Teaching Experience Leads to Interest in Being a Truck Driver Trainer
As someone with teaching experience, Mike firmly believed that he had it in him to train trucker trainees (student co-drivers).
In 2006, he began the process of becoming a “training engineer” with Schneider.
He voluntarily pulled out of their program because (at least as of the time he started) the company expected trainers to run the same number of miles as a solo, be paid by the mile and receive additional pay per day for training.
(That kind of emphasis is not truly on training, but running miles.)
Driver Training Emphasis on Training
After he was rehired by Epes Transport, Mike successfully became a training engineer.
At that trucking company, engineers were expected to focus on training and were paid a salary (instead of by the mile).
This was the emphasis Mike was looking for.
He trained four trainees (student co-drivers) before realizing that he didn’t like sharing his in-truck living space with anyone except his wife Vicki.
What’s more, Mike found the driver manager who supervised the trainers’ fleet to be difficult to work with.
Most importantly, Mike couldn’t handle the attitude of some trainees who thought they knew more than he (as an experienced driver) did.
Still, the experiences he had were rich. What follows on this page are some thoughts about motivations for wanting to be a truck driver trainer and a summary about the student co-drivers he trained.
Examining Your Motives for Becoming a Driver Trainer
If you’re interested in being a driver trainer, the big question you need to answer is, “Why do you want to do this?”
- No doubt, you will have a bigger paycheck if you train (as opposed to just driving), but if you’re looking at training simply because of the increased paycheck, that’s the wrong reason.
- Do you want to train because it’s a nice thing to do and you consider yourself to be a nice guy (or gal)? Then beware: you may meet some aggressive and not-so-nice trainees who will walk all over you. You will need to teach and guide with a firm hand.
- Do you have a teaching background in which you’ve always taught just one way and you think you can apply your teaching skills to the driving arena? You may or may not make a good trainer because different people have different learning styles. You’ll need to adapt your teaching methods to make sure that all of your students understand you. One size does not fit all.
- Are you lonely, desiring companionship on the road, and figure that being a driver trainer will fill that emotional or social need? Then be mindful that there are some people who don’t work well with others. You might be best served by having a pet.
- Are you thorough in your work? Be aware that some trainees are willing to take shortcuts to try to shorten their training periods. They may find the “formality” of training something to endure, not realizing that training is a golden opportunity to glean as much knowledge as possible from the trainer.
- If you want to be a trainer because the industry has been good to you and you want to give back in the form of better, safer drivers, that is an excellent motive.
- If you want to become a driver trainer because somebody has seen your excellent knowledge of the industry, you are a good safe driver and someone has told you that you would be an asset to the training team, that’s an even better reason.
It must be stated that there’s nothing wrong with staying as a solo driver who is happy right where he or she is for many years.
There is some incredible untapped talent within the trucking industry but the folks with this talent don’t want to share their trucks with someone else.
These folks are excellent consultants from whom others can ask advice.
Observations of Student Co-Drivers for Whom Mike Served as Driver Trainer (or Training Engineer)
Please note that student co-drivers’ names have been abbreviated to first and last initials to protect privacy.
- CC had 5 months of experience driving for Swift before coming to Epes and he thought he had the world by the tail.He liked to “work the fuel pedal” because he claimed that using the cruise control put him to sleep. He refused to use the cruise control to let the engine pull more efficiently.One day, CC sped through a work zone after Mike expressly instructed him to slow down. Mike had him removed from his truck within 24 hours of disobeying.Mike observed that CC liked to sleep a lot. CC wasn’t particularly motivated about working, but rather wanted the paycheck without having to work for it.Sometime after Mike’s company hired CC against Mike’s advice, CC told Mike that he had gotten a grand total of 300 miles for the week before.(We wonder if the company was trying to send him a message.)
- CW was very easy to work with and had more professional driving experience than Mike did.However, several years had elapsed since he had last driven commercially and with a 53′ trailer.Mike had no questions regarding CW’s safety and professionalism. He simply needed to learn the company’s procedures.At first, CW did not understand why he needed to go out with a driver trainer.His wife had told him, “Take it as a sign from God that there are some things you need to learn and there’s a reason for going out with this guy.”At the end of our “week” together, CW stated, “God knew I needed you and I’m grateful for the time we had together because you taught me some things I needed to know.”
