Friday, December 12, 2014

The newbie driver survey that wasn’t

Transport Topics recently reported that 51 percent of truck driving school graduates are white, 28 percent are African American, 12 percent are Hispanic, and 8 percent are women.

But that’s not the whole story. According to little-known but spunky research firm TGC (Two Guys with Clipboards), there’s a lot more to know about the latest crop of newly minted drivers.

For example, 23 percent graduated with honors, 72 percent graduated with a “C” average, and 5 percent hit the road without knowing which side to drive on. All found employment. However, 1 percent of the latter group drove off to pick up loads and were never heard from again.

TGC reports that a majority of the newbies prefer manual automatic transmissions to manulated manual transmissions, or even hybrid automated manual automacular transmissions. While 10 percent said they mastered a traditional 12-speed manual transmission, it turned out that most had actually trained with a walking stick in a bucket of spackle. All found employment.

TGC’s multiple-choice questionnaire asked why respondents had entered truck driving school. Forty percent selected “want to see the country.” Thirty percent picked “to get rich.” Twenty percent chose “to get away from wife/husband/in-laws.” Seven percent selected “other” and wrote “is that what this is?” Meanwhile, 3 percent entered an enigmatic smiley face.

Asked what they intended to bring along on their trips, 60 percent said they would bring a smartphone; 35 percent said fingernail clippers and tweezers. The remaining answers included nunchucks, Mace, Google Glass, emerald relish, a Monster Jam sheet set, 3D glasses, a bottle of Lysol, a change of clothes, a watch, a dog, a gerbil, a chain saw, and incredibly on each of two separate questionnaires, a tuba.

According to TGC, 20 percent of newbies do not use maps, 29 percent cannot read maps, and 10 percent cannot pronounce maps. However, 90 percent of newbies use GPS navigation at least part of the time. Of this group, 75 percent use truck-specific routing and 24 percent use cheaper car-oriented products. The remaining 1 percent have yet to arrive at their first pick-up destination and responded to this survey through the United States Forest Service.

Not surprisingly, that group had few opinions to offer about truck stops. Among those who did have opinions, 50 percent rated the restaurant their favorite part of a truck stop. Thirty percent preferred the showers while 20 percent voted for the game room. However, a small number of that group were surprised to see the highway racing games showed footage taken from their own trucks.

Despite that, virtually all the newbies said the company-installed cameras did not record them in the sleeper off duty -- except for one woman driver whose dispatcher asked where she had gotten “those cute Dale Jr. jammies?”

Finally, TGC reported that only 30 percent of the newbies completed the questionnaires. The rest quit and went home.