Newbies - How To Get Training
Learning to Drive From an Owner Operator
Hopping in a truck with a friend or family member and learning to drive one-on-one is an inexpensive route to get training, and saves you the cost of attending a private driving school.
Before You Begin
Obtain a permit before you begin. You may drive in any state if you meet the age requirement (18 for intrastate, 21 for cross-country), have a valid permit and a current physical card, and are accompanied by a CDL licensed driver. The CDL holder must also meet DOT standards.
The owner-operator who is taking you on the road needs to have proper insurance coverage. Some policies do not allow a passenger in the truck unless it's another CDL licensed driver. Do not allow your friend or family member to take the risk of suffering terrible expenses if an accident happens. Be sure the insurance policy will cover you.
Spend a week on the road with the person you're considering to be your trainer. You may find your personalities clash. This will also give you a chance to see how dedicated he is to his job, how thorough he is and what kind of teacher he'll make. You don't want to learn from someone who consistently bends the rules or doesn't take good care of his equipment.
Find The Right Person
Once you find the right person, pack your bag and ride along. Through observation and instruction, you'll learn all the basics like backing up and pulling forward, hooking up to the trailer, and getting a feel for how wide the truck is.
You must trust the person you choose for a trainer. He will gage when you're ready to drive on the interstate or on a two-lane road, and when you have enough skill to take a run down narrow city streets.
Your instructor may raise his voice at times to keep you from making a bad mistake in traffic. He may push you to try a new thing when you think you're not ready, like backing into a dock with little room to maneuver. If you get yourself in a jam, like missing an exit, he might tell you to figure it out by yourself and offer no advice.
How will you handle getting yelled at if the trainer is your spouse, close friend or significant other? What if he refuses to take over when you've begged him to (and maybe are even in tears)? In these situations most people in this kind of driver/trainer relationship find themselves fighting and stewing over hurt feelings.
Another view to examine is the trainer who makes life too easy on the learner. This is especially common in husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend situations. What happens is that a wife may drive until they reach the dock, then she switches positions with her husband and allows him to back up. She may enjoy driving on the Interstates, but always gives up the wheel when approaching inner city driving. The husband or boyfriend may handle all the maintenance on the truck, the fueling up and the supervising of how the freight gets loaded/unloaded.
In this case, the trainee may spend months on the road, but never learn all the aspects of trucking. She may never be comfortable taking a load on her own, even after years of being a "truck driver." She will always need her significant other along to handle the difficult aspects of driving.
This too-kind trainer causes dangerous handicaps in his trainee's skills. Without being forced to learn and use her knowledge, she lacks confidence and is unable to do certain tasks.
Be honest with yourself. Can the person you choose as a trainer teach you to become a good truck driver? Will he continue to push you to learn regardless of your frustration or anger? Can you fully trust your trainer and give high regard to his instruction?
Learning to drive takes a lot of patience. You have to determine if both you and the owner-operator you choose as a trainer have what it takes to be in this tight working relationship.