Somethings never change in our industry. There will always be new and inexperienced drivers, drivers who are just having a bad day, and difficult situations to overcome. There is not a driver in this industry that starts out experienced. Many of the skills we acquire to perform our job were learned through experience, observation of others, or friendly and helpful tips from our fellow drivers.
An area that taught the importance of helping, learning, and listening to others during my years of operating a flatbed trailer. Back in 1996 when I started as a flatbed operator I had acquired experience hauling pipe during my time working for Grinnell Supply Sales. The experience hauling pipe was good as long as I was transporting this specific commodity.
When I knew that I would be purchasing a truck and trailer to start my own trucking company I had zero experience hauling anything else other than pipe. At this point, I began to ask drivers that delivered to Grinnell how to best equip my trailer with tarps, chains, and other accessories to ply my trade in the open deck arena.
I took the information gathered from these conversations when choosing what size of tarps I would need, straps, chains, corner guards, coil racks, and many other needed items. The other observation I made was that it was commonplace for the drivers in the flatbed arena to help one another to un-tarp or tarp loads, this was especially true during adverse weather conditions. From my view point this made both of our jobs easier when we worked together to get the tarps secured on four corners during windy conditions.
Once I had started operating my flatbed under my own authority there was much to learn. Most of the loads only required common sense when determining how to secure them while following the proscribed tie down requirements. I still remember the first time I had to haul a 48,000 lb. single steel coil out of the port of Wilmington North Carolina. Prior to excepting this load, I had equipped myself with the proper equipment to secure steel coils. Upon arriving I started observing and also asked other drivers for some of their tips since this was my first time loading a single steel coil. During this time I was fortunate enough to meet another driver who was delivering to the same place as me. This driver tucked me under his wing and assisted me as I secured the coil and gave me tips for tarping a round coil with a rectangle tarp. Along the route, we both stopped at different points to check the securement of our loads and this other driver showed me areas to look for and pointed out what would happen if you did not secure the coil with the methods he had prescribed. I am very thankful there was a driver such as this to take the time to share his knowledge with me.
To this day I try to pass along the knowledge I have learned from drivers such as I just mentioned and pay it forward. Such an incident just occurred the other day. I walked out of the shipping and receiving office in Charlotte NC and saw a driver struggling to back his trailer into a difficult dock space. This particular facility was originally designed to accommodate a 45' foot trailer and a cab over truck or a non-sleeper conventional truck. The spots are tight but it can be done with today's trucks and trailers if you hit all of your marks precisely. I approached the driver's door and asked him if he would like to have an extra set of eyes to assist him in getting the trailer to the dock. He immediately said "Yes" that he would appreciate the assistance and informed me he has only been driving for four months as a solo. I told him that is ok as we all had to start at some point and none of us were born being an expert. At the same time, there was a group of other drivers standing and observing this driver struggles waiting for him to get into a bind. Some of this appeared to be due to the fact that this driver drove for a rather large carrier who has become the receiving end of many jokes. After the driver got the trailer safely into the dock we had a conversation where I had the opportunity to share with him some of the tips I have learned over the years dealing with difficult situations like this. Fortunately, the three other drivers who were previously only observing the situation came over to join the conversation. I personally found it very refreshing as we shared tips and tricks of our trade with each and more importantly with this new driver.
Remember we all started with different natural abilities and none of us started out as professional truck drivers. Take the time to share with others and you will find it to be a very rewarding experience.