Joan Raby, an OOIDA member from Zephyrhills, Fla., doesn’t believe she got much out of her commercial driver’s license training course. To make matters worse, she said fellow drivers were reluctant to answer her questions when she was starting her truck driving career in 2009.
“I had a pretty rotten training experience,” Raby said. “It was one of those things I suffered through instead of learning. After training, I noticed a trend over the next couple of years that it was very difficult to ask a veteran driver questions on the road. There was a resentment building up between the new drivers and the experienced drivers. For a new driver to try and get help on the CB or at a truck stop was almost impossible.”
Raby said she noticed that many of the new drivers were turning to social media for their questions.
“They were getting treated even worse on social media every time they needed help or had a question,” she said.
Relating to the experiences of the young drivers that followed her, Raby wanted to find a way to connect novice truckers with veteran drivers who were willing to lend their expertise.
That’s when Raby got the idea to create the Facebook group “Ask A Veteran Driver.”
According to a pinned post by her from the group’s inaugural year in 2014, the rules include “no rudeness, profanity or disrespect. … Our site is a safe haven for questions, and new drivers can ask whatever they need. The end result is safer roads for all of us.”
The way Raby explains it is that it’s a return to old-school trucking and the re-creation of a brotherhood within the industry.
“I think the brotherhood is still very strong,” Raby said. “It was just dormant for a while. We started looking for experienced drivers who were willing to help young drivers out, and they were easy to find. All I did was ask. There were many good experienced drivers out there who thought it would make the roads safer if we help them.”
OOIDA Members like Marty Sprague and Arthur Boudreau were quick to join the group. Sprague has been a truck driver for 37 years.
Boudreau, from Garland, Maine, has 28 years of truck driving experience he can lend to the group.
“Before this, I’d see drivers try to ask questions on social media groups, and the majority of the responses were really terrible,” Boudreau said. “I asked to be a part of this, because I knew she wanted it to be 100 percent professional. I could see the avenue she was going for. The new drivers get to learn the old school way, and we get to keep the brotherhood alive. I’ve been helping other drivers for years. This is just another step in the right direction.”
“Ask A Veteran Driver’s” closed Facebook group has more than 3,100 members.
Questions range from asking about open jobs or a mechanical issue to how to drive in the mountains. Other posts have included veterans pleading with young drivers to use their CB radio, so they can be informed about potential road hazards.
Young drivers say they are reaping benefits.
“Being a new driver, Ask A Veteran Driver has helped me make it as far as I have on a couple different levels,” Amanda Hicks, a driver from Alton, Ill., wrote on the group’s Facebook page. “What I love most about AAVD is that it is a safe place to ask questions, and I feel like this group is my trucking family. I know that I will have my questions taken seriously, and I know that I can trust that the people here won’t just be out to set me up for failure.”
The new drivers aren’t the only ones learning.
“We old guys are learning things about the new school trucking that without AAVD, we may have never even known about,” Sprague wrote. “It’s an amazing two-way street.”