Newbies - Tips From the Trainer

Welcome! This is your personal online trainer. I will strive to provide insightful and 100% accurate information regarding questions you have about the first few months in the life of a new driver--from driving tips to industry policies. Get in on the action. Email your questions to me.

You ask a lot of questions about your career change into trucking, so I'll separate them to clarify things.

Q What is your opinion on driving on wet or icy roads and using jake brakes? The book says not to use the jakes in wet or slippery conditions because it's too much braking power and causes skids. When I mentioned it to my instructor, he asked where I heard that! He seemed to believe you can use jakes because you have to do what you need to do to slow down if on a downgrade. However, my friend who works for JB Hunt is afraid to use them in wet or snowy conditions, and will just use a low gear and go real slow. He hauls up to the maximum weights and goes through Utah and Arizona and Southern California and does go through snow at times. It seems to me if you flipped them on suddenly while downhill it could be a problem. What is your knowledge of this? Thank you.


You, the book and your friend are correct. The problem really isn't too much braking power. The problem is unpredictable breaking response. In the old days (before electronic engines) if you had the clutch in and hit the jakes, the engine would die. The same thing would happen if you hit a slick spot. The trucks are a lot better than they used to be and it's not AS dangerous to use the jakes in these conditions, but it is less safe than not using them at all. Anything that could cause the drive line to change speed rapidly (either speeding up or slowing down) could possibly get you into a drive axle skid or, worse, a jackknife before you can respond. It is very important to learn how to go down steep grades with and without a jake or engine brake just for these reasons. I'd just trust the common sense element and follow your instinct.

Q Is my career over? I scraped the front end of a truck in training the first two weeks out trying to set up for backing. Another time I thought I had cleared around the corner and the trailer scraped a little bumper paint off the ali-arc on the driver's side corner while out alone my first two weeks.


No, I really do not think that your career is over because of one little bumper scrape. No one is going to be slapping you on the back and congratulating you on a fine job either! You made a mistake and these things do happen to people. The company you work for is also aware that new people tend to make mistakes. They send you folks out there and kind of hold their breath and hope for the best. This will most certainly get you a warning letter and probably a trip to the safety man at the company terminal somewhere. They will give you a little "stink eye" and ask you to explain in detail exactly what happened and then ask you to put it in writing in a statement and then ask you questions on what you could have done differently to avoid the incident and what you plan on doing in the future to prevent this from happening again. You will lose whatever safety bonus you have going for the quarter (if your company even has them) and you'll be in the doghouse for a little while. Learn from this and keep it in the back of your mind, and just do your best to keep safe and avoid problems and you'll be fine. You already probably beat yourself up for the last week. Now just take a deep breath and relax and get on with learning the trade. Your first and hopefully last "boo-boo" is behind you.

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