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SAGE Technical Services training diary

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Pete B.'s Comment
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Day 4

Today was spent mostly in the classroom. I admit, I felt a bit of dejection when the instructor played a video right away… it was a copy of a Modern Marvels episode from The History Channel featuring trucks. Yes, it was very interesting, but I couldn’t stop myself from thinking, “How is this going to help me obtain my CDL , or benefit me a year from now, when I’m solo in a truck?” I feel like my time is limited, and I want every minute that I’m in school to somehow serve one of those two purposes. We then covered several chapters in our textbook, “Delmar’s Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver Training,” taking several quizzes afterwards. Again, I found myself thinking, “how is knowing that CDL’s becoming a requirement due to the Commercial Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 1986, or that workhorses that pulled multi passenger carts were the forerunners of buses, or that the Motor Carrier Safety Improvement Act of 1999 established the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration as a separate agency from the DOT is FALSE… going to benefit my truck driving career?” I made my peace with it by deciding that it’s a good thing to know the history of what you’re getting into. And history does intrigue me. With every company I’ve vetted, I’ve been sure to read about the history of the company. And history is powerful knowledge. So in the end, I was happy to have seen the video. Although I would have rather been in a truck, backing into fences and things.

The afternoon was action-packed: we very thoroughly covered the pre-trip inspection process. We were led through a power-point presentation, which was lovely, followed along in our textbooks, received good insight into what the DOT inspectors would be looking for, went outside and observed the full pre-trip inspection process being performed on a tractor trailer, and then went back inside and watched it again in a video. In short, we were given all of the tools necessary to successfully complete the pre-trip for a graded score required for our CDL. No one fails the pre-trip, according to our instructor, but students have been failed on the brakes test (yes, which is part of the pre-trip). That, I don’t get. The brakes test seems to me far less complicated and involved than everything you need to know about pre-tripping the engine, in-cab, and front, sides, and back of the tractor and trailer.

There were several highlights for me in seeing a pre-trip performed on the tractor trailer: 1) seeing the push-rod and slack adjuster for the first time, NOT IN PICTURES, but in real life; 2) observing the lack of space between the 5th wheel and platform; I know, I know, everything I’ve read has said that there should be NO SPACE between them, but seriously, you couldn’t fit a hair between the two. The Incans couldn’t have done a better job with their walls; and 3) watching the trailer air supply valve and then the tractor protection valve or parking brake valve pop out when the air pressure was fanned below 40 psi. It’s one thing to read about it, it’s quite another to see it done in practicum.

We also received training in an endorsement that will NEVER EVER appear on any of our licenses… the Coffee Pot Endorsement. When the pot runs out or is dangerously low, there was a diagram on the board showing how to empty and replace the filter with coffee, and fill the water reservoir, with a reminder even that an EMPTY pot should be placed under the spout, thusly keeping the instructors happy with a constant supply of the black liquid gold. Day 4 is in the books.

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.

Commercial Motor Vehicle:

A commercial motor vehicle is any vehicle used in commerce to transport passengers or property with either:

  • A gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • A gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more which includes a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
  • 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.

    HOS:

    Hours Of Service

    HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

    OWI:

    Operating While Intoxicated

Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

Thank you ChosenOne, and thanks Brett! Couldn't have done it without you. ChosenOne, I feel your pain with the DMV long lines... I was happily surprised that in Montana the DMV experience seemed much shorter than any I'd encountered in Virginia. My wait wasn't as long, but my appointment had also been schedule early. However, by the time I got to test, it was quite loud. In the particular DMV where I tested, the computer stations are located by the front door, so there is constant ambient noise... my CDL school anticipates this so issues earplugs to its students, which of course I forgot to bring with me. Good luck to you!

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.
Lunchbox Jr.'s Comment
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Hey man, thanks for sharing your experiences with SAGE. I'm starting there myself on Monday in Missoula. Too bad you didn't choose there instead of Billings, we could've been in the same class. Oh well, maybe I'll see you on the road sometime.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

G-Town's Comment
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Pete really informative diary thus far. I read your point about the brake test; it's a common failure point for students because it must be done in an exact order, with exact wording, a progression of steps. Forget one seemingly minor step, or execute it out of order, and it's a fail.

