The nightmares of learning to drive a truck
Sexual assault, wage theft, dangerous roads, and more
I sometimes get a tad aggressive as a driver, which I blame entirely on being raised in Massachusetts. I am much more chill than I used to be — thank you, California — but the more I learn about trucking, the more grateful I am that my old driving style never got me into an accident with a truck on my many journeys across the U.S.A.
Before I knew a lot about trucking, I would usually see a big rig in my rearview mirror, assume that the driver has a lot of expertise and familiarity with inclement weather, and maybe pull in front of them with a little less space than would be considered polite. That was very dumb.
Reader, while there are lots of fantastic truck drivers with lots of experience who are doing the hard work of moving our country’s goods around, please do not do what I did and assume that makes up the majority of them. In fact, there’s a growing number of accidents involving large trucks, and I would contend that has something to do with there being more trucks on the road to get goods around, and more inexperienced truckers behind the wheel.
In my latest story, I looked at how truckers learn to be truckers and found out some very scary things. Here’s the piece:
Basically, people get a CDL within a few weeks and then go to “finishing schools” where they drive cargo for big, self-insured carriers alongside someone who is supposed to be showing them how to drive. That is scary in itself. One major carrier, Schneider, said it “often” encounters newly-licensed drivers who have never driven a truck on a highway or interstate. Now you have someone who has never driven a truck on a highway driving a truck across the country while their trainer is sleeping in the berth elsewhere. Up and down mountains, which they have never driven on before, through snow and sleet. That inexperience is what led to a fiery Colorado accident in 2019 where a new driver who had no experience driving on mountains lost his brakes and slammed into backed up traffic.
The government released new driver training rules today, and they’ve been in the works since 1991. But guess what? They do almost nothing. There have been many lawsuits arguing that drivers should be required to spend a certain amount of time behind-the-wheel before they are licensed. 23 members of a 25 member committee making the new rules agreed with having a minimum number of behind-the-wheel hours. Then, when the government released the rules, the requirement had been taken out.
Add on top of this a new Biden administration program to try and get more people into trucking that allows 18 year olds to drive trucks interstate, supply chain pressures, and ever present stories of trucker shortages, and you have less experienced truckers when you should be having more.
And I haven’t even gotten into all the sexual harassment and rape allegations that have come from truck driver training. There are not one, but two, cases called Jane Doe v. CRST that allege women drivers get assaulted or raped while training and then the school doesn’t believe them and so bills them from training.
It’s all in the story. Read it here: https://time.com/6144516/truck-driver-training/
If you missed my past trucking stories, here is the one before that: