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YATD - Yet Another Training Diary

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John L.'s Comment
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The current discussions with students who are confused or surprised by what they encounter during their CDL training has inspired me to start my own training diary.

I have just completed the first of an 8 week program at Tidewater Community College (TCC) in Portsmouth, Virginia. Before I enrolled at TCC, I searched for and located, every CDL training program in my area. I know that some readers do not have any schools nearby their homes, but I was fortunate to find that there are 4 schools, two private and two affiliated with the state's community college system in the Hampton Roads area. I visited both of the private schools and the community college closest to me. I spoke to instructors and administrators, inspected the campuses and equipment, discussed the curriculum, scope and duration of the training, and compared the cost and added benefits of each program.

It was not difficult for me to see that the TCC program was my best bang for the buck, however I'll save that for another thread if anyone is interested. Nonetheless, because of my investigation I have yet to encounter any surprises, nor do I expect to.

As I said, the TCC program is an 8 week course with day or night classes. Both classes are capped at 25 students and there is only one class group (one day and one night) training at any time. This of course means that you could have to wait up to 2 months to start training if you try to enroll after the cap has been met. It also means that you know exactly how many students will be vying for the instructor's attention during training - one less surprise. There are four instructors for day and 4 for the night. The four most senior instructors all have more than 30 years experience teaching. That is 30 years experience above and beyond their experience as drivers - once more: one less surprise.

The TCC CDL school is on the grounds of the former Suffolk campus of TCC. The building is old, but recently renovated. It is clean and comfortable. The skill range is very large, flat and recently repaved. There are 4 tractors and trailers dedicated to the range and enough room that all 4 are used simultaneously during backing training. Additionally, there are 2 tractors and trailers dedicated to road training and DMV testing. Two instructors are assigned to the skill range while the other 2 are conducting road training. There are also 3 more tractors (one is the school's only day cab) and 4 more trailers that the school owns and maintains to rotate through their little fleet or to use in the event of a breakdown. TCC also has 2 simulators, although they are only used for learning the shift pattern of the Eaton-Fuller 10 speed transmissions, and to learn/practice double clutching.

TCC has a 1 mile, closed road course due to their location on the unused Suffolk campus, plus, the CDL testing facility for DMV is right next door to the campus. So the second road course (off campus) that we will be practicing on is the very same course that we will be testing on - another surprise eliminated!

I actually came out to the school a few times to watch the previous class practicing on the skill range and the road courses. I saw a student in each of the 4 backing range trucks practicing straight line, offset (left and right), and parallel (driver side and conventional) backing. At the same time, the road instructors were picking up students, two at a time, to drive the road course. I never saw a student standing-by or waiting on a truck for more than ten or fifteen minutes at a time.

I'll reply to this thread with an account of my first week's experience. For now I'll close by recommending that you do some comparison shopping before deciding to commit to any training program. Visit the school if you can, but at the very least ask some questions:

Is there a cap on the number of students in each class, and if so, what is that number?

How long is the program, and how often do they start a new class?

How many instructors, classrooms, tractors, trailers, simulators, etc?

Do they have equipment in reserve for use in the event of breakdowns?

What is the student/teacher ratio? How many students in each tractor?

How old is the equipment and how is it maintained?

How large is the backing range and what maneuvers will you learn/practice?

Will you train with the same equipment that you will test with? (This seems to be a recurring problem with some schools.)

Are there any expenses or fees that you will be responsible for? What about food and lodging (if applicable)?

If you find yourself confused or surprised once you start your training it is likely due to a failure to properly research the school or program that you have selected. Of course I may yet eat those words since I'm just finishing the first of an eight week program, but I will report any such events as a reply to this thread.

I think that is about it for the preliminary stuff. I'll review the first week in my next reply.

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.

Day Cab:

A tractor which does not have a sleeper berth attached to it. Normally used for local routes where drivers go home every night.

Double Clutch:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

Double Clutching:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
John L.'s Comment
member avatar

Week 1 at TCC:

On day one there were 21 people on the roster, 22 with one guy who registered the day before. I asked everyone when they registered and found that 3 people registered after the class was capped at 25. So 25 registered, 6 dropped out before day one, and three more registered after the cap.

