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Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Truck

This is Steven Petrick posting.

I know some of our customers are truck drivers, and drive trucks far larger than the one I have just recently returned to the rental agency, but driving such a vehicle is not something I do normally.

We were fortunate that over time, at least since ADB, Inc. was founded, I have been required to drive such vehicles a few times before. The knowledge gained in those earlier operations is part of what made this operation a success.

I can compare the first time I had to drive such a truck to this iteration. The very first time, with absolutely no prior experience or any training short of driving smaller vehicles, I almost had an accident in the first five feet I drove it (turned too soon and almost ran the side of the truck into an adjacent truck, but spotted that I was about to do so in the driver's side view mirror and stopped in time). When the long haul began, I swore to myself I would not pass anyone for fear of not being able to determine when I would be able to move back into the right-hand lane. And I kept Mike Sparks with me in the cab just so he could watch the right rear of the truck when I needed confirmation. By the time we finished that run I was passing vehicles (amazing what having people going 10 miles per hour below the speed limit can do to motivate you to pass them) with some confidence.

There were some interim iterations where I gained even more skill and confidence over the intervening years before this, even if there were years between each such event, finally, leading to this where I was able to change lanes with literally smooth confidence, had no problems dealing with the fact that I was driving a truck and the operation of the truck required a reduced amount of my total attention that I was able to easily access and respond to radio calls from the lead vehicle, initiate my own conversations, assess road conditions, keep braking distance, and all of this even in heavy rain. I also demonstrated a relatively dainty maneuvering ability, completing a three-point 180 turn in a small space with no additional backing and filling, and maneuvering with ease through at least one area which SVC advised me was "tight." (I actually wondered what he meant, thinking all the while I was moving through it that there would be some narrower or more crowded point as I had what to me seemed to be plenty of room.) I had no problem assessing when and where I needed to begin a turn (while driving forward) to be able to make any corner without running the risk of hitting something (except when I was trying to get parked to pick up Jean's stuff, in which ground guides were required). By the time I had to turn the truck in, I was also able to back with confidence, actually backing the truck into place for its final unloading at Jean's new home with no ground guide despite having to make a 90 degree turn as part of doing so.

Do I think I am an expert truck driver?


But I know I do have a level of skill and comfort doing so. While I will always approach driving such a vehicle with trepidation (it takes a while with the long breaks in between iterations for the previous training to recycle to the front), I know I can do this because I have. And after a day's driving to again become acquainted with the appropriate driving habits I am capable of driving such a vehicle safely. And, yes, allowing braking distance is important as a surprising number of people will pulling into that space as if the truck can stop in the same space as a car, which will require you to back off from them. On more than one occasion I found myself nearly standing on the brakes because of other drivers, but I always had the space to do it in the end, so there were no accidents.