January 28, 2022

Trucking 101: Returning to the basics


Reliance Partners’ new series will explore safety and soft skills

In a technology-rich and automated industry, it’s easy to take certain aspects of the job for granted. But what if your GPS loses signal? Would you know how to get to your destination on time? Situations like these are merely bumps in the road if you’ve come prepared.

It’s never too late to learn truck driving basics, which is why Reliance Partners’ Safety Team is gearing up a new series of articles to discuss the skills that every trucker should possess but hasn’t been taught.

“There’s so much technology out there that sometimes going back to the absolute basics is something that’s missed,” said Brian Runnels, Reliance Partners’ vice president of safety.

Adding to its safety and risk management thought leadership, Reliance Partners’ Trucking 101 series will explore such areas as defensive driving, trip planning, vehicle maintenance and communicating with dispatch, among other safety and soft-skill topics.

Runnels noted that a lot of problems stem from truckers being taught for the test, not for the road. But a test can’t prepare you for the many nuances that truck driving entails.

“I think that industry turnover or burnout has a lot to do with people not understanding that this is not just a job, it’s a lifestyle,” Runnels said. “If you don’t know how to work with this lifestyle, you’re probably not going to be very successful.”

Readers can expect new Trucking 101 content throughout the year, featuring commentary by Runnels as well as Robert Kaferle, Reliance Partners’ director of safety. The tag-team duo tackles trucking safety and risk management from a number of angles, with Runnels focusing on driver safety and Kaferle on operations management.

Combined, both Runnels and Kaferle have decades of experience in the trucking industry.

Before joining Reliance Partners to help carriers with driver safety and retention, Runnels logged over 2 million safe driving miles in his career before switching gears as a driver instructor, among other roles.

Kaferle worked extensively in the management side of the industry, with notable roles as nightly and weekend dispatcher for a Texas truckload carrier, ascending to director of its Northeast operations in Pennsylvania before becoming VP of operations for another carrier. Kaferle’s experience led him to Reliance Partners, where his goal has been to help carriers establish top-notch safety programs.

“A lot of carriers that we visit just assume that their drivers already know a lot of things that they should know, so they don’t teach it,” Kaferle said. “In reality, those are the basics needed to build their driving foundation on, but they often don’t receive the right training.”

Both Runnels and Kaferle said they’re excited to share the tips and tricks they’ve learned over the years to help those entering the industry have a better grip on their job and prepare them for situations that are hard to prepare for but will likely encounter.

Runnels compared driver skills to tools in a toolbox. Much like high-tech trucking devices, Craftsman tools are good to have, but if you don’t have a screwdriver, hammer, a pair of pliers and a box of nails, it’s a lot tougher to do your job when technical problems arise — the same goes for learning the driver basics.