TDI Forsyth Georgia CDL Training Experience

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∆_Danielsahn_∆'s Comment
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This is a great diary!

I hope to be driving for TMC, as they are my top choice. I will (hopefully) do my training in Gaston, SC. Since it is only about 15 miles from me. Much closer than Des Moines, lol. I will be attending SAGE, in Lexington, SC.

Stay safe

Charlie Mac's Comment
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This is a great diary!

I agree. TDI is my leading choice of school & the more I hear about them ( specifically the instructor/student ratio & excellent yard time) The more I like. Go get 'em!

Farmerbob1's Comment
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Day 10 (was Saturday 02Jan because of Xmas day off)

A good, solid road and yard practice day.

My class (all three of us now) got to drive the actual DOT test course again. Gear shifting is rapid now, and very few mistakes. Empty trailer, ten speed transmissions. On flatt-ish ground, we start in fourth gear. I no longer bother with fifth gear except for really tight turns. Start in fourth, switch to sixth. When upshifting I don't skip other gears, but I get out of the low range ASAP. When downshifting, I generally downshift two gears down each transition. Slow the speed to appropriate, then bring engine up to 1200-1400 RPM in high gear depending on slope. Easy Peasy. Not that I don't still grind a few gears, but I know what I'm doing well enough that shifting gears is no longer distracting me from the road.

Yard time was very productive. I'm starting to get a better feel for rearward off-tracking of the trailer. I don't need to use pre-formulated patterns as much to put the trailer where I want, and can correct on the fly a bit better.

Straight backing, alley backing, both side offset parking, both side parallel parking, all came together quite nicely.

Of all of them, Alley backing is the easiest to screw up, but if I get the setup right, it's really easy to do. Probably the hardest backing maneuver for me is the blind side parallel park, and that's only hard if I get it confused with the driver side parallel park. If I actually think about where the wheels of the truck and trailer are, and how they will move as the tractor moves, it all slides in place.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Farmerbob1's Comment
member avatar

This is a great diary!

I hope to be driving for TMC, as they are my top choice. I will (hopefully) do my training in Gaston, SC. Since it is only about 15 miles from me. Much closer than Des Moines, lol. I will be attending SAGE, in Lexington, SC.

Stay safe

Thanks!

I am struggling to make a choice between Stevens Transport and TMC, with Werner dropping off the scope and Covenant out of the question due to forced team work after training.

Stevens Transport will be the lower paying of the two, but I can also pay more attention to learning the ins and outs of driving as opposed to having to deal with the additional responsibilities of load securement and monitoring.

Still, I have some engineering school and maintenance experience. I know enough about loading, statics and dynamics to make me dangerous. Flatbed loads don't scare me. But I do recognize that dealing with flatbed loads is extra work. That is, after all, why TMC pays better.

I haven't hidden this from the TMC recruiter. I've told him I will make my decision by Friday, but I am leaning towards Steven's Transport for my first year, with an eye towards TMC after that if I decide to stay in the industry.

Still. The money looks like it will be much better with TMC, and I am certain that I will be learning very little about dealing with flatbed loads that I don't already know, or couldn't figure out with a pencil and some math doodling after I learn the industry jargon the flatbed people use.

Farmerbob1's Comment
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double-quotes-start.png

This is a great diary!

double-quotes-end.png

I agree. TDI is my leading choice of school & the more I hear about them ( specifically the instructor/student ratio & excellent yard time) The more I like. Go get 'em!

You probably know this, but TDI has a bunch of schools, that is why I mentioned the Forsyth, GA location specifically. Other schools may be a completely different experience. It does NOT feel as if what I am learning is institutionally designed from a common core (Every state is different in any case.) I'm confident that the Forsyth school put together most of their own classroom study aids. That said, the experience level of the instructors is very good, and there's a good mix of instructor types as well. From young to old, with experience in dump trucks, OTR , and distribution center operations.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Farmerbob1's Comment
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Day 11:

Long Day Today!

Today was our night-driving day.

Arrived at 0700, went on the road with four students. We each got about an hour of drive time in. Returned for lunch.

Returned 1230, and I stuck my nose in the test truck for four hours, writing down the pre-trip without any sort of study guide. I only stumped myself once. I forgot what the front of the trailer was called. Yup, I forgot what the headboard is. I remembered all the suspension parts and everything else on the truck, but forgot the headboard.

