. You'll have a hundred different moments in any given day. You'll have big swings of luck from good to bad and back again. Try to ease through it all and remind yourself that every challenge will soon be overcome and every low point will soon be a distant memory. Keep looking forward and keep your thoughts positive.

Tip #9: Be The One To Diffuse The Situation

There are going to be moments of stress between you and your trainer. Your trainer is also under a lot of stress and has huge responsibilities. There will be times you'll forget important stuff or make dumb mistakes, and your trainer may have moments where his emotions get the best of him and he yells at you or criticizes you uneccessarily. We're all human. Be smart about it, show some character, and be the first one to diffuse the situation. Don't keep an argument going. Don't let grudges fester. Apologize for anything you may have said or done wrong and show some class and patience. Again, this isn't all about you. Your trainer has goals and fears and gets emotional sometimes just like you. Take it upon yourself to steer the mood in the right direction and keep your relationship positive.

Tip #10: Remember It's Your Trainer's Truck, Not Yours

Please understand the circumstances properly. You and your trainer are not sharing a truck. You are a guest in your trainer's truck. That's two completely different things so keep that in mind. Be considerate, clean up after yourself, and prepare to make accommodations for him. It's easy to obsess about yourself and your own feelings when you're in training and everything is so overwhelming. But believe me, the stress and the challenges are every bit as difficult for your trainer. Your trainer is giving up his privacy, his space, and control of his own vehicle and therefore his life in order to train you. When you're new to trucking you have no way of knowing what a big deal that is, but trust me, it's a very big deal. You'll understand this better once you've been solo for a while. But for now, just keep in mind that you're a guest in his truck so be very considerate and try to appreciate what your trainer is going through to help you get your career off to a safe start.

Tip #11: Remember That Your Trainer Is Under A Lot Of Stress

Listen, if you think it's stressful being a rookie and trying to maneuver a rig safely around this country, imagine what it must be like for an experienced professional to sit in that passenger seat and trust his life to you. He is ultimately responsible for keeping you from getting into trouble, and yet it's his job to make sure you learn to handle stress and work through challenges. So he's always treading a fine line between challenging you with learning experiences but keeping you both safe at the same time. It's overwhelming for him to constantly maintain that delicate balance while giving up his privacy and control of his own destiny at the same time. So it's not just you that's under a lot of stress, it's both of you.

Tip #12: Remember Your Trainer Is Trying To Make A Living Too

As a student you're trying to get your career off to a great start but your trainer is trying to make a living while teaching you how to drive at the same time. And often times a trainer will be a lease driver so he's not only trying to make a living, he's also trying to run a business while teaching you at the same time. And don't forget, your trainer also has home and friends and a family back home he misses. You're not the only one. So show a lot of consideration for the long list of challenges your trainer is facing by having a rookie along for the ride. It's a daunting challenge that requires dealing with a tremendous amount of stress and making huge sacrifices.

The most important takeaways from this are to take things slowly, stay positive, try to keep your emotions in check, do not make assumptions about how your training should be done, and be considerate of your trainer and the stress he's under and the sacrifices he's making for your benefit. Do your best to keep your relationship positive, learn all you can, and don't put a scratch on that truck so that in the you can sit back, and relax, and enjoy the road home.

I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we'll see you next time.

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