It was just a routine summer day
My alarm was blaring, telling me to get up and off to work. I routinely got dressed, walked out to the garage and fired up my Harley for the ride to work. Any time I ride to work it makes the start to my day so much better! As I headed west on the interstate I heard something over the radio about changes in the westbound constructions lanes. “New lane configurations” they said. I thought “Great, a new view of things”!
Just as I was about to roll into the new lanes I checked my speed; 60 mph. Ok I thought, that is average for me. The speed limit in this zone is 50 mph, but I thought, no problem for me. I’ve buzzed thru hundreds of construction zones over the years. Just then, that little voice in my head yelled; “HEY DUMMY, SLOW DOWN! Yes you have driven thru plenty of construction zones over your time as a trucker, but these are new changes, new surfaces. You don’t know what to expect. So slow it down to see what is ahead of you”.
Well I did slow down. I learned the new section of freeway. Thirty minutes later I was firing up my semi when the thought hit me. Was it confidence or arrogance that lead me to think I could just head into a new construction area thinking I could handle anything? It has taken me months to figure out how to put these thoughts into words. Would anyone think it is worthwhile reading? Was it confidence or arrogance? I guess it’s a little of both.
I started riding motorcycles in 1976 and I began driving truck in 1977. I have lost track of how many truck miles I have driven. On my bikes I’m sure I have over 125,000 miles. I have almost 40 years of experience on the road. If not for guidance from more experienced drivers and riders, I might have not been this lucky. In 1986 my former employer sent us (truck drivers) for “Decision driving and skid abatement training”. I thought “I’ve been driving for 11 years now. What is there to teach me?” After 8 hours of classroom and driving tests I took my turn on the skid track. My instructor sent me into a jack knife. “Control it” he said. I grabbed the trailer brake and had an “OH SHIT” moment. My trailer came around so fast it sent me spinning! Everything I knew ( or thought I knew) was out of my control. I then removed my hands from the steering wheel and crossed my arms. The bewildered instructor asked: “What are you doing”? I replied, “Kissing my ass goodbye”. Laughing, he said, “Good, now I can teach you”.
Within a hour I could correct anything he threw at me. I went back again in 1988 for a refresher course. Finally, in 1996 I was sent for fleet instructor training. Well of course the last day we got to play on the skid track again. Out of the class of ten I was the only driver to get a complete 360 spin with a semi on the track. My passenger wasn’t thrilled, but as he drove I helped him on the training that he had trouble with. I couldn’t surprise him anymore.
As the years went by I became a Road Captain for my chapter. They told me I had another course to go through. Our chapter required Road Captains to have both Basic and Advanced ASM First Responder training. They also required Experienced Rider Training. My instructor was a former coworker and riding buddy. He told me straight out, “Your not getting a free ride here. You have to prove to us that you have the skills”. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I knew I needed to know what I’m doing, both right and wrong, as well as things I didn’t know to begin with. I never rode the box before and on a large bike. I’m glad to have taken these classes to prepare me for my life on the road. They have made me a more confident driver and rider. As the years have gone by, my training has served me well. I now hope to pass along my tips, tricks and lessons that I have learned over the years to others. I am hoping the skills I teach them will serve them as well as they have served me, but it leads me to the question that is still burning in my mind: Is it confidence or arrogance?
Written by Kevin Carpenter- ASM Instructor
Kevin is a member of Road Guardians. He is a Road Captain & Safety Officer for Milwaukee #1 HOG
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