Keep up the good work!

Pete B.'s Comment
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I feel that before I delve into Day 5, I need to apologize to my school & instructor for my depiction of Day 4; I spend the better part of a paragraph downplaying the early-morning instruction, and less than one sentence backpedaling and stressing its importance. Being knowledgeable about the history of this industry is important, for several reasons. It instills respect, for the pioneers of this industry and for those still on the road who have been driving for 25-40 years; it lends a greater appreciation to the advancements made in trucking technology and to the infrastructure that allows us to get from Point A to Point B, and provides us with historical lessons and experiences that we can learn from and use to better ourselves, ultimately earning greater profits for ourselves, our families, and companies, of course. I think that those who make time to learn and appreciate the history and traditions of an industry, this industry, will respect it more and find themselves in the upper echelons of this business and their companies. With that said, on to...

Day 5

Entire day spent in the classroom. We covered HAZMAT , Transportation Technology, Compliance-Safety-Accountability (CSA), Driver Health, Safety, & Security, and lastly, Whistleblower Protections for Professional Drivers. All are chapters in the textbook, Delmar's Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver Training. Each chapter began with a powerpoint presentation, which are awesome. We then spent time reading through the chapter in the textbook, and concluded each section with a quiz. I began to ignore the powerpoint presentations and just began reading immediately through the chapters, because even though I love powerpoint, I find it mildly irritating to look at the display on the screen while someone simply reads it back to us. And besides, there are plenty of useful tips and interesting facts in the margins of the text that I probably wouldn't have had time to read if I hadn't gotten a head start. I also became more familiar with the material that way, which led to near-perfect quiz scores. And by the way, it's a private school, we all paid big money to be here, so pretty much everyone is going to pass the quizzes anyway.

With regard to the chapter on Transportation Technology, technology in the trucking industry must be Sponsored by Volvo and Qualcomm , because it seems like those two companies are responsible for 99% of the advances made in the past 10 years. The chapter on Compliance, Safety, & Accountability was a hodgepodge of acronyms...CSA, FMCSA , SMS, CR, CRWG, BASIC, DSMS, PSP, MCMIS, FOIA, COMPASS... were all introduced in this chapter; I needed a cheat-sheet to refer to just to keep up while reading the dang chapter.

The last exercise of the day was quite fun: we were given a 57-question worksheet where we had to familiarize ourselves with by consulting the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations handbook/pocketbook. This green book is the Bible of the trucking industry's safety regulations. Each question was prefaced with the FMCSR code where we could find the correct answer, but sometimes we had to read through the entire code, including all of its letters and roman numerals or subparts, to determine the correct answer. I can't imagine how long it must have taken to compile that handbook. I have new appreciation for Rick S., who always seems to be able to cite codes from this book almost as quickly as someone can post their question on the General Forum.

Looks like all of next week is going to be spent in the classroom, so the diary may lean towards the dry side, but I'll do my best to keep it interesting. I know that Monday we're going to cover Hours of Service; I'm going to have to find a way to entertain myself as I've already spent easily a week studying/reviewing/quizzing on the HOS on my own by engaging in... what else... the best online trucking resource available today... don't make me say it twice... The High Road Training Program's Hours of Service Regulations beginning on p. 92.

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

Qualcomm:

Omnitracs (a.k.a. Qualcomm) is a satellite-based messaging system with built-in GPS capabilities built by Qualcomm. It has a small computer screen and keyboard and is tied into the truck’s computer. It allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver – similar to email.

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

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Pete B.'s Comment
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Lunchbox Jr., thanks for reading! I wonder how closely your curriculum will follow mine? Yeah, it is too bad you didn't choose Billings for your own SAGE experience, now it's going to be really really difficult for me to buy you a beer. I was thinking I might make it to Missoula on a training run, but I don't think our instructors will allow us to drive 5 1/2 hrs. from our training center. Not entirely sure our tractor trailers could make it that far anyway! Do you plan on staying in the area after you get your CDL , or will you be going OTR? Looks like I'm the only one in my class who is going OTR , everyone else seems to be set with local jobs. One guy is getting into the oilfields. I do hope your class isn't as large as mine (8); normal size appears to be 3-4. At any rate, good luck, and I hope you're taking advantage of the online CDL materials available on this site. If you haven't noticed yet, I'm a big fan! A certifiable 'homer.' Not embarrassed about it, either. We'll stay in touch!