- EW was from another country and had a decided accent.Prior to being placed with Mike, EW had been with another trainer within the company for 6 weeks.When he asked that driver trainer questions, most of the time, that trainer would answer, “I don’t know.”It became increasingly apparent to EW that his trainer did not know how to teach.The last 2 weeks he was with the other trainer, EW said the trainer started yelling at him, at which point EW began to “shut down” and wanted to do anything to get out of his truck.The company arranged for EW to train under Mike.People inside the company stated that they didn’t want to lose EW because they already had a significant investment in him.They asked Mike what he could do.EW was with Mike for 2 weeks; both he and Mike wished that they had been together from the very beginning because they worked well together, Mike answered his questions, and EW was a great trainee.Because of the lack of sufficient quality training time, EW failed his road test and had to find employment somewhere else.How disappointing.
- MH wanted to do something “different,” so he went off to truck driver training school, got his CDL and came to work for Mike’s trucking company.MH had no experience and had never been with any other trainer before.He had some street smarts but also had an ego which needed to be brought down a few notches.As a good driver trainer, Mike was more than willing to let him figure out that he didn’t know everything and that he needed a little guidance.MH was out with Mike for 4 weeks and finished his last 2 weeks with another trainer because Mike was going on vacation.MH needed to slow down, concentrate more on his job, and realize that he didn’t have all the answers.MH pointed out that he wasn’t paid for all the miles he ran and wanted to battle the industry on this point.He questioned a lot of things such as why things were the way they were.Thankfully, he didn’t take unnecessary chances or risks.Mike knew that MH was at least somewhat open to learning.MH and Mike had a severe conflict when it came to the temperature inside the truck.MH wanted it warm; Mike wanted it cooler.Mike had already advised MH about what to bring with him in the truck (including blankets) but he didn’t listen.They had to reach a compromise.
It was at this point that Mike realized he didn’t like sharing his truck with anyone but Vicki.
The Training You Deserve to Have
If you are currently undergoing truck driver training, plan to go through it soon, or have hopes of getting your CDL, here is our advice regarding your trainer:
you need to have one who can show you “the ropes” and show you not just how to survive, but how to thrive and be successful!
You need a driver trainer who will help you to apply what you’ve learned in school, not just tell you to forget it all, because “he’s going to show you ‘the real world of trucking.'”
Your driver trainer must be a valuable resource who will teach you almost everything it takes for you to be successful and profitable.
Of course, there are those situations that none of us can expect, but your trainer should be able to give you some solid answers, instead of continually answering “I don’t know” and brushing aside your questions as though they don’t matter.
He/She should be a person who isn’t intimidated by questions, because you’re going to have A LOT of them, and those questions need to be answered.
We tell you all of this because, quite frankly, we didn’t get it in our training.
And that’s a crying shame because we certainly weren’t prepared when our time came to go out as a team.
What We’re Offering You
When Mike was a trainer, he developed a series of sheets which we’ve adapted and are making available to you through our Free Downloads page.
In this way, we hope to assist both truck driver trainers and their driver trainees work through some mutual expectations and have some solid guidelines on how training should be done.
- Coupling Procedure Record – a record of each time the trainee (or student co-driver) couples (hooks or unhooks) a trailer during the training period, to make sure that enough experience is gained at doing this procedure.
- Drivers Orientation Trip Performance Evaluation – a form to be completed on a weekly basis by the trainer as the trainee is observed conducting job tasks. At the completion of the orientation trip, the trainer shall review the grading with the trainee.
- Driving Performance Evaluation – a sheet to be completed by the trainer on a weekly basis as the trainee is observed while driving. At the completion of the orientation trip, the trainer shall review the grading with the trainee.
- Mutual Expectations – Mike’s own personal list of expectations from both the student co-driver and driver trainer.
- On Road Scaling Worksheet – a sheet that the trainee (or student co-driver) completes each time a load is scaled
- Student Co-Driver Supply List – a suggested list of supplies that trainees should take so they can be prepared for their time out on the road. This differs from what we have on our packing list since an experienced driver trainer should have most truck-related items with him already.
- Trip Planning Worksheet – a sheet that the trainee (or student co-driver) fills out at each dispatch.
Money saving tip: Think about your future.
If you’re a driver trainer and you do a poor job of training, word will probably come back to your company.
You could be temporarily or permanently suspended from your training position, which could mean reduced paychecks.
Not only that, but with the tendency of some trainees to blog about their experiences, word could go out very quickly about how you fail to do your job well.
If you have not already done so, consider going through a “train the trainer” type training program or refresher class.
You can also take education classes to help you become a better teacher.