SAGE Technical Services Training Diary

Topic 18893 | Page 1

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Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

Firstly, if you are reading this first entry in my diary, “Hello and thank you!” I haven’t seen much written about SAGE’s CDL schools, so hopefully this will provide useful information for someone… This initial post will be about why I chose SAGE and other decisions I’ve made while heading into the trucking career/lifestyle (a more aptly named title might be “Doing It The Hard Way”). Secondly, and before I really get started, I’d like to thank Brett for creating this site; it is unparalleled in preparing someone for the trucking lifestyle, from CDL school prep material found in The High Road Training Program to learning what it takes to be successful in this industry. Lastly, a special thanks to Old School; I found his blog, Life As A Road Warrior, from reading through this site, and it has absolutely set the example of the type of trucker I aspire to be. I highly recommend it to anyone who has made the decision to be a truck driver. From his very first post over four years ago he began teaching me trucking lessons as well as life lessons.

I may have approached my decisions backwards: the first decision I spent a great deal of time researching was which school was best for me. My situation of living abroad helped shape my choice of schools. There are several excellent company-sponsored schools that I initially looked at, specifically Jim Palmer’s and Prime’s programs; however, as I had been living outside of the U.S. for 3 1/2 yrs., neither company could consider me, as their insurance carriers require living in the U.S. for at least a year.

Ultimately, the flexibility of selecting which company I wanted to work for swayed me in the direction of a private school, and among private schools, I then looked at which ones seemed to have the best reputations as well as PTDI (Professional Truck Driver Institute) accreditation; my thought process there was that I liked the idea of a national set of standards being developed for all schools, and schools with PTDI accreditation seemed to be held in higher regard than those without. Three months and countless hours of reading and research later, I’m pretty sure I was sucked in by false advertising by the PTDI in that regard. However, sticking to that now-debunked theory, I zeroed in on SAGE Technical Services for my CDL school.

I figured the SAGE school in Billings, MT would give me the additional opportunity to learn how to drive an 18-wheeler on mountainous roads, and I felt I’d be better off learning on steep grades rather than encountering them for the first time on my own; this also turned out to be an idea that seemed smart at the time, but now seems overthought. I’ve since read several training diaries and posts by drivers who, as trainees, spent time conquering climbs and descents while in the company of a trainer.

I can still say with 100% confidence that I remain happy with my choice of schools; I personally appreciate what SAGE has to offer, they have an outstanding reputation among CDL schools, the staff have been really helpful in getting me enrolled while I was out-of-the-country, I was offered and received a sizable grant provided by the government, and remember the feeling of having that first gorilla that leapt onto my back removed once I settled on a school.

... (con't)...

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

EPU:

Electric Auxiliary Power Units

Electric APUs have started gaining acceptance. These electric APUs use battery packs instead of the diesel engine on traditional APUs as a source of power. The APU's battery pack is charged when the truck is in motion. When the truck is idle, the stored energy in the battery pack is then used to power an air conditioner, heater, and other devices

Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

... The second gorilla I carried around on my back for awhile was which company I wanted to drive for. In making this decision I needed to first decide which type of truck I wanted to drive. We all have our reasons for getting into the trucking industry. Some have dreamt about it since childhood, others have followed family tradition, the solitary lifestyle draws others in, it offers a second-, third-, and perhaps fourth-chance opportunity to some with checkered backgrounds, and in my case, I stand to earn a nice living by trading in the traditional lifestyle of working and going home every night for a life on the road. My family has remained in Ecuador while I returned to the U.S. to begin driving, with the goal of providing for our financial future that will see us retired and enjoying life together many years sooner than if we had maintained our previous jobs.

Looking at the various types of trucking jobs available to me, I selected tankers as my preferred choice of truck, as pulling tankers/bulk goods seems to be at the top of the pay scale. As long as I’m here to make money, I’m going to make as much as I can, as quickly as I can. Not having my family here should work out well for me, as ‘home time’ now won’t have any meaning in my life. The best I can hope for is that my new company just sort of forgets about me and leaves me on the road. I’m here to work, so I am going to work. The solitary lifestyle suits me anyway; I’ve been either an ultra runner or cyclist for the past 25 years, both of which have been largely solitary pursuits.

If you’ve familiar with research on which companies hire CDL grads to pull tankers, you’d know that the field pretty much narrows down to Schneider. Schneider, like the school I chose, has a great reputation among trucking companies, is known for its safety practices, and feels like a company I can begin and end my career with. One of the mantras of this website is to stick it out for at least one year with your first company… I’ve never thought much of job-hopping, and would be delighted if I’m able to remain with the same company for the duration of my career. I believe Schneider could be that company.

I mentioned earlier that I may have approached these decisions backwards; I said that because in order for me to get hired by Schneider into one of their tanker divisions, I will have to travel to one of their tanker facilities, as none are located in or near Billings, MT, where I’ll be attending CDL school. Had I held off in my choice of schools, I probably would have attended school closer or near to one of Schneider’s tanker facilities. It simply would have made life much, much easier. Most companies like to hire within a certain radius of a facility or terminal; I thought that since I have no real ‘home’ here, companies would appreciate the fact that I am able to settle near any terminal in the country. This has actually worked against me, as companies want that home address, and want you near one of their hiring terminals.

