Important Tips When Going On The Road With A Trainer Or Going Solo

by G-Town

Forward By Brett Aquila

We do a great job of helping new drivers prepare for life on the road. One of the most stressful but exciting times is when you're getting ready to head out on the road with your trainer or going solo. This is the first time you'll actually be living on the road and driving the truck as a paid professional.

But it's also very difficult sharing a truck with another driver and trying to adjust to your new life on the road. You're excited, but you're under a lot of stress at the same time. You're being overwhelmed with information and you're desperately trying not to make any serious mistakes.

One of our outstanding moderators in our trucker's forum, G-Town, has some fantastic advice to give for anyone getting ready to head out on the road with a trainer. Read closely because there's a ton of great advice here!

Your Driver Development Manager (DDM) (also known as a trainer coordinator or driver liaison at some companies) is your number one advocate and who you ultimately report to during training. Make sure you have their phone numbers and direct messaging ID accessible through the messaging section (Macros) of the Qualcomm. Call them every day for status of getting your Mentor assignment. Be really nice about it...they are very busy. Don't let them forget about you...it unfortunately does happen.

Have An Understanding With Your Mentor

Your Mentor...try your very best to understand them and their expectations of you. Be respectful and professional, it's their house, their rules. You are there as a guest. In return make sure you clearly articulate your basic expectations of training to them. Write it down ahead of time if need-be. Openly communicate. Test this before you leave the terminal. Don't be chatty, make it an important lead-in discussion. Make an exhaustive effort to work out issues with them before requesting a DDM intervention. Basic stuff, like lack of hygiene and lack of showering should not be tolerated for too long. Insist on a shower every other day. Use body wipes on the off-days. Trust me as the summer approaches, and you go for 3-4 days without a shower, the cows will moo and chase you when you drive by them.

Request that your Mentor correlates your paper-log sheet, with all of the available tabs in the e-log part of the Qualcomm system. It will expedite the overall understanding of HOS and e-logs. One gotcha to be aware of...the Load Tab. Understand what it's for and how and when to update it. It's not automatically filled in and updated. Forgettable. A very easy revenue stream for DOT if it is missing or not up-to-date.

Plan Ahead For Your Trips

Once under dispatch, learn how to "look-ahead" on the route when using Navi-Go, the integrated Qualcomm GPS system. This will help you trip-plan and anticipate issues by comparing the electronic route with the Rand McNally Road Atlas. It will give you a visual picture of where you are going. Use a yellow sticky note and jot down the route you plan to cover in a given day and post it where you can see it, like the lower edge of the Qualcomm. Get into a habit of doing this...and avoid total dependence and reliance on the Navi-Go. I loose telemetry at least once per day for 5-10 minutes. Be prepared.

Never allow anyone or anything to rush you. NEVER! Take your time!

Jake-Brake use...incredibly important for controlling a loaded truck. Every day the Mentor should be re-emphasizing it's use and proper application.

Pre-Trip Inspection

Do not skip or abbreviate the pre-trip inspection . If your Mentor is rushing you, be firm, but nice, don't allow it. No need to call things out, but 20 minutes is all you should need to get it done visually.

Get The Set Up Right When Backing

Backing...emphasis should also be placed on the set-up. The set-up if done correctly, should reduce the difficulty of the actual back. My guess, very little time was spent in your school discussing this, or practicing it. Once you understand how to setup, backing will become second nature to you. I back 1500 times or more per year. I don't think about it much, it clicks. Every setup is key though, and even at the same stores (Walmart & Sam's) I have been delivering to for years, depending on the dock and where trailers are spotted, each setup is somewhat unique. Get the setup wrong and backing suddenly becomes this trial and error pain in the butt, wasting time. Setup at a truck stop (the bane of a rookie's existence) for backing into an open hole, is incredibly important. If you set up right even at a tight truck stop, the backing will be easier and less risky. No kidding, I can tell the difference between a rookie driver and an experienced hand instantly by the way they set up before they even throw the truck in reverse. Begin to learn this skill now.

Get Out And Look Often

G.O.A.L. is not just for backing... It applies to any situation requiring a set of eyeballs to confirm safe operation and maneuvering, including when you are dropping or hooking a trailer. The top three rookie mistakes:

  • Overriding the fifth wheel because the trailer is sitting too high
  • Undercutting the fifth-wheel because the trailer is too low
  • Accidentally dropping the trailer because it was not positively coupled

Even now I usually get out and look before backing completely under a trailer and will adjust the height [of the trailer] up or down to ensure a positive coupling. Sometimes I will dump the airbags lowering the tractor to get under a trailer set too low and re-introduce the air as I am easing under it. Initially you shouldn't do this without supervision. Easy to screw it up.

