Pattern Recognition

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BK's Comment
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I had an interesting conversation yesterday about a concept called “Pattern Recognition” and how vital it is to truck driving success. One of the reasons new drivers have so many difficulties is due to not having well developed pattern recognition abilities. My conversation with my fellow driver, who is very experienced and seems to be a student of the profession, was very educational. So I thought I’d throw it out here and see if anybody wants to elaborate on this topic.

Brett Aquila's Comment
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Pattern recognition is part of the learning process. It's most important for recognizing what's happening and to predict what may come next. For instance, when ominous clouds roll in, you know there will be rain or snow. You've seen that pattern before.

Pattern recognition is critical for predicting the behavior of other drivers behind the wheel. After years of experience, you recognize patterns in traffic that help you determine what may happen next.

If you see someone tailgating another vehicle and the person doing the tailgating starts looking in their driver's side mirror, it's a great indication the person is about to change lanes to their left to get around the car in front of them. It's a simple pattern you see all the time.

Backing into a tough spot is another example of pattern recognition. After years of backing into tight spots, an experienced driver will often immediately recognize the best approach for getting backed in. A new driver doesn't have the experience to recognize the best approach.

Like anything else, the harder you work at learning, the better you become at it. Many people go through life without paying close attention to things around them. They never develop real sharp pattern recognition skills, and they don't learn as well as they could.

Richard F.'s Comment
member avatar

As a (still rookie) I too have been noticing patterns like when you can see the tire marks on the pavement from those who have docked where you are docking before and you can get a bit of an idea of the general line you should take to back in at the right angle or like you mentioned the way other drivers act eg usually if they are about to change to the left lane they will veer to the right side of their lane while looking in the mirror

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

As a (still rookie) I too have been noticing patterns like when you can see the tire marks on the pavement from those who have docked where you are docking before and you can get a bit of an idea of the general line you should take to back in at the right angle or like you mentioned the way other drivers act eg usually if they are about to change to the left lane they will veer to the right side of their lane while looking in the mirror

If you want to learn fast, make a game out of it.

When I was in traffic I would see how many moves I could predict ahead of time from the vehicles around me. I'd scan the vehicles on all sides of me and try to predict what everyone would do. You become really good at it after a while. On the highway, I know what most people will do before they know because I can identify the cause of a chain reaction of moves.

For instance, you might see a slow car in the middle lane of three, with two faster vehicles in the same lane approaching from behind. You see an opening in the far left lane. You know those two faster vehicles are going to move into the far left lane to pass. The one in the lead will move first, and when he does, the one behind him will see what's happening and soon follow. I knew what the last guy in line would do before he did. I saw it all coming.

The more you do this, the better you get. I lost count of how many accidents I avoided because I saw what was coming long before it happened. Not only do we have the advantage of experience, but we sit high above the road where we can see above most traffic.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
PackRat's Comment
member avatar

I do this all the time. Cars pass by and I guess if they will change lanes again, which way, will they use a signal, will they exit, etc.

Richard F.'s Comment
member avatar

double-quotes-start.png

As a (still rookie) I too have been noticing patterns like when you can see the tire marks on the pavement from those who have docked where you are docking before and you can get a bit of an idea of the general line you should take to back in at the right angle or like you mentioned the way other drivers act eg usually if they are about to change to the left lane they will veer to the right side of their lane while looking in the mirror

double-quotes-end.png

If you want to learn fast, make a game out of it.

When I was in traffic I would see how many moves I could predict ahead of time from the vehicles around me. I'd scan the vehicles on all sides of me and try to predict what everyone would do. You become really good at it after a while. On the highway, I know what most people will do before they know because I can identify the cause of a chain reaction of moves.

For instance, you might see a slow car in the middle lane of three, with two faster vehicles in the same lane approaching from behind. You see an opening in the far left lane. You know those two faster vehicles are going to move into the far left lane to pass. The one in the lead will move first, and when he does, the one behind him will see what's happening and soon follow. I knew what the last guy in line would do before he did. I saw it all coming.

