channel 19

Todd Dills

The yardstick method of driver training

| March 01, 2014
Owner-operator Jimmy Ardis is based in Sumter, S.C.

Owner-operator Jimmy Ardis is based in Sumter, S.C.

Owner-operator Jimmy Ardis is among the most good-humored of folks I’ve met throughout the years writing for Overdrive. As I reported the story of his career a few years back, which told how Ardis lost his left arm at a young age then went on to tenaciously, and personally, lobby the DOT in the 1980s for an exemption for his missing limb, I was struck by how the owner-operator had a knack for making a positive out of what could easily have been cause to go the other route. 


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He can do something of the opposite as well, as evidenced in the video below. I shot this brief story of his after we’d sat and caught up a while at last year’s Great American Trucking Show in Dallas. Here you’ll see a comedic beginning — Ardis tells how his uncle taught him to drive using a yardstick from his spot sitting on the bunk behind him to rap his knuckle whenever he jammed a gear too quickly — to move on to more serious issues.

The vid speaks for itself, though I’ll say Ardis argues for a more thorough mentoring approach to driver training industrywide. Enjoy. 

  • localnet

    I worked up in the North Dakota and Montana oil fields for a few years. One thing I discovered, is that many drivers have never operated anything more than an auto or 9/10 speed transmission… And their shifting habits were terrible, I have never seen a fleet of trucks go through so many 10 speed transmissions in my life! And what they did to the 13 and 18 speeds. I drove an old 15, which was just a 10 with a low side, you told these guys 15 speed, they ran for the hills, but it kept them out of that old truck.

    Pretty sad, we need more yardsticks in the cabs with these trainees, but it is doubtful the “instructor” knows how to shift either…

  • James

    It’s looking like there’s a change to the “automatic’ trucks these days,I don’t know how they hold up in the West,with the steep climbs etc. Used to be the automatics had a pretty high melt-down rate out here. I’m sure part of the drift to automatics is so less qualified or poorly trained “drivers” can be used. I FULLY agree that a Mentor/Apprentice program would turn out a much more capable Driver,and one with a better mind-set for the job. (An added plus is if you train a Driver to run the hardest configuration to drive,they’ll easily be able to drive anything with wheels.) A Mentor program does bring up one or two major drawbacks,in that MOST experienced Drivers will find it hard to have time to do any of the training and “schooling” of an Apprentice. There’s also the problem of the Driver teaching the Apprentice “bad habits” that he/she may have used for years but still aren’t right or safe. I guess there’d have to be a screening process for Mentors. (?)
    Still the best way to learn trucking the right way.

  • JETaratuta

    A great story. Thanks, Todd, for posting it. strives to maintain an open forum for reader opinions. Click here to read our comment policy.