One of my favorite television programs is one called ‘This Old House”. It is one of the original home repair programs and has been on TV for over 37 years. At the beginning of each program, they list the sponsors of the show and one of them is the IBEW, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers. What sticks with me about that sponsor is the part where they say how much training each person has to go through to be a “certified” electrician.
Their apprentice program is 10,000 hours, which they say is equivalent to earning a Master’s Degree. To think it takes a person 12 years to get a high school diploma, 4 years for a Bachelor’s Degree and then almost 2 more for a Masters. I find that number just amazing.
Have you ever thought how long it has taken for you to learn your profession?
Most of us got our driver’s licenses shortly after our 16th birthday. By the time we graduated from high school we had a couple of years of experience behind the wheel. Over the next 4 years, (the time it would take to earn a Bachelor’s Degree for some), many of us would have time behind the wheel of many different types of vehicles. That clunker we drove in high school may have led to a nice little muscle car. When a job flipping hamburgers ended and we found a job driving a straight truck delivering mattresses, we felt we were moving up. The job requirements were a C license and a strong back. (Who knew lifting Mattresses could be so hard?) Some of us even spent time in the military where we got to drive all kinds of interesting equipment; from Humvee’s to a deuce and a half, and even armored personnel carriers.
Then finally we get our Class A CDL. Whether we got it by going to a driving school, through a company’s training program, or just borrowing a friend’s rig, some people would say that we had finally graduated.
But we knew better...
The fact was that we were just at the point where we were starting the Master’s Program. Our next couple of years would be filled with miles of backing challenges, tight turns, and downhill brake training. We experienced many snow days, but not the kind that let you stay home from school. Ours were filled with lessons that we could only learn by driving through them. Burning the midnight oil to be ready for our next test became a common thing. It seemed like nothing we picked up was ready until after 5 PM and they wanted it at 7:00 AM the next morning. Oh, and the pop quizzes that we got to take. You know, the ones where the guy in the Smokey the Bear hat stopped you and wanted to see all of your paperwork. (Telling him "my dog ate it" will not work either.)
But somewhere in those first few years, we found that we had learned things we never thought we would. Things that were not part of any test we had ever taken became second nature. When you told someone that you "drive by the seat of your pants," they had no idea that you meant you can feel what your truck is doing through the feeling in your driver seat. Things that no gauge would be able to tell you. You could tell when wet pavement turned to ice by the amount of spray coming off of your tires and those of others around you. You developed an internal GPS that helps you find places that the people who actually live near them don’t even know exist.
You have been tested day and night.
You have been tested summer, winter, spring, and fall.
You have earned your Master’s Degree.
You have become a PROFESSIONAL TRUCK DRIVER.
Be safe out there.