Doug Voss is not giving up his day job, and motorists on Arkansas highways can be thankful for that.
Voss is associate professor of logistics and supply chain management at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, and he is also a member of the Arkansas Trucking Association’s board of directors. UCA is introducing a new class this year called Safety & Motor Carrier Policy, and Voss said he realized that he didn’t know a whole lot about the trucking safety he will teach.
Voss decided to sign up for a four-week truck-driving training course at the University of Arkansas Community College at Morrilton. The course offers classroom instruction, written tests and a whole lot of driving big rigs.
Voss successfully completed the program and earned a Class A commercial driver’s license. A Class A CDL makes Voss eligible to drive trailer-pulling tractors on Arkansas highways.
“I have a license to drive a truck; that doesn’t mean you want me driving your truck,” said Voss, laughing. “It’s hard.”
Voss said he was one of three students who took the course, and the instructors knew he was a member of the ATA but treated him as a regular trainee.
“It was something I did because I felt like I needed to do it,” Voss said. “I’m on the [ATA] board, and I have spent half my life teaching this stuff. I didn’t know how to drive a truck and I felt like it was important I learn how to do it.”
Learning it was harder than he thought it would be.
“It takes a lot of skill to do it,” Voss said. “It takes a lot of practice. I don’t know if I ever truly appreciated how large those vehicles are until I had to back one into a hole. It’s very challenging.”
Voss said it was a great learning experience he hopes to be able to pass on to his students at UCA. Many of Voss’ students will go on to work for trucking companies in a variety of management positions — he and they hope, at least — but the knowledge of what an everyday trucker has to do in his or her job can be valuable.
“We’re starting a new class at UCA that is part of our new major,” Voss said. “There are lots of the regulatory stuff that you have to know as a driver that maybe you should know but you don’t have the boots-on-the-ground experience to know if you’re an executive. That’s stuff I got to know.”
Voss said taking the course made him realize that, even as a transportation professor, ATA board member and general expert on transportation issues, he didn’t know a whole lot about an actual truck. That knowledge is important, especially to students who will be going into supervising positions for trucking companies. “My vision of that class is it is going to save lives,” Voss said.
Voss used the example of one of his students who takes a job as a fleet manager. Fleet managers are responsible for maintaining and operating a company’s vehicles, so knowledge of the truck is as important as being a good manager.
“I’ve spent all this time in trucking and had no idea what a lot of these parts were; there are safety aspects to knowing these parts,” Voss said. “This student needs to graduate and know what these parts are and what the basic things that can go wrong with them [are], if for nothing else so he can speak with the driver.”
The course was revealing to Voss, too, about how much respect car drivers should be paying to trucks on the road. We all know how aggravating a slow-moving truck can be on the interstate, but it (and the driver) is still something that has to be respected, Voss said.
“It’s hard to share the road with them,” Voss said. “It takes all of us working together. They’re safe vehicles, but there’s a lot that can go wrong over there. There are some spots a driver just can’t see you.”