Think once, think twice, think truck

2006 Iveco StralisThere’s some old but wise logic that says it would be a good idea for every car driver to ride a bike for a day, that way they’ll have more respect for those on two wheels when they’re back inside their protective tin boxes.

It’s the same story when talk turns to the motorcycling community. The ‘sorry mate I didn’t see you’ routine will be all too familiar to those on two wheels. Get that inconsiderate, or more likely ignorant, driver on a motorcycle and their view of the world will change for the better in an instant.

And after an unusual but rewarding experience at the wheel of a truck recently, may I suggest a third option for those who are hell bent on raising the collective blood pressure of profession drivers?

A cliché it might be, but there’s a compelling reason why everyone should drive a truck – self preservation. I’ve lost count the number of times I’ve seen car drivers race up the inside of a truck as it negotiates a roundabout or cut in front and jump on the brakes. How it has never ended in tears I will never know.

What I do know is that a greater appreciation for the art of truck driving wouldn’t go amiss with people like that. And after a brief session behind the wheel I’ve got a newfound respect for our Yorkie-munching fellow road users.

And while there’s more automation in the cab of a modern truck these days, there’s still a lot to keep you busy. You still have to steer and stop it, while towing a 40-odd foot trailer does require a certain level of concentration – especially when it comes to corners and reversing.

My particular truck boasted four exterior rear view mirrors and I used every single one of them. Keeping clear of the kerb, checking on the angle of the trailer and ensuring that I skillfully missed the various hazards on the test track were all in a day’s work.

In truth, anyone could drive a truck in a straight line on a test track. The skill comes from judging distances, planning ahead and driving smoothly. Sound familiar? It should do as it’s what we should be doing every day in a car but, sadly, don’t. In a truck these acts are like breathing – essential. And take it from me, jolly hard work.

Although the experience was conducted more with fun in mind, the importance of being more ‘truck aware’ was easy to appreciate the more time you spent on the slalom course or reverse parking. And while the company, 6th Gear Experience (www.6thgearexperience.com), offering the chance to get behind the wheel also offers drives in the latest models from Porsche, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Lamborghini, the truck prompted the biggest smile and generated the most satisfaction.

It’s worth noting that such cars are freely available to drive on track and rent for special occasions but trucks are a different. Buying time behind the wheel on a test track is money well spent. Until you take the appropriate test it’s the only way – you can’t hire one for a birthday treat. And while it’s a fun experience it’s also a sobering one in light of the extra challenges the drivers face. Wouldn’t it be great if, by being more considerate, we could occasionally lighten their workload?

Iain Dooley

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