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.

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.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

Pete really informative diary thus far. I read your point about the brake test; it's a common failure point for students because it must be done in an exact order, with exact wording, a progression of steps. Forget one seemingly minor step, or execute it out of order, and it's a fail.

G-Town, thanks for the reply. I'm taking it to heart; I won't allow myself to get over-confident with the brakes test.

Lunchbox Jr.'s Comment
member avatar

Hey, Pete. I was thinking about going into OTR most likely. I want to live out of my truck and rake in the miles for a few years and hopefully pay for a house with cash. No need to worry about home time if your home is the truck!

I don't think the class sizes in Missoula are very big because when I visited the class at sign-up, there was only one guy and the teacher in the class room! So that'll be cool having a smaller class size. I think it might be because the competitively priced college class takes most of the students around the area. The main reason I went with Sage instead of the college is I didn't know the college had a program until I signed up! Oh well, I decided to stay with Sage because the college's class is fairly new, and Sage has been doing this for awhile and is a recognizable name in the industry. I'm kind of hoping that helps out somewhat.

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.

Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

Day 6

Today turned out to be much more challenging than I had anticipated. The two chapters we covered in the classroom were 'Hours Of Service' and 'Trip Planning;' while I had spent countless hours studying the HOS chapters found in The High Road Training Program, I had not spent any time 'trip planning.' The text covered all of the reasons for the HOS rules & regulations, as well as the economical & efficiency benefits of proper trip planning, and we then got to put our knowledge to practice by planning trips using a load as it might appear coming through the Qualcomm or whatever instrument is being used to capture new loads. This is where it got really fun.

The scenarios were not all that complicated... each trip we planned exhausted our 70hr week, and a 34hr reset was ordered before we were to begin planning our next load, so we did not have to rely on working with 'recap' hours to make the deliveries on time. Also, the 8/2 split sleeper birth was not covered in the class, so I felt if I had used that rule in my planning, which really wasn't necessary to deliver the hypothetical loads on time, it would have been perceived as 'showing off,' so I stuck to the concepts that the instructor taught to the whole class.

My only real concern with today's lessons was the length of time it took me to pre-plan the trip; in one case I spent close to two hours performing the trip planning. I mentioned my concern to the instructor, that I was afraid I might spend two hours pre-planning a load when I should be driving, but he calmed me down saying that I'll soon learn the routes and that this was my first crack at it, that it'll take a fraction of the time in real life compared to the effort I'm putting into it right now.

The High Road training paid off big time, as I was able to begin my trip planning immediately, while the others were still trying to grasp the concept of spending 10 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth after they had driven for 11 hours (remember, the 8/2 split sleeper berth had not been covered, even though that is an alternative to spending 10 consecutive hours in the sleeper berth). One of the students staying in the same hotel as I asked if I wouldn't mind giving him some help with all of it, so tonight we spent about 2 1/2 hrs. in my room working through the most involved trip we were given, me helping him to understand the concepts found in the Hours Of Service. I was more than happy to help; I feel as though I'm getting these small opportunities to 'pay it forward' in helping others understand what we're being taught, which I'm grateful to do, as I've been fortunate to learn from the experience and wisdom of Brett, the moderators, and everyone else who contributes their time this site.

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.

Sleeper Berth:

The portion of the tractor behind the seats which acts as the "living space" for the driver. It generally contains a bed (or bunk beds), cabinets, lights, temperature control knobs, and 12 volt plugs for power.

Qualcomm:

Omnitracs (a.k.a. Qualcomm) is a satellite-based messaging system with built-in GPS capabilities built by Qualcomm. It has a small computer screen and keyboard and is tied into the truck’s computer. It allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver – similar to email.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Pete...effective trip-planning can save you so much time and aggravation on the back end. May not compute at the moment, but it will.

Many of the routes I take, burned into memory, repetition and practice will over time reduce your trip-planning effort.

Good luck!

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