Dispelling The Myths Of Team Driving

by Rainy
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Have you been thinking of teaming as a new driver? Sure you have, many of us thought about it. Who wouldn't want an extra set of eyes for backing and an experienced driver on the truck to use as a crutch after training? Prospective drivers have some serious misconceptions about team driving, and sometimes teaming can hinder the driver's potential and career development. Be sure to do some serious research before making a decision on teaming as a new driver.

As a driver of three years, I'm new enough to remember the fear and anxiety of a rookie driver. I am also experienced enough to teach my trainees all of my stupid rookie mistakes which I hope they will not repeat. I do my best to alleviate some of that stress and anxiety, but any normal person is going to be apprehensive about going solo. I was, and every single driver on this forum was as well. You are not special, sorry. You are no worse off than any of us were, so don't sell yourself short. We have all had some sort of accident or incident in the early months of our career and we accepted responsibility and learned from them. Teaming is not going to keep you from hitting something, and it could possibly add to the stress swelling within you.

Teaming is about keeping that truck rolling and providing excellent customer service while meeting expedited delivery times. It's not about making you feel comfortable or unofficially continuing your training. A forum member just posted that he didn't fully understand the concept of “keeping it rolling” so let me explain. A team truck will trek 1000+ miles in a 24 hour period. You can run coast to coast in two or three days. This means very little down time and you need to schedule showers, laundry, and meals. Sometimes you feel like you are in the twilight zone, never knowing what state you are in when you wake up. Often a 34 hour break for one driver consists of being in the sleeper for 20+ hours while the other driver runs two shifts and a 10 hour break in between. Try getting laundry and shopping done on your “break” while the truck is rolling 65mph down the highway.

Myth: You Will Be Teamed With A Helpful, Veteran Driver

The newbie way of thinking: “I will find a great partner to laugh with, help me with backing, and teach me all the stuff I forgot from training cause I was white knuckling that steering wheel the whole time.”

Reality: Any co-driver who is not getting paid to train is not obligated to get out of bed and help the other driver. That co-driver is not a trainer, and they are not your spotter for backing. It is the driver's responsibility to GOAL and pull his/her own weight. It is selfish and inconsiderate to assume that someone will do that on their 10 hour break. When you understand just how short 10 hours is compared to the typical 9am to 5pm job, you will comprehend how selfish this thinking is. And if you keep waking up that driver, how safe will that person be driving while you are sleeping?

That is not to say that an experienced driver wouldn't help a rookie. We have all been there so we have compassion. But to assume that help is endless and available, you are setting yourself up for failure. There is no entitlement in trucking, so get it out of your head. And what makes you think you won't wind up being that experienced driver yourself? Because the turnover rate is very high for first year drivers, it is quite possible you could be on a truck with various drivers over your first year. At some point, you might be the “experienced” driver expected to get out of bed and lead the charge. How soon will you be ready for that?

Now take into consideration that another person is going to be driving while you are sleeping. Not only do you need to trust your life in that person's hands, but you have to get used to the bouncing, turning, weaving, and noises of the truck including the very loud and distinctive air brakes. This is definitely not an easy thing to do. If you are one of those people who cannot go back to sleep after being woken, or are a light sleeper, teaming might not be for you.

What if the total opposite happens? What if the co-driver is experienced but instead of helping, he antagonizes you and points out your faults? What if he criticizes every mistake you make? You might be wishing you were running solo soon enough.

Myth: Teaming Will Prepare Me To Go Solo

Teaming and solo driving are completely different. Hours of Service is rarely an issue with teams because someone usually has hours to run. The only major concern is to watch the 70 clocks for both drivers. You pick up the load, drive as hard as you can, only stopping for fuel, a 30 minute break, and a quick bite. After that it is back to flying down the road. The whole point is to get there as fast as you can. At that point, you will either unload early or wait for the appointment and rest.

Trip planning is usually much easier because you rarely need to park somewhere for more than a few hours, and because the loads are coast to coast, you drive mainly on the interstates. Because someone always has hours, you can even swap on the on ramp quickly then go. Some teams will keep to a schedule where one drives nights and the other days, or something of the sort. This prevents the driver from getting used to the “clock flipping” that could be involved in solo driving.

Some of the loads will be “High Value” loads in which you could possibly be given a mandatory route to follow and time frame. That even eliminates deciding how to get there. Also, many teams declare one as a lead seat that makes most of the decisions. If the new driver always follows the directions of the lead seat, the driver never learns to make some important decisions for him/herself. I know a few drivers who have come from all team companies, and although they had been driving for one to two years, they had no clue how to manage their time for solo driving.