Only 19 showed up the first day, and four of the 19 arrived late. Everyone in the class is from the local area, commuting daily between their home and the school. TCC requires that we submit our 7 year driving record and DOT physical prior to starting school, so it is unlikely that anyone who showed up on day one will be dropped for either of these reasons. By day two, and for reasons unknown, we were down to just 16 students. Perhaps they were overwhelmed by the amount of information that we received the first 2 days (I'll get to a report on that in a moment), or perhaps there were other issues at hand. Nonetheless we finished the week with 16 students, down from 25 when registration was closed at the end of August.

I want to point out that most everyone in my class has been enrolled for almost 8 weeks prior to day one. Of the 19 who were present on day one, only two of us had studied the manual, taken the tests, and obtained our CDL learner's permit (CLP). Additionally, only three others had even opened the manual to familiarize themselves with the material. So nearly 3/4 of the class received their CDL manual, syllabus, evaluations forms for the skill range and road course, schedule/calendar of events, and handouts for air brakes in the first ten minutes of the first day.

I should probably pause here to report that this class meets Monday through Friday from 7:00 am until 2:30 pm with a half hour break for lunch and several 10 minute breaks throughout the day.

The entire morning was an orientation session. We reviewed the syllabus, learned about the graded evaluations, milestone events, drop-dead dates, and expectations and requirements such as be on-time, show up every day, etc.

After lunch we learned about the air brake system. We saw some slides, read and highlighted the air brake section of the manual (section 5), and had a demonstration of the air brake system on a mock-up in the class room.

For the people who had not taken the initiative to go to DMV and get a copy of the manual or gone online to find websites like Trucking Truth, it was clearly an overwhelming amount of material to learn, and information to take in.

DAY 2:

Three students arrived late again (all 3 were late on day 1). We were told during the previous day's orientation that after day 1, we were only allowed 2 tardies or absences (in any combination) before we are dropped from the program for poor attendance. In the morning we jumped right into our pre-trip inspection. We received several pages of handouts, watched a couple of short videos, saw several slides, and read and highlighted section 11 (Vehicle Inspection) of the manual. After lunch we went out to the parking lot where one of the tractors and trailers had been parked. Our instructor pointed out every component and inspection point and walked us through a complete inspection of both tractor and trailer including the in-cab inspection and the air brake test. Five at a time every student was in the cab to see and participate in the in-cab portion and the brake test.

After the inspection we returned to the classroom and received several handouts about coupling/uncoupling. We discussed the procedures, watched a couple of videos, saw several slides, and read and highlighted chapter 6 (Combination Vehicles) of the manual.

Day 3:

Two students arrived late today (I'm not sure if they were late the day before or not), and one absentee. We get buried in paperwork with handouts for defensive driving, hazard perception, emergency maneuvering, space management, night operations, skid control and recovery, driving in extreme conditions, visual search, communication, and speed management. We see several videos, a seemingly endless number of slides, discuss proper use and adjustment of mirrors, and read and highlight sections 2 & 3 (Driving Safely & Transporting Cargo Safely) of the manual.

We also had a review test (not graded) on air brakes. This was a grueling and tediously long day. I cannot imagine how overwhelmed my classmates who had not spent time studying during the previous two month must have been. Since I was fortunate enough to find this website and study using the High Road Training Program --- Thank you again Brett! --- and had my CLP in hand, this long day was nothing more than a review for me. A good thing to since things are moving at a very fast pace.

TCC let us know when we registered for the program, in an email that we received the week before class started, and every morning so far, about several important milestones and one of the drop-dead dates. Our first milestone is/was Friday of the first week when DMV will be coming to our class to conduct the General Knowledge, Air Brake, and Combination Vehicle test. The next two milestones are Tuesday and Wednesday of the second week when we start coupling/uncoupling (Tuesday) and driving on the skill range (backing) and on the closed course on campus (Wednesday). Since we'll be driving Wednesday we must have our CLP in hand at the start of class that day - our first drop-dead date.

(To Be Continued)

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.

Combination Vehicle:

A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.

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.

BMI:

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat. For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. The BMI's biggest weakness is that it doesn't consider individual factors such as bone or muscle mass. BMI may:

  • Underestimate body fat for older adults or other people with low muscle mass
  • Overestimate body fat for people who are very muscular and physically fit

It's quite common, especially for men, to fall into the "overweight" category if you happen to be stronger than average. If you're pretty strong but in good shape then pay no attention.

