Driving Safe: The Good, The Bad and The Newbies

Everyone associates time served and skill. We all assume that the more skill we have at something, the safer we are. Seems logical? No. It’s not entirely true. The more we do something the more it can lead to other problems.

Recently during our insurance review, I found out a lot of interesting things amongst truck drivers. We’re not all as good as we think we are! It’s hard to admit though the numbers don’t lie. The findings of our insurance company demonstrated that new drivers are not the devils people assume that they would be.

Getting Better Makes You Worse? Not quite.

Think about it, in the early days of your trucking career absolutely everything was done exactly as it was taught to you. The pre-trip inspections of the rig. Checking the load. Following every rule of the road to make sure that you and your rig get to your destination on time and in in one piece. Every operation and maneuver thought about and executed as if you had your old instructor sat next to you.

Then it starts. Complacency. We have a few successful months or years of driving and we think we know it all. It’s certainly true of me and many of the guys and girls I’ve worked with. We get so used to do absolutely everything on autopilot without thinking. We think we know our rig and don’t do the checks as we know there’s no issues right now. We know the guy who tied the load down, no need to double check. We know we can go a little faster on this road, there’s never any accidents.

Though this is where it goes wrong. We don’t know as much as we think we do, especially not enough to dig us out of the hole our egos got us into. The newbie driver followed the rules, not set their own. That’s why they are less likely to have an accident whilst at the wheel than those with 6 to 18 months experience. It truly shocked me. I blamed the new guy.

Know It All

This all seems to come from the fact that we assume that we know everything though not always having the knowledge and experience to actually back it up. The newbie will tell you that you don’t brake mid-corner. You don’t change gears during hill descent, stick with the gear you climbed it with. You don’t talk on the phone or decided to eat your lunch. These are taught and honored.

The issue lies in that experience coming but not enough. We know the rig. We know the route. We know the load. We know it all, right? Wrong. Everything that would have made us hide under the truck only a few months ago, we now take in our stride and don’t afford it the proper consideration. Things such as rain storms, high wind or steep descents are all taken much faster than we would have when we’d just been handed our CDL. So why the change?

More Than Pure Skill

Every seasoned trucker I know takes their time and aims to get it right first time. Backing up a load into an unfamiliar dock, they’ll happily stop, get out and look. To some it might seem that this will take longer. Though they know they’ll get it right first time if they do. The new guy does not want to look completely amateur and slide in that load like they’ve done it a thousand times before. Then they mess it up. They panic and it only gets worse from there. Trying to get out of the way of the other ten trucks backing up behind them. It doesn’t matter, speed isn’t always the best solution. The experienced trucker gets the job done. The new guy does too, eventually.

Find The Fear

The fear that made us get our CDL was a blessing and a curse. It made us wary. It made us safe. Being scared of the rig isn’t good, it’s our life on wheels. What we need to remember is what can go wrong. An 80,000lb wrecking ball being driven by someone eating a sandwich and on the phone is just scary. There are many videos out there that illustrate this, though I don’t recommend looking. We just need to remember what we were taught and take it safe, we are responsible for our rigs. All of it. So check everything and follow the rules of the road and you’ll get there in one piece and without a ticket for the pleasure.

Good luck out there, just stay safe remember what you learned during CDL training!