You’ve finally made it through the nights of studying for the written CDL exam, passed it, and are ready to hit the road for hands-on training. Student truck drivers are often excited, but quickly become hesitant when it comes time to actually drive a truck. I mean, who wouldn’t get just a little bit nervous being responsible for a huge machine that isn’t exactly easy to maneuver? Here are a few tips to help student truck drivers get through training.
6 Tips for Student Truck Drivers
1. Stay calm
Driving a truck for the first time can be extremely stressful. You’ll be super nervous and probably won’t know exactly what to do. Those feelings are normal and remember that you’re in training for a reason. Your instructors won’t expect you to be perfect or know everything the first time, or first few times, you drive a truck. You should take the time to breathe and relax, to be sure that you’re ready. Many other student truck drivers have been through the same thing, and they made it out.
2. Don’t worry what others think
A lot of student truck drivers struggle with caring about what other drivers think on the road. You’re driving a huge, slow machine and it’s tremendously different than driving a car. It’s certain that you’ll make others upset on the road considering you have to take turns slowly, accelerate slowly, take more time to pass, and no one wants to get stuck behind you. That’s just part of being a trucker. Worry about driving safely, not about making it convenient for other drivers.
Aside from other drivers on the road, don’t let experienced truckers intimidate you. They were all new at some point, even though they might not like to admit it. Take your turns and back up as slow as you need to because you can only take them too fast once.
3. Prepare to make mistakes
Leave your ego at home. Some student truck drivers come into training and think they know everything, and then get discouraged when they make a mistake. Remember that you’re a student and you’re there to learn, not to show off or be perfect. There are many common mistakes that rookies make, and some are just unavoidable. Take your mistake as a lesson, and do better the next time you’re presented with a similar situation.
4. Listen to your instructor
This should be obvious, but we’ll say it again – Listen to your instructor. In most cases, your instructor is an experienced truck driver who has been operating one of those 80,000-pound vehicles for many years now. Trust that they know everything they need to properly instruct you, and listen to their directions.
5. Develop a relationship with your trainer
You’re going to be sharing a truck with a stranger for at least a few weeks, so you might as well get to know them. You don’t have to develop a life-long friendship, but a good relationship will help both of you get through the training period. If you really can’t stand your instructor, just try to stick it out as long as they’re safe. Keep in mind that your instructor is also giving up his/her freedom and personal space in order to train you and that the situation is temporary.
If you can, ask about his/her experiences on the road. This could give you some insight to prepare for when you’re on your own. Most of the trucking career isn’t driving a truck, but adapting to the lifestyle. Get as much advice as you can to help you transition.
6. Expressways are the easiest
Student truck drivers seem to get most anxious when it’s time to drive a truck on an expressway. Really, this is one of the easiest parts of truck driving. Of course, it has its challenges such as merging and blind spots, but it’s relatively simple to drive a truck down a highway. A lot of truck drivers who have graduated can attest that driving down an expressway is the fun part. Turning, stopping at lights, and backing into tight spaces are much more difficult. So, enjoy your time on the expressway, but still be cautious!