At 1630 I went out into the yard and watched to see if anyone was using any tricks I wanted to try to learn. I didn't see anything that leapt out at me so I just watched and tried to analyze where other people's trucks would go, based on the angle of tractor and trailer, and how the tractor steering wheels were turned.

At 1730, we were allowed to go grab lunch while we waited for it to get dark. Then we returned, and all three of us got a solid hour+ of dark driving.

I was rather irritated at my performance. On THREE separate occasions, I somehow managed to fail to switch gear ranges from high to low when I was at a stop. I hadn't made that mistake for two days driving before this. Trying to start on a fairly steep upslope in eighth gear instead of third gear wasn't making the truck happy. I did that three times. The instructor was NOT taking it easy on us. The night course took us through some of the heaviest secondary road traffic we've seen, with lots of light distractions. I would like to say that my three gear-range screw-ups were due to my concern about traffic, hills, and nighttime visibility. In fact, I will say that, and recognize that in the future, when night driving, I need to pay closer attention to my high/low gear selector.

The good thing is that I did not block any intersections or cause any cars to have to slow or stop for me when I messed up, even when I stalled. The instructor was fairly confident I would have lost a decent number of points on the test, but probably would have passed anyway.

Since I passed my permit test on the first day I was allowed to take it, I will be able to take the test this week. I'm hoping for Wednesday, but it may have to be Thursday, I can't remember if the minimum turnaround for permit to full CDL test is 14 or 15 days.

In either case, tomorrow is going to be nose-to-the-grindstone on the pre-trip again. It's the only part of the test that I have a significant chance of failing, only because it's so easy to get distracted and miss a couple things.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.
Farmerbob1's Comment
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Day 12

My classmates and I went out and camped on the test truck again after we got back from the morning drive. We alternated between each other, doing sections of the pre-trip, spotting for each other, pointing out mistakes, advising on missed parts.

My remaining classmates are pretty sharp and aren't overly stubborn, which is a relief. Some of the other students at the school are difficult to work with. We can all talk to one another about the pre-trip and we understand one another. As an experienced industrial maintenance mechanic who has worked on overhead cranes and gearboxes, I have an advantage in knowing names of pieces and parts, and being able to explain how things work, but they learn quickly, and don't need much help except for a little vocabulary and some explanations of mechanics. I'm not the only one doing the helping either. There are a couple pieces of the truck which I had been trying to forget. For some completely strange reason I have a hard time remembering the name of the 'header board' and they help me avoid talking about parts that I do NOT need to mention. That's my biggest problem with the pre-trip - mentioning too much will eat into my available test time.

I thought I was going to test on day 13, tomorrow, but found out that I would test on day 14, Thursday. No biggie. More time to get ready, even though I'm confident I can pass now.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Farmerbob1's Comment
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Day 13:

Ricky, my classmate who was a transplant from an earlier class, passed his CDL test today!

He still has two more days of class to complete, but can start lining up his orientation with the company of his choice now. I think he said he was going with US Express.

I also found out that we weren't given correct information about one of the students in our original class. She did not quit, she had to take care of things outside of school, and has returned. She's been out for two weeks and cannot rejoin our class, but she's been transplanted into the current week 1 class. I'm glad to see her back, she seemed like good people, and I'm glad that having problems with maps didn't keep her from a good job.

So, two reasons to be satisfied with the day. I verified I will be taking the test tomorrow, and will be heading to bed shortly to get a good night's rest.

However, I'm still a bit irritated with myself in straight-line backing. I'm doing it well enough to pass the test, but I'm NOT doing it as well as I did on the first day on the yard. Blind side parallel, blind side offset, and alley docking are all FAR easier for me than long-distance straight line backing. I'll pass the test, but it's incredibly annoying that I have to go so slowly to back up now, when I didn't before.

Off to bed - need to get good sleep tonight.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.
∆_Danielsahn_∆'s Comment
member avatar

I called the TDI here in SC, which is about 60 min north of me. I sort of wish I hadn't because I have been planning on attending SAGE, which is 15 minutes from me, lol. Both are great schools, So to make my final decision, I am going to contact my top 5 companies, and ask the recruiter which one they would recommend, and why.

Stay safe

Farmerbob1's Comment
member avatar

Day 14:

Roller Coaster Day.

Arrived at TDI.

At 0700, was advised that I would be first in line, 0800 testing. Great!

Got in truck, drove to DMV , arrived 0740.

Put parking brake on in personal vehicle. *snap* Parking brake cable broke. *crap****damnit* Pulled up the slack cable and jammed it into a convenient hole in the bed of the truck to hold it in place. Not a big deal. I _always_ set my parking break when the truck is parked. This is the second parking brake cable I've snapped over the last 18 years I've had the truck. The timing was pretty damn bad though.