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.

CLP:

Commercial Learner's Permit

Before getting their CDL, commercial drivers will receive their commercial learner's permit (CLP) upon passing the written portion of the CDL exam. They will not have to retake the written exam to get their CDL.

John L.'s Comment
member avatar

Continuing with Day 3:

Anyone without their CLP in hand Wednesday morning of the second week will be dropped from the program. That's got to be a lot of pressure if you didn't use the time before the program started to prepare.

That may be part of the reason that on Day 4 there were only 16 students present.

Day 4:

Today we covered Hazardous Materials, Cargo Documentation, Accident Procedures, First Aid, and Fire Fighting. Once again we received handouts, watched several videos, and saw many slides. We also covered Doubles/Triples and Tank Vehicles. We read and highlighted sections 7, 8, and 9 in the CDL manual. Although it did not seem to be a lot of material (At least not to me. But again thanks to Trucking Truth, I was prepared and already passed the tests for HazMat , Double/Triples, and Tankers.), it took a very long time to cover these sections.

Day 5: CLP testing day

In the morning we received handouts for the shift pattern of the 10 speed manual transmission and procedures for double clutching. We received a lecture and demonstration for up-shifting, down-shifting, and double clutching. We watched several videos on shifting and backing. At 9:30 am we had our first graded evaluation: a 25 question practice test for the General Knowledge test. After that, anyone that had their CLP (just me and one other person) was dismissed. The next 2 hours was allotted for review of the General Knowledge test and, if time allowed, Air Brakes and Combination Vehicles. DMV was scheduled to arrive at 12:30 pm (after lunch) to begin testing.

I am confident that most of my classmates will pass all the tests, or at the very least the General Knowledge portion. They will still have Saturday, Monday, and Tuesday to complete all three before Wednesday's deadline. Unfortunately, there are also at least 2 people in my class who I do not expect to see again. I don't believe that they are focused or prepared to pass the exams, but I hope for their sake that I am wrong.

Coming Up Next Week:

Monday: Shifting and double clutching on the simulators

Tuesday: Coupling & Uncoupling

Wednesday through Friday: Skill range (backing) and driving on closed course (campus roads)

(To Be Continued)

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.

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

Combination Vehicle:

A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.

Doubles:

Refers to pulling two trailers at the same time, otherwise known as "pups" or "pup trailers" because they're only about 28 feet long. However there are some states that allow doubles that are each 48 feet in length.

Double Clutch:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

Double Clutching:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

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.

CLP:

Commercial Learner's Permit

Before getting their CDL, commercial drivers will receive their commercial learner's permit (CLP) upon passing the written portion of the CDL exam. They will not have to retake the written exam to get their CDL.

John L.'s Comment
member avatar

Week 2:

Its been an interesting, fun, and exciting week. Our numbers are a bit fewer, but this afternoon our instructors told us that they are pleased with our progress and that we are progressing quickly.

Monday:

All but four members of the class passed their exams on Friday. Two of the 4 need only retake air brakes or combination vehicles while the other two still need to pass general knowledge. We all started the day on the simulators, learning the shift pattern and double clutching. Mid morning the four who needed to retest went back to the classroom for a review with one of the instructors. The rest of us continued practicing on the simulators until we broke for the day at noon. One member of the class left before his first try on the simulator - he has never returned.

Tuesday:

We started the day on the skill range to learn and practice coupling and uncoupling. We also had a review of the pre-trip inspection and a demonstration of straight line backing, offset left and right backing, and driver-side and conventional parallel parking. Two of the 4 students that retested Monday passed their exams. The remaining two must pass today or they will be dropped from the program. Once again, we ended the day at noon.

Wednesday:

This was our first day pre-tripping the trucks and tractors. We broke into five groups with one student in each group conducting the inspection, another recording, and the remaining students observing. Part of our end-of-day routine is to uncouple the trailer, so our pre-trip inspection includes coupling the tractor to the trailer. Once the pre-trips were done (and they took a very long time as you can well imagine) the instructors took the three road course trucks --- each with 2 students in the cab --- out on the closed roads on the campus, about a one mile loop.

