This video offers my answer to a question from the Vlog by JustHoofinIt (AKA Maggie).
I really had to think about how to answer Maggie’s question because…
My finishing was T-O-U-G-H
I mean really challenging.
That doesn’t mean it was bad – OR – that I think my trainers are bad people.
In fact, I started out with respect for them and their skills and abilities and still have that respect. I had it before I ever met either of them. They deserved it.
However, with thoughtful consideration of this question, I came to the realization there’s a difference between how a person acts in a given situation and the person themselves.
My training experience simply pushed me further than I ever expected – in ways I never expected.
My guess is, that getting in a truck with a stranger, to learn to drive a semi, is a stressful thing to start with. More people probably suffer from misunderstandings that come out of that stress – and then call it a nightmare – than anything truly diabolical; like drivers who get drunk while out training a student and other such ridiculousness.
For months after finishing, I wondered why Jai had gotten the “training angel” and I had such a hard time?
Jai’s trainer was J.W. Yates, a brilliant teacher who has a way of letting his students guide him on how to teach them. Like I said, brilliant. The bit of video I managed to grab while Jai was heading out can be found here.
There is no real answer to the question above, other than the obvious. Jai got the person he needed… and so did I.
I was the first Con-Way student for both of my trainers
That’s like being the first person to go to the moon. They don’t yet know if the ship will make it, or not. LOL
Now, don’t get me wrong. Con-Way doesn’t allow people to train who don’t have many safe miles (read years) logged behind the wheel. No rookies are training at Con-Way. And I asked! That said…
…a truck driving *teacher* is a specialized individual. They have great driving skills and instincts yes, but they also know how to deal with the very nervous, often overwhelmed person sitting behind the wheel of the truck they’re training in.
A good *teacher* knows how to guide and direct, encourage, inspire and challenge each student to be their best.
J.W. Yates is just such a teacher.
I’m SO thankful that Jai got him.
As for me, I was so excited to get started that I rushed in, stuck out my hand and expected my best friend to be at the other end. That wasn’t the case.
For a long while, after my training experience, I was angry.
I couldn’t talk about it without triggering those feelings. Which I didn’t like. And… there was inner conflict.
I didn’t want to be dishonest and say it was great and I had a great time – because it wasn’t great and I didn’t get to make life-long friends with either of my trainers, like Jai did. However…
…I also didn’t want to say negative things about any other Con-Way driver. So, this meant I couldn’t say anything at all – and that’s what I did until…
Maggie asked her excellent question.
So, I spent several nights on our way across I-40, heading to California, to think about what it was I didn’t want to look at… and looked.
My first trainer was abusive.
That’s a very difficult thing for me to say. As difficult as it was to go through.
She didn’t abuse me physically.
It was verbal.
I didn’t take 72 hours take for the abuses to start.
It was so unexpected… so completely out of left field that at first, I was just shocked.
I thought, “Geezus, I can get along with anyone. This will settle down as we get more comfortable with one another. It’s gonna be ok.”
Well, it didn’t settle down. It escalated. Everything I did to make it better… didn’t work. I was dumbfounded.
Hey, I know I can be as cranky as the next guy or gal… and I don’t present a simple picture. I competed in Miss America Pageants (because it gave me an outlet to sing) and owned two motorcycles! One of them was a 1969 Harley Shovel Head. I know… kind of hard to get your head around a Harley ridin’ beauty queen.
I like fingernail polish and makeup. I like pretty dresses and beautiful shoes… but also have a totally tooled up wood shop, complete with all the trimmings. (no pun intended) I can run a table saw, a router, any power tool any day of the week… And I love trucks.
These things don’t often go together and perhaps it puts some folks off… but this training situation was just way out of control. Nothing I did made it better.
It came to a point where I was only allowed to speak when spoken to.
On one occasion – the 4th or 5th day – I was to move the tandems and put the trailer in the dock. It was around 5 o’clock in the morning.
By this point, I was cried out and totally focused on the job to the exclusion of all else. Had to be.
I jumped out of that truck, snatched up that handle, slid the tandems all the way back and put that trailer in the dock… while being yelled at (120 decibels), in front of the hostler driver, the shipper and every other driver there.
Everyone was watching with keen interest and occasionally shaking their heads. I’m not sure if that was at me or at the whole scene playing out in front of them.
I ran around the truck. Jumped up in the seat and down to the ground saying, “Yes ‘Mam” the whole time.
Now this sounds comical… but at the time, it wasn’t.