I put the truck in gear so it wouldn't roll off, and sat with my kindle trying to distress for a few minutes while I waited for the DMV to open.

DMV opens. I'm the first person in the door. Filled out my papers and handed over DOT card, active DL, and CDL paper permit. They advise me I test at noon, not 0800.

I make sure they have my name right, but do not argue after I verify that. I have a Kindle with me for EXACTLY this reason. Still, this is irritating.

Apparently there is some creative schedule shuffling and I end up being moved up from 1200 to 1000. Great! After a couple hours reading, I'm back on an even keel, not stressed, feeling good about the test.

I go out to the test and am advised to start the Pre-Trip inspection. I, fortunately, did not get full truck. I knew at that point I would have my CDL today.

My pre-trip inspection was for the trailer, the connector system, and the in-cab inspection. I took my time. There were a couple stumbling blocks, and I nearly forgot the landing gear, but recovered when I re-walked the truck at the end of the external inspection.

Then I started the in-cab inspection. Everything was going great. Slow, sure, I took my time, thought about everything, and was knocking it out.

Then I got to the air brake test. I had never done an in-cab inspection in this specific model of tractor before.

Unlike every single other tractor I had done a in-cab inspection on, the secondary air tank on this tractor would simply NOT get to 120 PSI.

1) Our instructors had been very firm that you do NOT start the air brake test before the air pressure was between 120 and 140 PSI

2) One of the failure stories we had been told was about a person who failed because they didn't raise the air pressure in the system to 120 PSI

3) When I first disengaged, air pressure dropped to 80ish PSI. Whoops. The prior student must have failed and the trailer tank was not up to pressure. Fine. Safety Start. Engage tractor brake, release emergency brake. Rev engine to 1000 RPM to build pressure in both the tractor and the trailer tanks.

4) Pressure would NOT build above 110 PSI.

5) Safety Stop truck, put truck in gear. Verify truck is chocked. Walk around truck, listening for air leaks. Check tractor to trailer air lines Glad Hands connections. No evidence of any leakage.

6) Get in truck. Safety Start, out of gear, rev engine to 1000 and keep it there five minutes. No change. Secondary will NOT get above 110 PSI

7) Engage Emergency brake, see if the system will hold air if the trailer is isolated. It will not. 110 PSI is still the maximum. WTF.

8) Disengage Emergency brake. Air pressure does NOT drop, so there isn't a large trailer air system leak.

9) I ask the test administrator if I would fail the test if I determine that the truck is not capable of passing pre-trip inspection. This tester IS the same tester we were warned about, who failed a student for 110 PSI.

10) Tester says, paraphrased. "It's your test. You do what you think is right."

11) Close eyes. Lean back in chair. Think.

12) TDI drivers have been passing this test regularly. I am an experienced mechanic. I have experience dealing with pneumatic systems. The chances of a problem that I can't immediately detect causing a system air pressure drop in a secondary air tank in a day or two is very small.

13) Solution. Either everyone has been fudging their tests, or the 120 PSI number isn't critical to pass and is just a scare tactic, or I just need to pretend that the air pressure is 120 PSI and continue the test. The primary tank is building to 140 PSI and venting nicely. The city horn on the truck is nonfunctional. The voltage readout only worked on two out of four starts. The truck is, honestly, something of a piece of ****.

14) Bite bullet. Despite my training. Despite what I have been told. Based on the SWAG principle and my experience as a maintenance mechanic (steel mill, not vehicular) I pretend the air pressure gets to 120 PSI in the secondary tank and complete the air brake inspection.

15) I pass the in-cab inspection.

16) HOWEVER, I took too long mucking around and trying to actually pass the test 'properly' though, and there is not sufficient time to finish the rest of the test today.

17) I had planned for the possibility of getting whole truck and not finishing the whole test. But that was because of MY wanting to take my time if I got the whole truck test. Not finishing the test today because I spent more than 30 minutes trying to de-**** my tractor to properly test the air brakes based on my training and informal/anecdotal advice of instructors was NOT part of the plan.

Still. I passed the pre-trip. Despite the Charlie Foxtrot.

Then, while driving back to the school, I drive 12 miles the wrong way before I realize it.

BC powder time.

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

DMV:

Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

The state agency that handles everything related to your driver's licences, including testing, issuance, transfers, and revocation.

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