Advanced Driving Techniques of Professional Drivers

WAVE

There are drivers. And then there are drivers. For some it comes naturally. Others— often brilliant people — are clueless behind the wheel of a vehicle, their minds seem to wander off and be someplace else.

Driving is a Practice

Practice is defined as:

  • : to do something again and again in order to become better at it, customarily, or habitually

  • : to do (something) regularly or constantly as an ordinary part of your life, to perform or work at repeatedly so as to become proficient

  • : to live according to the customs and teachings of (a religion)

Driving is all of these things to the professional driver who works at getting better, on a daily basis, according to ‘customs and teachings.’

Not everyone is cut out to be a good driver. Pundits lament the high levels of driver turnover (usually 100%), but turnover is one way the industry screens its not-so-good from its run-of-the-mill drivers.

The Extraordinary Driver

But what distinguishes the ordinary driver from the extraordinary driver? How does a driver reach the apex of driving?

Personally, in my opinion as a driver trainer, safety advocate and, more recently, my work in loss control, I believe there are a number ways to becoming an expert driver (no matter the size of vehicle), but, paradoxically, no one way. For example, I am a firm believer in training — but I believe that training can be useless if a driver is placed in a rogue safety culture that permits or encourages senseless risk-taking.

Look at a photo of any major crash . . . the names on the side of the vehicles are almost always the same . . . some of the top fleets in the U.S., with some of the most carefully screened and trained drivers in the history of surface transportation.

Professional drivers go beyond training, and even beyond experience. Professional drivers employ advanced driving techniques. The word advanced here does not mean complex or complicated. Advanced can mean “ahead in development or progress,” and another one of its nuances is “not yet generally accepted.” The word technique means “a way of carrying out a particular task.”

Here are some Advanced Driving Techniques I see used by professional drivers (in no particular order, and not a comprehensive list) . . .

  • Hypervigilance
  • Early mistake recovery
  • Extreme space cushion management
  • In a hurry, but not a rush
  • Maximal conflict avoidance
  • Mentors/models/leader
  • Relaxed concentration
  • Stay within the limits and bounds
  • 24/7/365 mindset
  • Self-learner/life-long learner
  • They keep score
  • Zero accidents/incidents/cargo loss

Some of the above may be considered more of a trait or the now more popular word “factor,” than perhaps a technique, but these are some of the things I see that contribute to a professional driver’s way of driving.

Researchers say truly autonomous, self-driving vehicles may be decades away. There will be a need for truly professional drivers for years to come. We should not accept anything less than professional drivers.

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Automated Braking Systems

This demo truck is loaded (40 tons) and traveling at 50Km/Hr (31 MPH).

Professionals Know the Limits

Professional truck drivers are concerned about safety, their personal safety and the safety of those around them. They have one goal and only one goal in mind: getting there—safely.

Professional truck drivers are constantly checking their trucks. Every time they stop, they do a quick walk around the truck before hitting the road. They check the tires, the lights, load securement, and, if they are out of view of the truck— the coupling release.

Professional truck drivers are constantly checking the road, their mirrors, the road, their gauges, the road, the mirrors, the road, and so on.

Professional truck drivers are in control of their vehicles 100% of the time. They are extremely careful of vehicle placement in their lanes and in turns, wheel slippage in adverse conditions, and when their body tells them to slow down or even stop.

In short, professional truck drivers know their limits. They know the limits of the equipment they are driving, the road they are driving on, and they know their personal limitations.

X-Ray Vision

One limit is night driving. Night driving brings with it all kinds of special challenges as nighttime glare, vulnerability to sleep or sleep-like states and its associated decreased alertness, limitations of headlights, etc. which contribute to the inability to see nighttime hazards. This is especially a concern in turns or cresting hills, when the vehicle’s headlights are not pointing straight ahead.

headlights on

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ask any experienced EMT or First Responder and they will tell you some of the worst crashes they ever saw have occurred at night. Sometimes the crash involves farm equipment with no lighting, large animals on the road, or “pranks” as leaving large stones, huge tires, or even construction equipment (like a bulldozer) on the roadway for unsuspecting drivers to hit. On a turn or in a dip in the road, at night many hazards are almost impossible for any driver to see. Or, at times, other drivers may fail to see and yield right of way to the truck.

New truck safety technology as in the video above or the Detroit Assurance™ system, in my opinion, will add another layer of protection for the professional truck driver. With the high costs of collisions including downtime, increased regulatory oversight and insurance cost, the new Collision Warning and Braking systems will contribute to safer, efficient operations.

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Disclaimer: Reference to any specific product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, company name or otherwise does not constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the author.