After crippling the tractor I was driving, we spent a few hours waiting for the wrecker and a ride back to the transportation facility. The ride and the wrecker showed up at about the same time and we finally got back to “the office.” After lunch we got the only remaining tractor on the lot, the 1993 vintage Kenworth Series 60 we used for straight line backing and first three gear shifting last week. It’s small, the AC in the back isn’t very good and it only has NINE FORWARD GEARS!!! Oh, the shame.
On the good side, it had a better clutch, downshifted with minimal grinding, and had a cleaner steering wheel than the now broken tractor. After having a continual stream of insults and abuse directed at me for messing up our ride, it was decided that since I only got about 90 seconds behind the wheel in the morning, I would be the first to take the wheel and try my hand at driving in traffic. Kraut made his way through the back streets of near suburban Houston this morning. He didn’t seem totally happy with being the guinea pig and seemed a bit tentative, but he didn’t hit anybody and he didn’t break the truck.
I ended up being directed on pretty much the same route and was determined to bounce back strong from my morning misstep. I thought I did. As I said, the new tractor shifted beautifully. I didn’t miss the extra gear whatsoever. Other than getting my butt chewed for not watching the tach and revving the engine to anything more than 1,500 rpm, I think I did a pretty good job. In the opinion of the Limey, I was simply in too much of a hurry. My take was that I was a bit sensitive to getting into the civilians’ way as I rounded corners and otherwise made my way through intersections. I’ll tell you this: I wasn’t nearly as much of a cowboy as Ali. He was flying down every road he encountered.
My problem? It was tough to walk and chew gum at the same time. When I was making my way around corners I was very much attuned to the other vehicles in the vicinity and just didn’t have the bandwidth to also monitor the tachometer. As the other trainees and I discussed in the back of the cab, we all drove our cars and pickups from instinct. We didn’t give the first thought on how we got our vehicle from point A to point B. We just did it. And for the most part, we did it very well. That was not the case with a 60 to 70 foot big rig with a double digit non-synchronized transmission. It takes us a great deal of thought to move the rig forward, much less move it safely through traffic. It’s hard to think of all the things that need thinking about during the first week of big rig driving.
During various training classes I have taken in the past, I learned there are four stages of competence to most any job:
- Unconscious Incompetence (You suck and really don’t know why or how)
- Conscious Incompetence (You still suck but are starting figure out why and how)
- Conscious Competence (You don’t suck anymore but you still have to focus on doing the right things)
- Unconscious Competence (You’re good and everything comes naturally and without effort)
Most of us drive our personal vehicles at Level 4. In this truck driving school we were now traversing our way through Level 2. We were past unconscious incompetence and now, for the most part, knew we were functionally incompetent. BUT, could tell you why. Time will tell how quickly we will progress to Levels 3 and 4.
So we survived another day and are all curious about what kind of rig we will get tomorrow.