I had no preconceived ideas about what training would be like.
For that matter… I had no idea what it would be like to drive 400, 500, 600 miles or more a day.
My Grandfather drove a truck for over 40 years. As a little girl I sat in his truck and pulled the air-horn. Other than that, I had never been in a semi before.
I wasn’t afraid of the truck. I was never afraid of the truck.
I was afraid of where I had to go to get the loads! LOL
My biggest real fear was the customers… the loading docks… the people I had to deal with. I had never been on a loading dock in my life. What was that going to be like?
Those were my biggest questions.
I’ve always had a natural ability with machines. Love machines. I love working with my hands. As an artist and furniture maker (two of my most beloved activities) I was comfortable with the truck and after a little practice took to it like a duck to water.
Backing was challenging. I needed to get a sense of the size – that’s how I learn. I needed to see it done from the outside. I got to do a little of that at CDL school… but I needed to get out in the real world and see it done.
That was something my first trainer wouldn’t allow… she wouldn’t let me get out and watch her back into a space, so I could get it in perspective.
I kept asking, “Please let me just get out and watch, so I can understand” and she would say “No”.
It was so frustrating!
My first trainer expected me to have everything mastered by day three. Of course that was impossible but what did I have to compare this situation to? Should I have mastered everything by now?
I thought maybe that’s what was supposed to happen and I was just failing miserably. This created massive levels of stress for me so that I eventually collapsed into tears.
Crying only made me feel ridiculous, weak and stupid. Angry with myself. I should have been able to do better… I kept telling myself. Well, not true!
By the end of the week, I think my trainer was hoping I would leap off the truck and say, “To hell with you and Con-Way, I quit!”
What she couldn’t have known was that was never going to happen.
If I had to cry every minute of every day to get through it, I would have. And nearly did through that first week.
If I were to go through that experience again now, it wouldn’t have gotten so ragged. But that’s the whole point of sharing this with others. If one point here helps someone else, it’s worth it to talk about my experience.
My second trainer started out much better. Very friendly. When I asked my first question, it upset her and I was told I should know better. I squeezed inside and shut down.
Who should I ask? I felt as though I had no one.
Being determined NOT to have three trainers, the two of us managed to bulldog our way through the next two weeks. It wasn’t fun… but I came out with 8,200 miles to my credit.
Took my tests and passed with nearly flying colors. A couple things were still unclear but those were taken care of by my tester. He was gentle and patient. Thank God!
I was told by my first trainer that she could keep me from driving for Con-Way, if I didn’t do what she said. This is absolutely NOT true. Conway has a lot invested in a new driver. They actually do want you to pass. They weigh a whole lot more into their decision regarding new drivers than what a single trainer has to say.
Your trainer’s job is to get you up to speed (literally and figuratively 🙂 toward being a good driver. And it’s really only the beginning. It’s the beginning of your journey.
There’s a lot to get familiar with in this job. Here’s a short list:
- road conditions (weather, traffic, construction zones)
- timing, planning your fuel stops
- trip planning
- customer interaction (shippers, consignees)
- using the Qualcomm (eLogs)
- using the Qualcomm (Forms) which form to use, when, and for what. (I’m still learning about this after a year on the job!)
- dealing with paperwork
- doing transflow
- moving tandems (forward or back, how many holes, bridge laws)
- drop yards
- weighing your load
- strapping your load
- backing into docks
- parking at truck stops (where to and where not to)
- backing between two trucks
- dealing with trailer/truck issues
- and more…
There’s a lot to this job. More than I would ever have guessed on the outside looking in.
Training is critical to help you get your feet on the ground. When someone (the trainer) purposely or not, makes it a stressful experience, it can seem like you’re going to spin helplessly out of control… You will or you won’t. It’s entirely up to you. Whatever you do … Don’t give up. Don’t quit. Do not take yourself off the truck. If you quit, that’s it. You’re done. It’s the end of the road for you, at Conway.
Take a deep breath.
Use the assets you have at your disposal. Primarily (with Con-Way at least) your advocate! Talk to someone who’s primary aim is to be there for “you”.
Know that you’re going to be given every chance to prove yourself.
Extract what you need and never give up.
If it’s hard for you… you’ll come out on the other end more determined and self-assured. I did.
I said earlier that I took to the truck and to shifting and handling the truck quickly… but other things weren’t so easy. I really had to work at it.
And it’s all worth it …and more.
Post your commentary in the COMMENTS section below and I’ll meet you here. 🙂 – Andrea
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