The remainder of the class used two of the trucks on the skill range and, after another demonstration of straight line backing, climbed into the trucks (one at a time) to practice the maneuver. When each of us was in the truck for our first attempt, one of the 2 skill range instructors walked with us, while keeping one hand on the mounting bracket for our driver side mirror, and provided moment-by-moment instruction to get us backed into the cones correctly, "One quarter turn left... hold it... back to twelve-o-clock... half turn right... back to center...etc". I found their tone of voice and their hand calmly resting on my mirror bracket very calming and was able to repeat the maneuver several times successfully. I hit no cones and only used one pull-up on 2 separate attempts.

Just before lunch I was called (with another student) for our first outing on the closed road course. He drove us one lap around the course, explaining our maximum gear for the course and our proper gear for all turns (7th and 3rd, respectively). He then took the passenger seat and it was our time to drive. Both of us made three laps around the course (although I did not drive until after lunch), taking off from 3rd gear and up-shifting to 5th gear (at first) and then back down to 3rd. We practiced watching our tandems in the mirror to keep them out of the grass and on the roadway, driving deep enough into the turn to keep from hitting cones that marked the edge of the road, stopping at the stop signs (and not past them), and managing our space and lane keeping in the curves and straightaways.

On my second and third laps, I was instructed to shift through 5th gear, select the high range and continue to shift into 6th and 7th gear. It is amazing just how frightening it was the first time I added fuel to accelerate the tractor to just 10 mph in 5th gear! It seemed as though we were plummeting down the highway at warp speed! Strangely enough, once I shifted into 6th gear and accelerated all the way up to 25 mph and up to 7th gear, everything seemed much calmer. Until I started accelerating again after slowing and downshifting to 3rd gear. Then the terror returned once more, only to again be replaced by the excitement of switching into high range. Overall, a highly entertaining experience.

Thursday and Friday:

Thursday we settled into what will be our regular routine for most of the remaining days and weeks of the program:

Pre-trip inspection, road course, and skill range. This week we are only driving on the closed course and only practicing straight line backing. However, just after lunch on Friday our skill range instructor felt that we were ready for a challenge. He called us all in, and once again demonstrated the offset left/right maneuver and then had us break into two groups where we backed left and right with coaching from the instructors. My first maneuver was to the right and I was instructed to use my free pull-up to finish the backing once the trailer tandems were in the slot. On my offset left, I was able to keep up with the instructions and was able to complete the backing without a pull-up. We ended the day (and the week) just after I completed the offset left backing. I'm sure that I'll be able to master it, but I'm also sure that I'll need some more coaching. Not to mention that confidence is high that I'll forget everything that I learned during those to attempts by Monday morning.

I'm real pleased with my performance during the pre-trip, straight line backing, and road course. I still have a lot of work to build confidence and proficiency on the road course, but it has been getting better with every lap.

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.

Combination Vehicle:

A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Double Clutch:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

Double Clutching:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

John L.'s Comment
member avatar

Just to keep you updated, we are (at the end of week two) down to just 14 students.

There are defiantly some students who are doing better than me, and other who are have a much more difficult time picking up the skills or learning the script for the pre-trip.

I'm quite happy with that. There are some students from whom I can learn from, and others that can learn from me.

(to be continued)

John L.'s Comment
member avatar

Well, I'm definite that I wasn't talking about defiant students.

I'll try to do a better job of proofreading.

John L.'s Comment
member avatar

Week 3 is complete!

Monday morning started with a pre-trip inspection and three laps around the campus roads. My first lap was a bit rough (my take-away from this morning lesson: Don't take weekends off during training for fear of forgetting last weeks lessons!), but I was much better for the next two laps. The rest of the morning was practicing offset left and right backing as well as several straight line backing maneuvers. After lunch we were in the classroom to review the parts of the tractor - their functions, names, and inspection items - in preparation for our midterm exam (and ultimately our DOT test).

Tuesday was very much like Monday, although I started on the skill range and drove the road course just before lunch. In the classroom, after lunch, we covered some items selected from parts 391 and 392 of the FMCSR.

Wednesday and Thursday mornings were very much the same as we practiced our pre-trips, drove our laps on the road course, and practiced our backing maneuvers. In the classroom we had our introduction to HOS and our logbooks. We recorded our previous seven days as off duty and prepared our log sheet for Friday. Beginning Friday we will be recording our classroom time, skill range and campus driving times as on duty, not driving and we will begin driving off campus and logging that time on line three - driving.

