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Not long ago, I had a recent CDL school graduate in my truck as part of my responsibility as a trainer for my company. Now, before we get into this article, let me explain Nussbaum’s training program. 

These recent grads come to us with CDL in hand. We do not train from zero. After one week of orientation and simulator training, the new student will spend four weeks with a trainer, running between the mountain ranges with very tight reigns. After these four weeks, they go out on their own for four weeks - same region, same limitations. After that, they go out with a different trainer for another four weeks, but this time, they go to the west coast and to the northeast. If they make it through that, then they are on their own for four weeks on a trial basis, also under very tight reigns. Afterward, they are officially a Nussbaum driver. This program not only gives them experience in most parts of the country, but it also gives them a real sense of the Over The Road lifestyle. So far, it has been very successful. 

Lots of Questions to be Answered
Besides the questions about how the truck operates, what life on the road is like, and other questions related to truck driving, the questions of other drivers’ behaviors quickly come up. Questions like:

  • Why are they riding so close to each other?
  • Why are they speeding through the construction zone?
  • Why is nobody doing a pre-trip, or even picking up their hoods?
  • Why are they driving in the truck-restricted lanes?

I have to admit, I have a hard time answering their questions. Every student I’ve ever had has asked me these questions, every single one. That leads to some very interesting conversations, and even more questions. My answers are not very satisfying though. After all, how do you explain bad behavior by the people who are supposed to be professionals? Truth be told, there is no satisfactory answer.

Lead By Example
All I can do, as a trainer, is show them the proper way to do things, and hope that I instill in them the importance of doing things right, all the time. That becomes much more difficult when there are drivers out there not only demonstrating bad behaviors, but also bragging about it on social media, and knocking those of us out here on the road actually doing the right thing. The number of times I’ve been told to speed it up in a construction zone is quite astounding…and disappointing.

As trainers, we are responsible for putting safe drivers on the road. With that being said, I would also ask trainers to train the trainees on the correct way to do things. No short-cuts and “how to get away with this and that,” to the rookie drivers. Just think about the consequences of them being involved in an accident, being put on the witness stand on trial, and stating under oath “Well I was trained to do it that way.” That could lead to devastating consequences for the driver, and not to mention the devastation that cutting corners may lead to on the road.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all training rookie drivers out on the road. Whether they are sitting beside us in the cab of our truck, or observing us on the road or at a truck stop, they’re watching. They’re also learning. 

Let’s try our best to do the best all the time, and help these new drivers become the safe drivers we want them all to be.

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Clark W Reed

Clark Reed of Roscoe, Illinois is an OTR company driver and trainer for Nussbaum Transportation based out of Hudson, Illinois. He has been driving since 2005 and has driven van, reefer, and tanker. He currently hauls dry van to all lower 48 states. Clark is passionate about MPGs and how driver habits influence them. The lifetime average of his 2018 Cascadia is 9.75 mpg, with eyes on 10. Clark, along with Henry Albert, was one of the seven drivers in 2017's "Run on Less" by NACFE, a road show, demonstrating what fuel efficiency can be obtained with existing technologies.

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