Anyway, back under the trailer with your window partially down, you'll hear the lock engage around the king-pin, "ker-thunk". Make 2 quick tugs, set the brakes, shut-off the motor. G.O.A.L. again to make sure you can see the lock across/behind the kingpin, no gap between the fifth-wheel and upper coupler (bottom of trailer surrounding the kingpin) and the puller bar is recessed and not sticking out. If it doesn't look right, release and pull out. Adjust the trailer height (crank the landing gear) if need be.

Good luck and be safe!!!

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Qualcomm:

Omnitracs (a.k.a. Qualcomm) is a satellite-based messaging system with built-in GPS capabilities built by Qualcomm. It has a small computer screen and keyboard and is tied into the truck’s computer. It allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver – similar to email.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

by Brett Aquila

Related Articles:

More Snow? Now What's A Desert Dude To Do?

by Farmer Bob

Just when I thought it was spring time and there would be no more truckin in the snow, man was I wrong! Tire chains, tow trucks, and more adventures!

Surviving A Company Trainer

by TruckerMike

Wow, it's been two months since I hit the road with my trainer. I'll share a few of my thoughts on how to survive your trucking company trainer.

Randy's Phase 1 CDL Training - Part 2

by rbradyjohnsen

It's my husband's second day of CDL training on the road running team with a trainer. Life on the road is a lot of stress but still very exciting.

When Will I Know If Trucking Was The Right Career Choice?

by Brett Aquila

Becoming a truck driver is a big career choice. When will you know if you belong in trucking, or if you should walk away? Read on - we'll let you know

Rookie Drivers: Time Management Tips And Mileage Goals

by Brett Aquila

For rookie truck drivers, time management skills are critically important to making good money and being safe out there. Here are some important tips.

A Trainer's Perspective On Teaching Students How To Shift

by TruckerMike

I recently became a certified CDL instructor and I was given my first students to train on shifting gears. Here's the story, and some advice for newbies

Types Of Trainers And How To Deal With Them

by TruckerMike

CDL trainers have a vast array of personalities and techniques for training students. Here are some personality types you'll find and how to deal with each

Trying To Teach Proper Driver Forecasting

by TruckerMike

Being a safe truck driver is never easy. Predicting what might happen next on the highway takes years to learn and is very hard to teach a new driver.

Trucking At Night Versus During The Day - What Should Your Strategy Be?

by Brett Aquila

Some prefer driving at night, others during the day. So what's the most effective strategy for truck drivers? Check this out.

Drivers Share Their Biggest Misconceptions And Surprises About A Career In Trucking

by Brett Aquila

Truck driving is far more difficult and complex than people expect. We asked experienced drivers what the biggest surprises and misconceptions are about this career.

Join Us!

We have an awesome set of tools that will help you understand the trucking industry and prepare for a great start to your trucking career. Not only that, but everything we offer here at TruckingTruth is 100% free - no strings attached! Sign up now and get instant access to our member's section:
High Road Training Program Logo
  • The High Road Training Program
  • The High Road Article Series
  • The Friendliest Trucker's Forum Ever!
  • Email Updates When New Articles Are Posted

Apply For Paid CDL Training Through TruckingTruth

Did you know you can fill out one quick form here on TruckingTruth and apply to several companies at once for paid CDL training? Seriously! The application only takes one minute. You will speak with recruiters today. There is no obligation whatsoever. Learn more and apply here:

Apply For Paid CDL Training

About Us

TruckingTruth was founded by Brett Aquila (that's me!), a 15 year truck driving veteran, in January 2007. After 15 years on the road I wanted to help people understand the trucking industry and everything that came with the career and lifestyle of an over the road trucker. We'll help you make the right choices and prepare for a great start to your trucking career.

Read More

Becoming A Truck Driver

Becoming A Truck Driver is a dream we've all pondered at some point in our lives. We've all wondered if the adventure and challenges of life on the open road would suit us better than the ordinary day to day lives we've always known. At TruckingTruth we'll help you decide if trucking is right for you and help you get your career off to a great start.

Learn More