I don't want anyone to be discouraged about going out on the road with a trainer because of my experience, but I do want you to be aware of the potential of a less than pleasant experience. Not all trainers are created equal. There are some really good ones out there and there are some that, frankly, we'd be better off without. But you're being tested out there every day in a number of different ways, many of which you may not even be aware of.
Just like most careers you get into you've got to pay some dues to get where you want to be. It's no different in the trucking industry. Sometimes we just take what life throws at us so we can get to the next step in the process. Even if your time with a trainer seems like a bad dream, don't give up - even bad dreams eventually come to an end. My trainer was definitely unpleasant and demeaning in his approach, one of those people who makes himself feel better about himself by belittling you. He ranted and raved at times, screamed and yelled, and I can only remember maybe one or two compliments he gave me during training. But I kept a great attitude and focused on learning all I could from him, and in the end it paid off in a big way.
Now, here's what happened when it came time for he and I to go back to the terminal and have a sit down with the man who would upgrade me to solo status. It was raining hard and we were under a load to a town very close to the terminal, so instead of going for our meeting, my trainer decides he'd like me to help him one more day by getting this load delivered and picking up the next one, which was all very close together and right near the terminal. I don't have a problem with this at all, but man, what a way to end your unpleasant training experience - having to lay your tarps out in a muddy dirt parking lot in the pouring down rain, folding and rolling those things up, and then putting them up on the truck. If you're a flat-bedder then you know that's a really tough job. We made it through our last day together with me continuing to keep my composure and not losing it on this nutcase of a person. I made myself a promise at the beginning of this that I would do what had to be done to get this job nailed down, and it took a lot of self control, but it paid off in the end. So the next morning we go to see the man we're having a meeting with about upgrading me to solo status.
My mouth began to fall open as I heard my trainer singing my praises to this guy. He's telling him how great a driver I was, and that I'm a really hard worker, and how I've got a good understanding of load securement principles and practices, how I was considerate and professional when dealing with the shippers and receivers, and on and on. Now this was all news to me, as he has never said anything to me that even came close to indicating that I was doing a good job. I didn't really need his compliments, I was going to do my job the way I thought it should be done whether I had a pat on the back or not, but I really wasn't sure at all about what he might say in this meeting.
There was another man in the room who I hadn't been introduced to yet, but I noticed he started to grin as my trainer was talking about me. Then he looks over at me and says "You must have really done a great job because this guy never compliments anyone like this - and we know that you're tough enough for the job because more than half of the people who go out with this trainer quit during their second week. Welcome to the company, go out there in the yard and Delbert will give you a final road test and we'll start working on getting you a truck located."
After I passed my road test it was 11:30 am on Saturday and everyone was getting ready to leave for the day, so they put me up in a hotel for the weekend and we're supposed to start getting my truck on Monday and hooking me up with a driver manager and determining which terminal I'll be dispatched out of. So, if your training period is tough, and I'm sure a lot of yours are, just remember it will come to and end and it's really a short time when you consider the whole picture. Sometimes tough experiences are good for us in a way that we don't even realize until later. The fact that I endured this trainer made an impression on the people who have the authority to upgrade me to solo status. Sometimes your private personal sufferings are not as private and personal as you thought. There were people watching to see how I would react to this nut, and I didn't even know it. Now I am so glad that I handled it with class and composure and didn't strike back with angry words or actions. I'm really looking forward to jumping into the next learning curve that lies ahead now that I'll be running solo. Until I get to jump back in here again, stay safe out there and hold your head high. You are a vital part of this country's economy, without you it would crumble in a few short days.
Driving School does not prepare you to be, or magically transform you into, a truck driver. It is merely a means to getting your CDL license. Yes, truck driving school is definitely part of the learning process, but it's more like taking your first baby steps. I'm sure my experience isn't exactly normal, but it has taught me that it takes a tough skin, a humble attitude, a willingness to learn from someone who may not be the best at teaching, and a tenacious attitude that looks forward to new challenges and learning experiences every day.