On one hand they have the attitude that they deserve the same treatment as experienced drivers and demand high miles, yet, they complain they can't make appointment times and often need to be relayed or repowered. It's a frustrating situation for both the driver who thinks they are qualified as a solo, and the fleet manager who is dealing with an experienced driver's attitude along with the mistakes of a rookie.

Quite a few trainees decide to stay on their trainer's truck after upgrading. If the reason is to get winter driving experience and training, that is one thing. However, if the reason is to not have to make the decisions and let the trainer be the one to call the shots, you are going to have a hard time transitioning to going solo. A very good friend of mine upgraded but stayed with his trainer for a total of 10 months. When he finally went solo, he was frustrated on a daily basis because he couldn't understand why with almost a year of driving he felt completely lost and overwhelmed. It's because teaming does not prepare you for being solo.

Myth: Teaming Provides Companionship And Fun

It's true that teaming could provide a lot of laughs and a break from the loneliness of solo driving, but it can also be a nightmare. Living with a stranger day in and day out in a rolling closet can be pure hell. Being on the truck with the same gender can make you feel claustrophobic because even the restroom does not provide you with a separation.

What do you think the outcome will be if a slob is teamed with a neat freak? What if one has no boundaries or disrespects the other's property? Imagine if one loves rap music and the other loves country music. Imagine one is a liberal and one is a conservative. Get two hot heads on the truck and that truck might be rolling while they argue and throw things.

There is absolutely no privacy on a team truck. Arguing with your wife on the phone while someone listens and even responds can be infuriating. Having to ask for the driver to pull into a rest area so you can use the restroom can be humiliating, sorta like you are in third grade and asking permission for a hall pass. Ate something that didn't agree with your stomach and now you have diarrhea? That co- driver knows and it's embarrassing.

Women with monthly cycles need to use the restroom more often and your co-driver will know that, too. There is no privacy at all. That other person knows if you have gas, and they know if you are “entertaining” yourself (so I suggest you do that in the shower). And if you find any of this uncomfortable to read, just imagine it in real life with a stranger on the truck.

What if you are on the truck with an aggressive driver that makes you feel unsafe? I know drivers who blast their air horns, beep, yell and scream out the window and blast the radio. How much sleep will you be getting during all of this, and how safe will you feel if they are constantly changing lanes and slamming on brakes.

Myth: You Will Be Paired With A Similar Personality

Trucking companies are about making money, and they see this as a job for us. They expect drivers to be professional and work things out. They will pair drivers from similar regions for easy home time options. If there are two drivers from Atlanta who need co-drivers, the company may not give personality tests. They may just say, “Here's your co-driver.” That doesn't mean they expect smokers and non-smokers to share a truck, but they might not care there is 20 years difference or the other guy has smelly feet. My company does have a personality test they give to students and instructors, but that doesn't mean things always go smoothly with that either.

What if the person has a different work ethic? Is it fair that he drives 300 miles a day and you are driving 600, but you both get paid equally? Some drivers out here just want to get by, they don't really care about making a lot of money. They want just enough to pay the bills and live. Those types of people are perfectly happy allowing you to do all the work while they reap the rewards.

Myth: Teaming Will Generate More Income

This is a misconception many new drivers have. Experienced teams who work well together can earn more depending on the company's pay scale. Inexperienced teams who are still learning routing, procedures, and making rookie mistakes will not have the same earning potential as an experienced team. The same way solo drivers need to build a reputation and gain the respect and trust of dispatch, teams must too. And that can be very difficult when co-drivers are constantly changing.

Another thing to consider is that some of these team-only companies have drivers sit before pairing them with another teammate. Quite a few of our forum members have stated they were not permitted to run solo because their company only has long haul expedited freight a solo could not possibly handle. Therefore, waiting a week or so without pay or at a reduced pay rate can affect your bottom line.

One of the guys from my class teamed with his roommate from school. The roommate went lease, and my friend remained a company driver on the team truck. While they were running around 4,000 miles a week as a new team, I was already running 2800+ miles and making more money than my friend. After four months, they still could not “mesh” as a team and he went solo with my fleet manager. Amazingly, his pay increased.

This is not to say that teams don't make money, but you have to recognize the potential for problems. There are some teams who make a lot of money, but as you see, certain issues need to be addressed first. The most prosperous teams I have seen have been spouses or siblings (or other relatives). People who are already willing to accept each other's faults and can work things out will make for much better truck mates than some others.

Some drivers absolutely love teaming for various reasons. Some hate it. Potential drivers who do not even have a learner's permit yet need to understand what they are getting themselves into before they leap. If you know you would love teaming, great! There are team only companies for that. If you are not sure, you might want to consider a company that allows both teaming and solo until you can decide which is best for you. If you try a team only company and find it to be hell, do you really want to spend the next year in hell?

Good luck and be safe!

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