The more you do this, the better you get. I lost count of how many accidents I avoided because I saw what was coming long before it happened. Not only do we have the advantage of experience, but we sit high above the road where we can see above most traffic.

I totally agree. As a city driver from the start I doubt I’d still be here if I couldn’t see/predict the flow of traffic ahead and leave myself a good gap ahead because I know everyone is going to speed up then slam on the brakes. Hauling 20’ containers that weigh 25+tons makes you very observant of the flow of traffic when you can’t stop on a dime. Still doesn’t stop idiots from trying to mess you up though lol

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Davy A.'s Comment
member avatar

Pattern recognition is critical for survival on a motorcycle in traffic. People give cues as to their behavior. Its the same in the truck. The more I drive, the more similarities I see in driving a truck with a bike.

I see patterns within the company too. Its corporate policies are geared towards subtly benefiting the company over the driver in thousands of little ways. Its expected, its a business. I struggle with it at times though. Its very difficult for me to see the pattern and not call it out. To do so does no benefit though.

For instance, communication of processes and standards is intentionally vague and ambiguous in many ways. An example, in order to attain your safety bonus, you must actually complete a survey after watching the safety video. Many drivers dont complete the survey and or have popups blocked, they dutifully watch the video and then close the window. Many of them never realize that they are not getting their safety bonus month after month as a result. It benefits the company to not clearly state that the survey must be completed, If over half of the drivers dont pay attention and shrug it off, they dont get the bonus. There are no instructions stating you must complete the survey and no documentation on it.

Another pattern is that when we got the pass smart, the company ardently refused to give any instructions on how to utilize it, when it will work, and why it wont at times. Most drivers simply go on about their day and dont use it. The intentional obscuring of it benefits the company in reducing fuel costs.

Yet another one is that our paid time off is tucked away in a little corner of our stubs, you will only see it if you download the PDF and zoom in. Most dont see it, and it doesnt roll over, so you must use it or loose it. There is no communication on it and where to find it, and I believe it is done so intentionally. If 30 percent of drivers dont use their PTO, its a significant reduction in costs.

I see item after item like these, all little stones that build up a wall. At first glance, it seems like the company is just really poor at communication and organization, but its not the case. I believe its done so intentionally to reduce costs and pay outs and most drivers will not go out of their way to find these patterns and correct them. It reminds me of the phone companies that got caught overbilling customers a little bit at a time, those pennies added up to millions of dollars and the consumers were generally none the wiser.

I struggle with it in the aspect that I can capitalize on their disorganization and miscommunication and often use it to my gain, but its taxing and I feel like its unethical to have policies geared to death by a thousand cuts to the employee. I have very little experience in working for a large corporation, Ive always been an independent contractor prior to this, although i did business with large corps, it was expected for them to nickel and dime us, that's just business, and I had the opportunity to make up for it in other areas. I have a hunch that most corporations of size are very similar in doing this.

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.

BK's Comment
member avatar

There are so many patterns relating to truck driving. Distribution Centers are being constructed cookie cutter style. Learn the pattern and boom, you are in and out faster. Highways, especially the Interstate system, have patterns that every driver needs to learn. Truck stops, as aggravating as they are, have recognizable patterns that once learned, make getting in and out faster and safer. Following distance has a pattern to it, as we learn from hard braking events. There must be hundreds of patterns that we are learning even if we don’t realize it.

This issue of pattern recognition is closely related to the issue of situational awareness. The more we develop these abilities, the safer and more productive we become.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

TwoSides11's Comment
member avatar

Davy I know exactly what you are saying about the company. Everything you said happens at this terminal also. Before trucking, I was a small business owner for 15 years. Realized that my eyes are still as a owner of a company. I get frustrated and confused at times on the way our company does business. It's slowly fading now that I'm accepting the fact that this is not my company lol..

My thoughts on rookies having difficulty because of their lack of pattern recognition is what Brett said:

Many people go through life without paying close attention to things around them. They never develop real sharp pattern recognition skills, and they don't learn as well as they could.

