An easy way to break into the trucking industry is to sign on with a company that offers free CDL training in exchange for a one- or two-year work commitment. Another option is go to an independent CDL school before attempting to find that first job on your own. Either way you go about it, formal CDL training is followed by a ton of on-the-job training that no new truck driver can escape.
The new breed of truckers entering the industry today needs just as much on-the-job training as their older peers. They might even need a little bit more. This new generation is distinctly different from previous generations in one key area that makes all the difference: the ability to work with their hands.
New Drivers Lack Certain Skills
An excellent article published by American Trucker in March 2018 describes the challenges faced by the trucking industry as it pursues a new generation of drivers. These new drivers are very comfortable with technology, which is a good thing in the era of GPS directions and electronic logging. On the flip side though, they are not very adept at working with their hands. This is an especially difficult problem for flatbed truckers.
Mytee Products, an Ohio company that specializes in cargo control equipment and flatbed supplies, explains that flatbed trucking requires drivers to secure their own cargo. Unlike dry vans that completely enclose cargo with a roof and walls, flatbed trailers consist of a single open deck exposed to the elements.
Drivers are responsible for securing cargo to their decks using a variety of chains, straps, and blocks. Most loads also have to be covered with truck tarps. That means more straps along with bungee cords and edge protectors. The truck driver who doesn’t know how to work with his/her hands could find cargo control rather daunting.
CDL school teaches new drivers how to safely maneuver a tractor-trailer under a variety of conditions. Instructors teach new drivers about federal and state regulations. They do not spend time teaching students how to work with their hands. Those skills must be learned on the job.
Cargo Control Basics
The good news for new drivers is that learning to work with their hands is not especially difficult. All it requires is a little practical knowledge and enough time to put that knowledge into practice. Drivers have to learn some basic principles:
- The physics of keeping cargo in place
- How to properly use chains, straps, and blocks
- How to safely apply and remove tarps
- The principles of working load limits
- Federal and state regulations governing cargo securement.
Beyond the basics, new truck drivers also have to become familiar with how different shippers operate. For example, there are some lumber shippers who insist that all their loads be properly tarped prior to departure. They will not allow drivers to leave the yard until tarps are in place. There are some pipe shippers who insist on using certain kinds of blocks.
Drivers have to familiarize themselves with shipping requirements so that they can be prepared for every load. They need to have a full complement of cargo control supplies on board in order to secure any load they might be offered. It all takes time and experience to master.
Older generations of drivers were very adept at working with their hands when they first got into trucking decades ago. That is not the case for newer, younger drivers just coming up today. As such, they need a little bit of extra on-the-job training to get up to speed.