I am writing candidly about my school and company choices; I do not mean to declare that private CDL schools are better than company-sponsored schools, or that I think my first choice of companies to work for is the best trucking company out there: I am merely explaining my choices, my thought process… yours will be different. If you are considering a school and collecting pre-hire letters, make the decision that best fits your needs. And we all have different needs.

Tomorrow will be my first official day in CDL school, I expect to add another entry tomorrow night. If you’ve lasted this far, thanks for reading, and the future posts should not be this long-winded.

Pete

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.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Pre-hire:

What Exactly Is A Pre-Hire Letter?

Pre-hire letters are acceptance letters from trucking companies to students, or even potential students, to verify placement. The trucking companies are saying in writing that the student, or potential student, appears to meet the company's minimum hiring requirements and is welcome to attend their orientation at the company’s expense once he or she graduates from truck driving school and has their CDL in hand.

We have an excellent article that will help you Understand The Pre-Hire Process.

A Pre-Hire Letter Is Not A Guarantee Of Employment

The people that receive a pre-hire letter are people who meet the company's minimum hiring requirements, but it is not an employment contract. It is an invitation to orientation, and the orientation itself is a prerequisite to employment.

During the orientation you will get a physical, drug screen, and background check done. These and other qualifications must be met before someone in orientation is officially hired.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

EPU:

Electric Auxiliary Power Units

Electric APUs have started gaining acceptance. These electric APUs use battery packs instead of the diesel engine on traditional APUs as a source of power. The APU's battery pack is charged when the truck is in motion. When the truck is idle, the stored energy in the battery pack is then used to power an air conditioner, heater, and other devices

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Pete a couple of things to consider:

It is possible that Schneider may have similar pre-qualifications as Jim Palmer and WilTrans. Before signing any school contract I suggest you get a couple of pre-hire letters in place, as follows:

I also want to caution you on tankers. Not trying to dampen your spirits, but tankers, especially food-grade smooth bore tankers offer an additional level of complexity and risk that we recommend rookie drivers seriously consider before making their decision.

Click this link for additional information: Tanker Surge

Good luck!

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.

Pre-hire:

What Exactly Is A Pre-Hire Letter?

Pre-hire letters are acceptance letters from trucking companies to students, or even potential students, to verify placement. The trucking companies are saying in writing that the student, or potential student, appears to meet the company's minimum hiring requirements and is welcome to attend their orientation at the company’s expense once he or she graduates from truck driving school and has their CDL in hand.

We have an excellent article that will help you Understand The Pre-Hire Process.

A Pre-Hire Letter Is Not A Guarantee Of Employment

The people that receive a pre-hire letter are people who meet the company's minimum hiring requirements, but it is not an employment contract. It is an invitation to orientation, and the orientation itself is a prerequisite to employment.

During the orientation you will get a physical, drug screen, and background check done. These and other qualifications must be met before someone in orientation is officially hired.

Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

G-Town, thanks very much for your advice! I have already received four pre-hire letters (Schneider, KLLM, Werner, & Watkins Shepard)... (Schneider owns Watkins Shepard, so maybe that only counts as three pre-hires)... my only concern with Schneider right now is that I'll have to get myself down to one of their hiring centers for tankers to be considered for a job. Their local recruiter has pledged his help with that. Hopefully he's a solid guy and not blowing smoke where the sun don't shine. They hire locally, but for dry vans. Your remarks about pulling tankers are well-received. I am aware of the opportunities they present, but am so dedicated to this line of work feel that as long as they're hiring and training CDL grads, I'm going to take advantage of that, and actually look forward to practicing what I've been reading and learning about pulling tankers. And besides, this forum needs a driver with that type of experience; there's plenty of reefers, dry vans, and flat-bedders here, I haven't heard too much from the tankers! So you might say, I'm doing it also for Trucking Truth!

smile.gif

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.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.

Pre-hire:

What Exactly Is A Pre-Hire Letter?

Pre-hire letters are acceptance letters from trucking companies to students, or even potential students, to verify placement. The trucking companies are saying in writing that the student, or potential student, appears to meet the company's minimum hiring requirements and is welcome to attend their orientation at the company’s expense once he or she graduates from truck driving school and has their CDL in hand.

We have an excellent article that will help you Understand The Pre-Hire Process.

A Pre-Hire Letter Is Not A Guarantee Of Employment

The people that receive a pre-hire letter are people who meet the company's minimum hiring requirements, but it is not an employment contract. It is an invitation to orientation, and the orientation itself is a prerequisite to employment.

During the orientation you will get a physical, drug screen, and background check done. These and other qualifications must be met before someone in orientation is officially hired.

Pre-hires:

What Exactly Is A Pre-Hire Letter?

Pre-hire letters are acceptance letters from trucking companies to students, or even potential students, to verify placement. The trucking companies are saying in writing that the student, or potential student, appears to meet the company's minimum hiring requirements and is welcome to attend their orientation at the company’s expense once he or she graduates from truck driving school and has their CDL in hand.

