By Chad Challacombe
Trucking the one industry the country cannot do without. I wanted to share what I was taught so many years ago by my trainer a long-time trucker and retired Marine Sergeant. I went through truck driving school back in the late 90’s got out and went to work for a company called Dick Simon the company logo was a Skunk and they proudly displayed that on the back of their trailers. I can’t begin to tell you the ribbing that we got on the radios for that. It was all done in fun and if it came from a Swift driver, they got it right back. I got into my first truck shortly after I learned what it was to be a Driver not a Steering Wheel Holder. To me this is part of where the problem lies today. Young drivers are not taught the difference they are not taught how to be a professional Driver. We have student companies concerned about the bottom line and the investors and bonuses. So, the most important part of what they do gets ignored. The wisdom of those drivers that have gone on before them is lost because those in charge of the student companies quite frankly don’t understand that there is a difference. That difference is affecting the safety of the roadways today.
As I mentioned the first company, I drove for was Dick Simon and my trainer was a driver trainer of epic proportions. He was a proud Marine and professional Trucker and one solid individual that you would love to have at your 6. It was a rather unique time and towards the end of an era. I met the trainer a 6-foot-tall fit gentleman with hair that was losing ground to the white from the stresses of the road and having to put up with punks like me that thought they knew it all. I thought that until he reached out his hand and said my name is Tom, but they call me Sarge. He then said you must be my Steering Wheel Holder, Chad. I said that is me little did I realize my name had just become Steering Wheel Holder.
The first thing he told me was congratulations truck driving school taught you how to be a Steering Wheel Holder I will attempt to make you a Driver. I remember crawling up into his truck, passenger side of course. It was clean and organized to a meticulous standard. Every morning an actual bugle alarm went off. First thing was first taking your personal kit to the truck stop and get your teeth brushed and your shave on. Then get some early morning chow and coffee and back to the truck. It was then a quick clean of the inside of the truck and start the pre-trip inspection. When you didn’t do it right you were asked questions and told to start over the patience this man had for dumb young kid like me was amazing to say the least. He guided every thought I had with how this truck works and flowed. How people expect us to get their precious cargo to its destination to keep their business going. That trucking was the most important part of getting people fed and clothed and sheltered and business rolling. He taught me that the first step in that process was to know my truck it’s sounds, it’s vibrations and everything in between.
This giant of a man bestowed on this dumb kid over a 4-week period all those things about trucking that I would need to succeed then he went a step further and taught me about life itself. I would like to point out he said 4 weeks was a record for him. He taught me that I oversaw something that can kill me and lots of other people. He taught me the nobleness there is in trucking. He taught me how to have patience with customers. He didn’t bitch or moan or complain about what he was doing because, he was keenly aware of the importance of his job. They sent him a raw recruit that needed to be taught the importance of becoming a Driver and instilled with professionalism.
I am going to attempt to bestow on you, that knowledge I was given so many years ago. Hopefully it will help bring some change to an industry that quite frankly has fallen apart professionally as of late. I get it Steering Wheel Holders were needed. We as an industry have a responsibility to train up those that chose to take up the calling to be a Steering Wheel Holder into Drivers and maybe even a Trucker if they so choose. I hope through this series it makes it a little clearer that there is a difference between Steering Wheel Holders, Drivers and Truckers. So, grab your morning coffee over the next few days and hopefully enjoy the read.