When I first started driving, I had a lot of fears, and many stemmed from where we lived and my driving experience. Most of my driving was in the rural area of southwest Kansas where the nearest traffic light was 35 miles away, and the closest interstate was 150 miles away. Give me a two-lane or dirt road, and I was good to go! Not very practical experience in becoming an over the road truck driver. Here are some of my fears when I started:
- Getting lost
- Hard right or left turns
- Shifting going downhill on a mountain
- Snow – reduced visibility
- Driving over an open pit in the floor
Even with these fears, I knew I could drive as my driving education started in the oilfields hauling water, driving a dump truck, or hauling grain on a part-time basis. But with so many fears I had to face and get over, how did I do it?
Traffic – I learned quickly from the better view in the truck that traffic was a moot point until we got to the northeast. There I learned if the other motorists don’t look at you, then you are not there. Little bitty old ladies in tiny cars easily intimidated me. Now this won’t be the solution for everyone but how I solved this was to quit going to the northeast.
Getting Lost – While we can’t ever solve this problem if we do not run a dedicated route, I was able to get a GPS. The GPS told me in plenty of time what lane to be in to take the next exit. Also, if I had to take a detour that was not well marked, the GPS told me how to get back to where I needed to be. There are also many times where I ignore the GPS as I know there is a better way to get from point A to point B but even then it’s still nice to have that option to fall back on if I need to.
Backing – First, I had to get over being self-conscious and realize everyone was not watching me and if they were then oh well. I practiced in truck stops, backing into parking spaces that had plenty of room on each side. I would try different angles and approaches over and over until I felt confident.
Hard right or left turns – Remember all that practice backing? Well, that also helps to make turns as you learn the pivot point of the truck. Also, when making an easy turn, the goal is to see how close I can get the rear axle to the curb. When making a left I do not try to see how close I can get the axle to the car which is over the solid white line. It’s tempting at times, though.
Shifting going down a hill – The problem was solved by buying our first truck with an Allison Transmission, and after learning on manual transmissions, we will never go back.
Snow – Reduced visibility gives me a very closed-in feeling, and I learned several tricks; lower the visors to trap hot air at the top of the windshield to keep snow from sticking, or freeze windshield, so snow blows off.
Ice – Experience and knowing when it is time to pull off of the road and let the roads improve. We are the captain of our trucks, and when it’s not safe we need to park.
Driving Over an Open Pit in the Floor – This one still PETRIFIES ME. When I see the pit, I have to drive over and the person guiding me being nonchalant I stop the truck and wait till they focus on me. I am white-knuckled, and I go slow. If I drive them nuts, oh well, I’m not going to end up in that pit. I have a feeling that in another fifteen years, I will still have this fear, and I’m not sure how to get over it as there are not many places I know of where I can practice.
Now I look back at many of my initial fears and chuckle to myself as I know that I conquered those fears. There are many other things that I worry about that I know I can’t control when or if they’ll happen but I can at least control how I respond. That’s why I would recommend playing the “What If” game as often as possible in order to work on overcoming your fears. In another blog, we can talk about the “What If” game.