We have an excellent article that will help you Understand The Pre-Hire Process.

A Pre-Hire Letter Is Not A Guarantee Of Employment

The people that receive a pre-hire letter are people who meet the company's minimum hiring requirements, but it is not an employment contract. It is an invitation to orientation, and the orientation itself is a prerequisite to employment.

During the orientation you will get a physical, drug screen, and background check done. These and other qualifications must be met before someone in orientation is officially hired.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

Day 1

Orientation occupied the first hour; names, welcome, hello, packet including FMCSR (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations) pocketbook/handbook, a rather thick textbook: Delmar's Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver Training, 4th edition, and some forms to fill out. Next, straight to the computers where the rest of the day was spent taking practice tests for the CDL permits, including every endorsement except 'passenger' and 'school bus.' I left for two hours to get my drug screen and DOT physical. When I returned, it was back to the computer to finish the practice tests.

I think everybody but me had received 'homework' prior to today's first class, to prep them for the CDL written tests. I didn't get it because I was out of the country until 10 days ago. Anyway, a minimum score of 80% is needed to pass the DMV written tests... my lowest score was an 83, and that was because there were only 10 questions on that test, and two of them were on something I'd never heard of, that the converter dollies are equipped with ABS brakes... so I whiffed on those. HOWEVER, because I spent so much time on the High Road Training Program, I passed all of the tests with ease, scoring many 90s, 95s, and 100s. Some of the questions were worded EXACTLY like the questions on the CDL practice tests found here. For anyone considering trucking as a career, I cannot stress enough how important it is to study the High Road and work through the CDL practice tests. You'll be way ahead of the game, and to quote the site founder, Brett Aquila, "Hard work early on in your career preparing for the testing and then your time on the road really pays off in a big way. It's nice to have the written stuff totally under control so you can focus on the next set of challenges." Amen.

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

Day 2

Spent today reviewing pretty much the same information as yesterday, but answering practice test questions on paper instead of on the computer; I think I prefer the paper practice tests, because after completing them, I used them as review or study guides, making plenty of notes in the margins next to questions. The day started earlier, but the class was released earlier; I stayed over an hour after everyone else left answering more review questions on the computer. I take my written tests in the morning for my CDL permit and the tanker and doubles/triples endorsements. The HAZMAT endorsement will be taken later in the course, after fingerprinting and background checks have been performed.

This isn't related to the course, but I decided after eating lunch at Taco John's today that that might be the last time I'm going to eat out while I'm here, and at least the last fast-food meal I'm going to buy. I never eat fast food, but wasn't prepared to eat anything else today. So, after class I walked to the nearest Wally World two miles away, bought a bag of baby spinach & kelp, small whole carrots, broccoli, apples, lunchmeat, cheese, and yogurt. I had already stocked up on bread and bananas on a previous visit. I may as well start eating now the way I want to eat when I'm in my truck. It's definitely much healthier, and cheaper. The class is only a 10 min. walk from my hotel, so at lunch I'll just walk back to my room to eat lunch. When I do get into my truck, I'm sure I'll be hitting Old School up for his smoked pheasant and 19-bean southwestern soup crock-pot recipes.

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

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.

Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

Day 3

Took my five written tests this morning at the DMV: General Knowledge, Combos, Air Brakes, Doubles/Triples, and Tankers... perfect scores on all of them! Didn't answer a single question wrong... the lady looked up from her computer when she pulled up my scores and said, "Wow! Nobody hardly ever does that here!" She made me feel pretty good. I asked her if I was going to get a free donut for that, but sadly, she said no. I owe the outstanding preparation to... wait for it... The High Road Training Program as well as the CDL Practice Tests. The previous two days had been spent mostly reviewing everything I'd already studied and learned, with additional online and hard-copy practice tests provided by my SAGE trucking school filling in the gaps, adding state-specific material. I had to keep my emotions in check however, as the fellow student who drove us to the DMV failed two of his tests. I had spoken so highly of Trucking Truth's great prep material that he asked me for the links to the sites, so of course I was happy to provide them.

I spent the remainder of the morning applying for my HAZMAT endorsement, and TWIC card. Don't know if I'll need the TWIC card, but figure while I'm here, I may as well knock it out. I'd hate to have to refuse a load because I'm not authorized to gain access to a port facility. That only took about an hour, and since the school didn't have anything else planned for the rest of the day, I got off pretty early. That gives me plenty of time to follow up on applications, update the diary, look at the pre-trip (again), go for a short run, then take a short swim followed by a dip in the hot tub before I retire for the evening. May as well enjoy this life while I can, because soon enough I'll be living out of a steel box!

dancing-banana.gif

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

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.

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.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

ChosenOne's Comment
member avatar

Congrats on the testing.

ChosenOne's Comment
member avatar

I am testing for my permit next week, the soonest I could make an appointment. I hate waiting at DMV , the lines are relentless and since I am testing, no electronics allowed, so it would be boring.

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.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

I took care of the photo for ya. Congrats on acing all of those tests! That's amazing. Awesome job!

dancing-dog.gifdancing-dog.gif

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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