Teaching the Professional Edge: Instinct

From last week we talked about how to train a new driver in affecting a professional edge: “Instinct” in driving a CMV.

So, how do you teach it [the professional edge]? What can trainers do to make sure that their trainee is learning not only the skills necessary to perform backing and driving maneuvers but the professional edge it takes to become a professional driver. The answer lies in the word, “see”. If we can get the new, rookie driver to start seeing like a professional sees then they will quickly foster the professional edge most CMV drivers take for granted.

This is not easy for most trainers to do. Most of us don’t even know we are doing it when we look all the way into the truck stop for an available space as we’re exiting the interstate. We don’t even realize all the areas we are imagining (the blind-side tail swing) while we are actively looking down the site-line of the trailer as we back into a dock. We don’t actively think about timing out traffic patterns so that we can move into a space and merge correctly with a space cushion around the vehicle during high-volume traffic situations. We do these things with an instinct for what it takes to proactively drive. As trainers, we need to focus on those things to teach the edge that we enjoy naturally. To start the student seeing all the things we naturally see we have to dig deep into an understanding of what we do and why.

In class, the other day, I was standing up and lecturing about speed and space management when I asked a question: “How soon do you think a professional driver starts to look for a place to park when pulling off of the interstate and into a truck stop?” The students had no answer. I asked another instructor (who had been a driver for 35 years before becoming an instructor). He also had no answer. I couldn’t help but think that this revealed a chasm in the training method for this instructor. He was less effective as a trainer because he is such a good “natural” driver. He had forgotten what it takes to develop the edge.

In our program we use video monitoring so that we can trigger events that the student can review (with their trainers) what we expect for them to see (and when) while they are driving. We catch video of a student looking in the left mirror while making a right turn (and in the same video we see the instructor looking at off-tracking in the right mirror) and we start to teach the student that most of what a professional truck driver does is predictive monitoring. We could just tell them, “Right mirror! Right Mirror!” But we want them to see and associate personally with the correct behavior. We know that trouble is going to happen when the vehicle goes around a right turn and we start to look for it… early. We want them to also see themselves getting it right so we will trigger video of that also.

The student gets to own their learning and start to find out the language of learning for themselves. This video monitoring gives students an association that we never were able to give before – They see themselves becoming a truck driver and they start to see what it means to develop the edge.

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