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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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!!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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