How to Survive On-the-Road Truck Driver Training

Congratulations, you have been hired by one of the trucking companies that actually does on the road training or mentoring for rookies.

You’ve completed your truck driver training, got your license, got hired, and passed your orientation.You’re on your way to becoming a professional truck driver.

Now you’re just in the process of waiting to be assigned a trainer or mentor that you could be paired with for up to six weeks depending on the company.

I’m sure that you have plenty of questions about just how this may work, how much stuff to pack, what to bring etc. This article will go over all the things you will need to know about your on the road training and how to survive it without killing your trainer.

driver training

What Do You Bring for On-the-road Training?

First is what to pack and how much should you pack?

Well, the first thing to remember is that even though the truck may look big, there really isn’t much in the way of storage. Also remember that you are going into your trainers truck and he/she has probably have had the truck for a while and probably keep quite a bit of their gear in the vehicle which means there isn’t much room for your personal items.

You will likely encounter shippers and receivers that will require you to be safe while working, so you’ll need to bring:

  • Hard hat
  • Safety vest
  • Safety boots
  • Safety glasses

forklift driver

Other than that pack a duffle bag with clothes, depending on the time of year. You could need both winter and summer clothing.

Also make sure to pack a pillow and sleeping bag for sleeping in the truck. If you have issues with your back, you may also want to bring a seat cushion given the amount of time you’ll be on the road.

Most anything else you will need, your trainer will have on the truck. It is a good idea to make a list of things you will need to carry on the road and make sure you have them when you get assigned your own truck.

What Happens During Training?

You’re Driving

Once you have been assigned a trainer it’s time to go on the road for your training. Chances are you will do around 90 percent of the driving.  

There will be times that your trainer may take over behind the wheel, for example, if you have become completely frustrated trying to complete a maneuver or task such as backing up into a spot, having issues shifting, or it’s just been a really long day and your brain is in information overload.

You will have a chance to meet and ask your trainer questions before you head out on the road, don’t be afraid to ask questions of your mentor, and remember they are there to help you along and guide you along the way.

Living in the Truck with your Trainer

truck driving with gps

The first hurdle that you will have to deal with is living in a truck with a trainer.

Your trainer, if they’ve been instructing long, is used to sharing their space with a trainee. You, on the other hand, may take some time to get used to living in tight quarters with your teacher.

You and your instructor will spend a lot of time together, so during downtime, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to get away from the truck and your trainer.

Having a quiet meal by yourself in a truck stop or taking a walk or even spending some time watching TV in the lounge, are all good options. This will reduce cabin fever and prevent you from going stir crazy.

What If Things Aren’t Working Out During Training?

If by chance things are not going so well with your trainer, you can ask to be given another trainer.

There are many cases where, an instructor’s way of teaching and mentoring may not work for every student, sometimes, a different way of getting the message out may be needed.

The thing to remember is if the lesson isn’t sinking in, don’t let it frustrate you, instead keep focused and don’t give up.

Don’t be afraid to communicate what you are having troubles with as most effective trainers will keep that open dialog with their students and they will compare notes on what they believe what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Also a good trainer will spend the time with you working on your weaknesses. For example, if you’re having trouble backing into tight docks, your trainer could have you practice reversing between two trailers until you feel more comfortable.

Keep Practicing and Developing Your Skills

truck driving through mountains

Drive on Different Road Conditions

In order to be a skilled truck driver, you need to get experience in different road conditions.

If, for instance, you haven’t driven through a mountainous region, ask your mentor if you’re able to practice driving on this type of stretch whenever opportunity presents itself. Operating a truck on an ascending and descending elevation is a good skill to master.

Install Tire Chains

If it’s in the winter time learn how to properly install you tire chains, your trainer will have lots of experience driving through the mountains in the winter time and his knowledge that he passes on will be invaluable as a new driver.

Scale Loads

There are other things that you will learn to master that you wouldn’t have had a chance to while you were in driving school, such as scaling loads and making sure that your load is legal to go down the road.

Most companies have policies where they want you to scale a load on any load that weighs more than 30,000 pounds. You will have many chances with your trainer to learn to scale your loads and if they are overweight on a set of axles you will learn where you have to slide your trailer tandems to get the load legal. By the end of your training you should have this procedure down pat.

Fill Out Paperwork

truck-driver filling out paperwork

The other big thing that you will need to learn is how to fill out all the paperwork involved with the job, the main one will be your trip sheet, which is really important because that is how you will get paid by your company.

The other one to learn is the border paperwork which is a lot easier to learn and get the handle of now because both the US and Canada have migrated to electronic manifests putting the onus on the trucking company to have everything setup electronically. Even drivers’ daily logs are going the way of electronic as both countries seem headed towards efficient logging methods.

The biggest thing to help you survive would be get yourself a notebook and at the end of each day take note of everything that you encountered and learned during the day, mark down what you did well, keep track of things that could use more work. If your feeling overwhelmed don’t be afraid to take a break and calm yourself down, remember if your flustered your not helping yourself or your trainer.

Assessment

At the end of your training sit down with your trainer and discuss your progress.

Your instructor will give you an assessment of where you’re at and what areas require development. Don’t worry, they will provide more time training until you’re ready. Remember, they want you to succeed and be safe on the road.

The biggest takeaway is to enjoy the process, ask lots of questions, learn as much as you can, and keep practicing.

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