It's a busy day out on the highway, and while not bumper-to-bumper, it's proving to be hard to position yourself in a place where your tractor and trailer are clear to the left and right. You're constantly lifting your right foot to do your best to keep your seven-second following distance gap in front, but sure enough, the other cars and trucks fill it in as soon as you back off. Things seem pretty stable now, and it's coming up on the top of the hour, and you'd like to hear the latest news.
You check your mirrors and you're happy to see it's clear in the lanes to the left and right. You glance down to your right to tap the correct radio button and as you do, your left hand is on the wheel.
Before you know it, you hear a car horn on your left, and you quickly sit bolt upright as you check your left fender mirror just in time to see that your one-handed grip has pulled the steering wheel down just a little bit, and you've drifted slightly towards the left lane marking. At the same time, a mini-van has changed lanes and is now next to your traction tires. Right next to them!
“Picking the right moment to make non-critical movements not related to driving is the mark of the patient professional.”
In your tall door mirror you can plainly see the wide-open eyes of the lady driving the van, and she's saying something you'd don't think the toddler in the back seat was meant to hear. She's moving back to the left. You correct your drift, and think "Whew, that was close!" You're feeling pretty sheepish as the lady in the minivan passes you and shoots you a look that doesn't mean she's admiring your truck.
Picking the right moment to make non-critical movements not related to driving is the mark of the patient professional. There are times when you think about doing something in your cab and then you just do it without much hesitation; reach for a drink, adjust the ventilation controls or perhaps power up your XM satellite radio.
In the days before we became professional drivers, we likely followed the process of, "Think it, do it!" When driving a vehicle as narrow as most 4-wheelers, there was plenty of room for a bit of drift. Not so with our tractor-trailers. You likely have about 2.5 feet on each side on a standard highway, and that's not a lot of room.
As I've grown in my driving skills, I've evolved my thought process to always ask myself: "Is this what I should be doing now?" It's now more like, "Think it, evaluate it, then, if conditions allow it to be done safely, do it."
Motorists: Think it, do it.
Professional Truck Drivers: Think it, evaluate it, then, if conditions allow it to be done safely, do it.
There have been plenty of times in construction zones or in traffic where I would have loved to change the radio station ("Geez, I've heard that song five times today!") or picked up my bottle of water to take a sip, and I've delayed the action because it just wasn't the right time to do it. Sometimes it just means a 30 second wait.
Let's keep heading towards our mutual goals of being the best professionals out there, and always ask, "Is now the right time to do this?"
I'm a newer driver, a Schneider class of spring 2016 graduate. My previous experience as a magazine editor and writer has allowed me to look at this process with an eye towards helping my fellow newer drivers and those just entering the field by highlighting some of my personal experiences and thoughts on how to become a safe, efficient Schneider driver. I like to call it being a "Patient Professional."
I'll do my best to share not only my thoughts on various but also those suggested by you, the reader. We're surely all in this together, and I wouldn't be at this point if it were not for the patient helping hands extended to me by fellow Schneider team members. Feel free to comment below if you have a thought on a potential subject, or a comment. — Henry Frautschy
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