Truck Driving: The Authentic Adventure

Getting to see this country firsthand is a privilege not afforded by many. Even fewer actually get paid to travel. It may be just one aspect of the job, but it’s one that stands out to me because of my personal experience.

When I was in my early twenties, I embarked on a new career in truck driving. In addition to a nice paycheck for the first time in my life, I was also thrilled by the adventure of the road. Getting to see California, the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and the Northwest territories all left a big impression on me. Each day challenged me by demanding something new. One day I would be turning curves up a winding mountain road, and another I would be traveling across the corn and wheat fields of the mid-west without another car passing me for hours.

I knew before I started driving that I didn’t want to work in an office setting, but I didn’t know how much I would love life on the road until I was already living it. Perhaps my favorite early experience was when I was hauling for NASA, transporting shuttle engines from the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Florida, to the retrofitting location in Mississippi. I can still see the inside of the vehicle assembly building and the shuttle being lifted by a crane into the crate supporting it for me to haul.

Maybe not every job is as thrilling as that one was for me, but one of the things that truckers everywhere experience is a sense of pride in what they do. When you drive a truck, you realize how much this country depends on over-the-road transportation. Even though when I started out, I was fairly independent (and still am), as a truck driver I instantly became a part of a very special club, and it’s a club I’m proud to belong to. Whether it’s food or fuel, America can’t run without it. Each of your deliveries alone will impact hundreds to thousands of people.

Today, I’m an instructor to students who are finally taking the step to realize their dreams. They might be fresh out of college, or they might have already found success in other fields. Of the more than one thousand students I’ve trained, some have even come from white collar careers as doctors, lawyers and engineers to join our ranks. For many, it’s the sense of adventure that makes them want to trade in their desks and cubicles for a big rig.

Whether you are seeking financial stability or you are looking beyond the cubicle walls, there is one thing certain – truck driving will give you a chance to see places you might have only seen pictures of. It’s the ultimate adventure to be paid to travel. I wouldn’t be so passionate about devoting my career to training people to drive trucks if I didn’t know for certain that it’s a career that is fulfilling as it is financially rewarding.

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Post Author:  Greg Dotson, Program Director, Lead CDL Instructor-Maryville, Peak Technical Institute

The Elements That Challenge a Driver’s Skill Level 

Whether from rain, snow, ice, or wind, every once in a while a driver will get hit with a true test of his or her abilities. In the case of one skilled CMV driver traveling in Kansas, his day had come with vengeance. Severe crosswinds battered the plains and just as this driver crested the top of a hill, the full force of the storm careened into the side of his truck and trailer. The driver could have panicked and forgotten all of his training and experience or he could maintain control and keep his truck upright. In the case of this particular driver, he made the best choice in his situation and turned his truck into the direction of the roll while aiming for a clearing off the road. There are a ton of factors and split-second decisions that come into play when discussing this video of the Kansas driver. Let’s take a minute and look at some of the factors that could have made this scene go horribly wrong.

Steering-wheel hand position
REASON:  Had the driver been leaning back in his seat with one hand on the top side of the steering wheel, like many drivers do, he would have certainly flipped this truck and trailer over on its side. Instead, the driver maintained a firm grip on his steering wheel which helped him maintain control. This gave him the power to turn into his roll.

Mirror management

REASON: If the driver had not seen the trailer begin to roll over in his mirror, it would have been too late to correct it.

Acceleration and braking

REASON: Acceleration and braking play a major role in the remediation of any emergency maneuver. This driver could have responded by touching his brakes or letting off the fuel, but it most certainly would have resulted in the truck and trailer laying over. You never want to stall a truck. Always be in control with tires rolling freely and in a gear that allows you to accelerate.

Space management
REASON: In many instances, there are emergency vehicles broken down on the side of the road.
If this driver hadn’t had a space cushion on the right side of the truck, he wouldn’t have had any direction to go.

Ultimately, we as drivers need to remember to be aware of our surroundings and the potential hazards of the road. Always keep in mind that we have Stop Work Authority. If the conditions are severe enough, get off the road and wait for the conditions to improve. There is NO load worth the lives of ourselves or others.

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Safety Distracted Driving

Distracted Driving

Have you ever read a text message or responded to a text message while you were driving? Have you ever watched a movie going down the road or reached down on the floor of your truck to pick-up a CD or cell phone that dropped? If you answered yes to one or both of these questions, then you have been a distracted driver. NOW is the time to get educated on the facts and risk associated with distracted driving and the consequences that can come from these activities while driving.

Truck, Car and Bus Collision

Distracted driving picture of truck, car, and school bus collision

Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded! Can you imagine that? Think about it! Next time you are driving down the freeway look for a landmark or point of reference. Once you pass the landmark, count off in thousands (one thousand one, one thousand two and so on). When you get to five seconds, look in your rearview mirror or west coast mirror and see the distance that you covered in your car or tractor trailer in that five seconds. Now imagine doing this Blindfolded! Scary feeling isn’t it? These are small risks that you may not think about when sending that two-word text, reaching down to find that thing on your floor or sending a quick QUALCOMM message to accept your next load. The results of these seemingly small risks can be absolutely devastating for all people involved. The picture on the right is the carnage that was left behind after a young driver sent numerous text messages while driving. The pickup driver and a 15-year-old student on the school bus were killed. In another incident, Thirty-eight people were injured in an accident near Gray Summit, Mo on Aug. 5, 2010. Texting while driving was identified as the cause. A nineteen year old driver of the pickup sent and received 11 messages in eleven seconds immediately before the accident.

Across the nation accidents and incidents like these are happening every day. In 2012, over 3,328 deaths were related to distracted driving and 421,000 people were injured because of distractions while driving. At any given moment there are 660,000 vehicles on the road in which a driver is texting or has a cell phone to their ear. States like North Carolina have a ban on texting while driving, but make exceptions for drivers of CMV’s to use in-cab communication equipment or “Dispatch System” to be able to review, respond and accept load assignments. On July 1, 2008, a driver for Coretrans Trucking was traveling on Interstate 40 in Buncombe County at approximately 60 MPH and received a message on his in-cab system for an additional load. The driver choose to read and respond to this message. He took his eyes off the road for approximately 4-7 seconds and didn’t notice the construction zone with lanes ending and merge over signs. The driver never saw the stopped traffic and thus never had a chance to even hit the brakes. The driver hit two stopped vehicles causing severe and permanent brain damage to one small boy and ending another child’s life.

Distracted Driving: Semi/ Auto collision photo

The FIX! Now that you are familiar with some of the facts about distracted drivers and have read about some of the horrific accidents resulting from distracted drivers, let’s talk about a solution to the problem. As a professional driver, the first and most important rule to remember is that no text or phone call is worth your life or the lives and safety of those around you. Professional drivers have a responsibility to drive with respect for the motorists around them and to consider driving safety Job One. So take these simple steps to minimize the chance of becoming distracted while driving. They may help you to ensure your safety and that of the motoring public:

  • Avoid answering phone calls while driving and rig for hands-free operation.
  • Set auto respond text messages such as, “I’m driving. I’ll call you back”.
  • Plan your trip to avoid having to refer to maps while driving.
  • Program your GPS before leaving and know how to operate it to avoid driving distractions
  • Program your radio stations prior to beginning your trip.

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