BK I agree with the multitude of patterns related to driving a truck. I'm 6 months solo and I can say I have noticed a lot out here on the road. My advantage in driving has been this website with members helping me with questions, also being a vigilant and observant driver from the day I got my drivers license. Had a couple of incidents with my right turns lol but learned from them quickly. Still have a lot to learn though.

And stop picking on us rookies lol. Yes, this job requires a lot of focus and awareness but I think if a new driver has decent situational awareness and are observant, they will have an upper hand out here on the road

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.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Davy wrote:

I see patterns within the company too. Its corporate policies are geared towards subtly benefiting the company over the driver in thousands of little ways. Its expected, its a business. I struggle with it at times though. Its very difficult for me to see the pattern and not call it out. To do so does no benefit though.

The pattern recognition BK is referring to is all about driving. Sensory, involuntary pattern recognition. Humans are suited for this far better than any living creature, and also electronic device. We are wired this way… some better than others but we all have this innate ability. This is the very thing that separates us from computers; and being completely replaced by technology in the near future. Significant and something we rarely refer to. As such, a very interesting conversation.

However the reference to recognition of Knight’s policy and procedure anomalies, although insightful, is not nearly the same thing. It’s cognitive not intuitive and is somewhat opinion based.

So you made a statement about thousands of Knight policies designed to cheat (for lack of a better word) their drivers? I’m going to check you on this because it’s way overstated…

My perspective…(and likely contrarian)

First question… where did you come up with that figure? Thousands? You haven’t been at this very long so how on earth could you identify thousands of these little daggers designed to negatively affect a driver’s income? This job and our pay structure isn’t that complicated for thousands of these things to exist to the financial detriment of drivers. It’s impossible.

Second question… if you were able to quickly understand all the nuances you wrote about (3 to be exact), what prevents others from working through this in the exact same way? It’s obvious that you have above average intelligence, possess solid life experience and have an acute awareness of business procedure. It’s likely there are many others like you working for Knight, capable of figuring this stuff out.

Third question… of the drivers currently working for Knight, what % will be with them in 3 months? It’s rhetorical. This industry has huge turnover and a great deal of difficulty hiring and retaining quality drivers once found… but they (Knight and other Megas) are fairly good at jettisoning unsatisfactory performers (to your advantage Davy). I guarantee more than half of the 3-6 month rookies driving at this very moment, are losing their companies money and won’t be around to celebrate their 1 year anniversary. So why worry about things they aren’t smart enough to figure out? Facts are facts.

Considering that you believe this is intentional, has it occurred to you it’s a subtle yet effective way of identifying the “wheat from the chaff”? Knight doesn’t want robots driving their trucks. They want people like yourself capable of thinking on their feet and solving problems with minimal intervention from management. At the end of the day, isn’t that really what we do? Top performing truck drivers are problem solvers. That’s how we compete for supremacy and separate ourselves from the other 90% who can’t. Just look at this forum… it’s not a collection of steering wheel holders. Quite the contrary.

Okay…rant on pause. I drove for Swift (the alleged dregs of all starter companies) for 9 years. I made a ton of money, made many friends and flat out got it done without breaking anything along the way. I saw things too…every day… however most of it was easily remedied by rereading the Employee Manual and/or enabling the ongoing relationship with driver management to work in your favor. That relationship is vital to your success and not to be underestimated. Most never figure this out or even care to.

Assuming an individual of average intelligence and common sense, most issues can be identified and resolved. Like available time-off on a paystub, most drivers would inquire how to track that and understand the policy. Policy that is definitely documented in Knights Driver/Employee Handbook.

Don’t assume they (Knight) are out to screw you. The founder of Knight, as true of numerous companies, was a driver. Please… there is plenty of fodder out their in support of this “us vs them” mentality. Mostly bunk! Understand I’m not trying to defend corporate America, but pointing out, as with everything in life, you need to pay close attention and understand how a company operates. That’s on us to figure out, not on them to explain every detail. Honestly I’d rather they focus on equipment, maintenance and keeping the business pipeline flowing.

By being your own advocate, conducting your business like a responsible owner, and asking the right questions, it’s likely you’ll get the right answers and be highly successful at this, occupying the top 10% of professional drivers.

Keep on truckin’! Peace.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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