Friday I was assigned to pre-trip one of the road trucks, so my day started with a drive off campus. With our instructor at the wheel, and one other student in the cab with me, we drive out the gate and onto real roads with real traffic for the very first time. Our route took us onto the interstate highway for less then a mile where we exited onto the river road.

The river road is fairly straight and mostly two lanes in each direction with a median divider. The speed limit is forty-five MPH (up to 55 MPH for a short stretch) with a good mix of traffic lights and some easy curves. There are several small bridges (which serve as our only hills - since this area is quite flat) along the route. The bridges are just two lanes wide with no dividing median, so we had to negotiate the lane merges and then retake our lane when the divided roadway began again after the bridge. We drove for just under one half hour, about 15 miles, then we pulled into a shopping center where my classmate jumped into the driver's seat to take us back to the campus. I went out about an hour later to take my turn at the wheel driving back to campus after another student drove us out to the shopping center.

My first thirty minutes and 15 miles are in the logbook!

They were not nearly as frightening as I thought they would be. In fact the experience was rather calming compared to driving on the campus roads. That is partly because the campus roads are quite narrow, and in some places the road is only one 8' lane with shrubbery growing into the lane just to add to the adventure. On the skill range we were still practicing our straight line and offset backing maneuvers, but we also had an evaluation. Just three possible grades: unsatisfactory, satisfactory, or very satisfactory. The exercise was three consecutive straight line backing maneuvers and everyone completed them successfully.

Next week we will begin parallel parking, driver's side and conventional, and expand our off campus driving experiences by adding some more interstate highway driving and negotiating one of the many tunnels in the area.

I'm starting (and mind you, just starting) to feel like a driver...

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.

Logbook:

A written or electronic record of a driver's duty status which must be maintained at all times. The driver records the amount of time spent driving, on-duty not driving, in the sleeper berth, or off duty. The enforcement of the Hours Of Service Rules (HOS) are based upon the entries put in a driver's logbook.

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.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Fm:

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

John L.'s Comment
member avatar

Halfway through training! Just four weeks till graduation.

For me things have become quite routine although I fear that may not be true for some of my classmates.

Monday and Tuesday started with pre-trips and backing on the skill range. Each day that we are in the road trucks we've been adding new routes to drive. Some interstate highway, some divided surface roads, some two-lane country roads, and even some narrow curvy driveways to wiggle through. In the afternoon we were in the classroom to cover the electrical system and engine air systems.

Wednesday was all classroom time: In the morning we finally started learning about trip planning and map reading. The afternoon was a student development class (a requirement of the community college), I forgot to mention that we spent last Wednesday afternoon in the computer lab learning how to send and receive email and compose letters, essays, and resumes using the word processor. This afternoon we talked about developing job interview skills and participated in several mock interviews.

I was very underwhelmed by today's lessons. Our morning instructor lost control of the class and spent nearly the entire class time talking about everything except trip planning and map reading. I've learned much more about trip planning here on Trucking Truth than I did this week in school, and we ended up rushing through the map reading lesson so quickly that I doubt that anyone who did not previously know how to read a map, or extract the needed information from the atlas (another skill that I learned hear at TT), will retain any part of the lesson.

The student development class would have been helpful if it covered the topics that have be discussed on this forum: realistic expectations, professional attitude, performance based pay and mileage, orientation aka the audition, and OTR training while sharing a cab with your trainer.

Have I forgotten to say, "Thank you, Brett" and, "Thank you Trucking Truth" today?

Thursday was our last day of classroom instruction. We started, as usual, with our pre-trip inspections and spent the morning on the skill range and in the road trucks. Today was my longest road trip: 35 miles of mostly two-lane country roads; mostly 45 and 55 MPH with only occasional stops or turns. We passed the weigh station, but we were bypassed because they had a long line of truck ahead of the scale.

Friday we started our final new backing maneuver: driver side parallel parking. After completing our pre-trip inspection and practicing straight line, offset left & right, and conventional parallel parking for a couple of hours, we had a brief demonstration and explanation of how to set up and execute the driver side maneuver.

