When in the course of human events it becomes necessary…
to drive a Big Rig, it is also necessary to do it safely. THEREFORE, thou must bring thyself down into the depths of humility and give thy consent to be crammed into an exceeding squishy cave-like compartment with another being, perhaps human, until such time as the tight-fisted, unsmiling keeper of the trucking universe has peradventure determined that thou art no longer a danger to thyself, nor to the remainder of said universe. And thou must do this cheerfully, without malice, regardless of the sight, sound, or smell, of the said being thereof.
After surviving truck driving school and graduating with your very own piece of plastic bearing your name which declares your honorary title of CDL driver, you discover that you now have to convince the owner of a $100,000 truck to let you drive it. Most trucking companies have a driver trainee program where a beginner is teamed up with a trainer. A certain length of time, or a certain number of miles are required before the trainee is allowed to drive his or her own truck. Some companies are so desperate for drivers, the duration of team driving is relatively short-lived. This sometimes results in inexperienced, unsafe drivers let loose on the roads, but for the most part, drivers are held to certain standards of skill before they go solo.
I definitely agree on the importance of a trainee proving skill before risking his own life, not to mention the lives of others out there on dangerous highways. However, teaming can be a huge challenge simply because of human nature. It isn’t easy to find compatibility with a stranger and work that closely for several weeks or months. It is particularly challenging for a female since there is a shortage of female trainers, and it can be rather awkward for a female to team up with a male trainer. On the other hand, it may be easier for a female to get along with a male trainer rather than a female trainer. It totally depends on personality, personal habits, level of professional attitude, and one’s own ability to adapt to anything, no matter how foreign. I can only exclaim, “Blessed are those who can endure team driving.”
For team driving situations, trucks are usually equipped with double bunks with enough space afforded the trainee on the top bunk equivalent to the space one might find in a prison camp. Depending on the truck make and model, the trainee may or may not be able to sit on the bed without bumping his head. Generally, a driver trainee has already had a certain amount of training and has a CDL (commercial driver’s license). Usually, the trainer spends a day or more in the passenger seat guiding and directing to be sure the trainee knows how to handle the truck and the road, be it somewhat awkward.
After trust is earned and a comfort level is reached, the trainer and trainee begin taking shifts, each one spending break times either in the passenger seat, or in his own bunk. Technically, for safety reasons, it isn’t legal for someone to be in the top bunk while the truck is moving, but most trainers are only too happy to turn a blind eye and let his trainee sleep on the top bunk. The idea is to keep the truck moving and cover as many miles as possible safely. The trainee gets practical experience and has a trainer available just a few feet away. Ideal scenario. What could possibly go wrong? Just about everything.
I was a terrible team member. I couldn’t seem to find even a shred of compatibility enough to endure a few weeks. Heaven help any trainer who tried to put up with me. I’m sure I was considered the world’s biggest prude because I had simply never before been exposed to nakedness and the constant stream of language which largely favored the letter “F”, not to mention the never ending innuendos of a subject that starts with “S” and ends with “X”. I burned through six trainers and finally gave up. No way was I going to give up driving, but I had to find another way.