29 May 2007

Big Truck Driving 101

M-kay, so I was over at my friend George's place, reading a little blurb on driving tips, and it reminded me of earlier days learning to drive the big truck.

My original trainer was someone who had been driving 26 years, old school (good and bad) and very much the "you ain't gonna learn nothin' drivin' around the yard" kinda guy. I learned a lot of old school tricks that have helped (and impressed some folks) along the way. After a few weeks, he had to have surgery, so they put me with another trainer... RJ.

Now, RJ had no business being a trainer, much less driving anything 80,000 pounds. I learned all the shit I should NOT do while driving down the road... yakkin', driving too fast, no radar detector, music up jammin' (not that there ain't a time for jammin', just not in a big truck. He was a moron.

Case in point: RJ braked with his left foot. This is surprisingly common among newer drivers. It's a racecar driver thing, and even though we may say "load it like a boxcar, drive it like a Nascar" we don't mean using the left foot to brake.

Anyhow, RJ and I were coming back in from a 600 mile day. We're on the road that leads to the terminal (about a quarter mile long) and has a 200 foot patch of gravel at the end of it right before you have to turn right, or go into a cornfield that's directly ahead. Anyhow, we (as in all the drivers in the company) used to come tearin-ass down that road, jakes screamin' (coz we were cool like that) and hit that end spot and make the turn too fast. How some of our dumbasses didn't roll those trucks *shaking head* ... but anyhow.

RJ decided I needed to learn how to brake with my left foot (coz it was "easier".) He explained that in between downshifting, I should apply the brake with my left foot, move it back to clutch for the next downshift, etc. He didn't caution me to slow down even moreso than usual (I was new, what the hell did I know?) AND he never wore a seatbelt. (This is so totally part of the story.)

I'm running out of road before the turn, have never used my left foot to brake in my life, and I'm trying to do a million things at once (watch for other trucks pulling out, not run into the cornfield, impress my trainer with my awesome driving skills) yannow. So I press the brake with my left foot... hard. Because I am unused to the amount of pressure that would need to be applied to a brake versus a sticky clutch pedal. heh.

RJ goes flying forward toward the windshield *giggle*. I see this out of the corner of my eye, so to keep him from smackin' himself silly, I press the fuel and send him flying back in his seat *chuckle*, by which time I have to brake hard (with my right foot) because I'm out of road and have to make a serious right-hand turn in gravel. He's hangin' on to the door handle, seriously tryin' not to shit himself... I'm laughin' so fuckin' hard at him I can barely drive... how I didn't lay that truck over is still beyond me.

So we're slowed down, putting along back to the trailer drop lot, I look at him, he looks at me and says, "I think we better save learning how to brake with your left foot for another time."


Ya think? To this day I can see him bouncing back and forth; I still cannot tell that story without bursting out laughing, and I realize how fortunate I am to have had a good trainer for my initial training period. Thanks Ralphie and Captain Crazy for making sure I learned the right stuff... and RJ, you're still a douche-bag.

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