We've had very good instruction and coaching on the skill range. I'm feeling very confident in my ability to back up these big rigs. Although I have hit one or two cones while learning and practicing the events, I've not accumulated enough points on any event to fail. Every time that I get into the cab I feel more confident, and I'm backing the trailer successfully with only occasional mishaps.

Next week will be very short due to the holiday. Monday and Tuesday will be on the skill range and in the road trucks. Wednesday is our last written exam: a 100 question, multiple choice - true/false, exam covering all of the driver's manual, FMCSA handbook, and the various systems (electrical, engine air, lubrication, cooling, and brakes) on the truck and trailer. This may sound scary, but we've already seen 20 of the questions in review exams, and we've had the opportunity to earn up to 15 extra credit points to add to our exam score. It shouldn't be hard at all to get a passing score (C or better) , and the instructors have made it very easy to get an A or B as long as we put in just a bit of effort and pay attention on class and study the materials at home.

The two weeks after Thanksgiving will be our full last weeks of training and will be all skill range and road work. Our final week (beginning December 12th) will be testing at DMV for four days and our graduation ceremony on Friday, December 16th. All three of the schools road trucks will be at the DMV testing site and we will be meeting the examiners there three at a time. The skill range trucks will be available to us so we can continue to practice our backing maneuvers prior to testing.

The end is near.

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.

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.

CSA:

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

FMCSA:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

What Does The FMCSA Do?

  • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
  • Data and Analysis
  • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
  • Research and Technology
  • Safety Assistance
  • Support and Information Sharing

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

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.

Fm:

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.

John L.'s Comment
member avatar

Tomorrow (Wednesday) is the end of week 5 - a short week due to the Thanksgiving holiday. The only thing on the schedule for tomorrow is our final written exam. It is one hundred multiple choice and true/false questions. Yesterday (Monday) and today were full days of practice on the skill range and driving the road courses.

The beginning of each week we are assigned to a different road truck and that always makes Mondays just a bit more interesting. Not only are we starting out hoping that we haven't forgotten the previous weeks skills, but we are also starting the road work in an unfamiliar truck. This week was the worst Monday that I've had so far. I started the day in a new road truck and we were also introduced to a new route. I had previously been able to get back up to speed with my skills rather quickly, but this week I felt like I was transported back to week two of training. Thankfully, I did very well on the skill range on Monday, but that joy was short lived.

Today (Tuesday) I did much better on the road course, although not nearly as well as I was doing Friday of last week, but I had my worst day yet on the skill range! I had no problem with my straight line backing, but struggled with my offset left and right maneuvers. Last week I was spot on for my parallel parking events, but today I'd pass one attempt with a perfect score and then fail spectacularly on the next. I did that the entire day!

I am not looking forward to next Monday. Five days off in the middle of training is a lifetime! Thankfully we'll have all of next week and the beginning of the following week before we start our exams - pre-trip, backing, and road course, for our training certificate. And once we pass those exams, we'll spend the final week (week 8) at DMV testing for our CDL.

Although I don't feel it today due to my struggles on the skill range and my slow start on the road course, I'm reasonably confident that I'll be ready for the final exams and testing at DMV.

I'm not very worried about tomorrow's exam (although I will be spending a few hours reviewing this evening and at least one more hour in the morning before leaving for school): I've been studying and reviewing the material even before classes began - thanks again Brett! - and I'm typically good a testing anyway. Nonetheless, I'll report back tomorrow with... well, a report on the exam...

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

John L.'s Comment
member avatar

Just three weeks until graduation...

Although today is only Wednesday, the week is over due to the Thanksgiving holiday. Right now Monday morning seems a long way off and I hope I'm able to retain most of my driving and backing skills until we start again next week.

Today was the last written assessment, a 100 question exam. Our instructors made it very easy to pass, and with a little effort (and a lot of help from Brett and TT!) I scored an A, missing only three questions and having banked 9 bonus points from previous extra-credit assignments.

My current plan is to wait until the new year to report for orientation at Celadon in Indianapolis. My recruiter will be contacting me next month to let me know if they will be starting orientation on January 2nd, or if I'll have to wait until the 9th.

Although I'm ready to get started as soon as possible, I'm glad that I have the luxury of being able to take my time and enjoy the process.

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone!

Be Safe

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