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SAGE Technical Services training diary

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Pete B.'s Comment
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G-Town, I could not agree with you more; I just hope I can reduce the time spent trip planning from hours to minutes! I've already gotten much faster at it, just practicing the past two days. We received a practice load to practice pre-planning on, and from the outset it seemed a bit outrageous: drive 2001 miles in 53 hours, NOT using the sleeper. I played the game and pre-planned it, but of course came in 14 hrs past the deadline. While tutoring a student again last night who is not quite getting it, I thought I had a 'genius moment' and had beaten the system, by planning the trip out as a 'team.' I was really happy with myself, thought I had thought out-of-the-box, finishing the trip as a team in 37 hrs, crushing the goal. Nope. Our hypothetical truck wasn't equipped with a sleeper, and our instructor informed me that DOT regs wouldn't allow for the other driver to sleep in the other seat, that it had to be in a sleeper compartment. So there was no way to win; the instructor appreciated my efforts, said I was thinking like a trucker, but in the end my solution was still a no-go. It wasn't an exercise in complete futility; it was still good practice pre-planning, but I would have appreciated the opportunity to have done it successfully! I didn't like it that failure was the only option. Even if it was just practice.

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.

Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

Days 7 & 8

The past two days have both been spent in the classroom, covering chapters in our textbook, Delmar's Tractor-Trailer Truck Driver Training, practicing pre-planning loads, receiving an independent instruction on how to use electronic onboard recording devices, and sitting through presentations by recruiters from two different companies.

In covering chapters in our textbook, we are being shown videos, some on Youtube that are contemporary as well as others that were originally VHS learning videos produced in the 80's that have been copied onto DVD's, as well as some really nice powerpoint presentations that augment the learning. We then complete several quizzes on the material covered in the chapters, and move on. I did not see the point of the presentation by a gentleman this afternoon on using the 'electronic onboard recording devices,' or EOBR or elogs , as it is not likely that the company I work for will be using the exact same device; I know that the company that hires me will include training on their EOBR system in orientation or while I am training with the driver trainer. I kept one eye on his 'presentation' while I continued my practice trip planning. The best part about his spiel was when he quit talking about whatever EOBR device he was there to talk about and instead shared stories and advice learned from his 25 years of experience driving a truck.

The recruiters could not have been more different. The first pair represented a local food delivery service, similar to Sysco... the young man was their transportation manager, in charge of the drivers, and his accomplice was a young lady who was the company recruiter. He inexplicably spoke 95% of the time... and he was not very polished. When they were finished, I didn't see why anyone would want to go work for their company. It was local work, and 100% driver unload. He did not make it sound appealing at all, and was unclear as to how long it would take after starting to move up to a full-time driver position. The second company recruiter represented Werner, and clearly brought his "A" game. There were students who had previously expressed zero interest in going OTR asking questions and re-thinking their plans of finding local jobs. I have been forthright about my desire to drive tankers for Schneider, but found out more about Werner today than I had learned on my own. Our instructor even admitted that he had to leave the room because the recruiter's pitch was making him wistful about returning to OTR. This evening I have composed a list of questions for the folks at Schneider, and will see how their answers compare to the benefits Werner is offering.

Probably the most appealing aspect of driving for Werner is that they are not concerned that I don't have a 'home address' near one of their facilities; they allow their new-hires to list the assigned terminal as the home address. I can select any terminal in the country of my choosing, and they will get me there, on their dime. In order to work for Schneider, as well as many other companies I have applied to, I first need to provide a home address near their terminal before they will consider me. And to do that, I need to get myself there, an expense I will be responsible for. That in itself is not a deal-breaker, but I just like that a company (Werner) is doing whatever is necessary to get you into their company, whereas with Schneider and many other companies, I feel like I am begging them to go work for them.

I realize my diary contains much more than just the specifics of what we cover on a day-to-day basis, but I feel my thought process throughout this experience should be shared as well, as it's all part of the show. If you're still with me, thanks for reading, see you tomorrow. And drive safe.

EOBR:

Electronic Onboard Recorder

Electronic Logbook

A device which records the amount of time a vehicle has been driven. If the vehicle is not being driven, the operator will manually input whether or not he/she is on duty or not.

Elog:

Electronic Onboard Recorder

Electronic Logbook

A device which records the amount of time a vehicle has been driven. If the vehicle is not being driven, the operator will manually input whether or not he/she is on duty or not.

Elogs:

Electronic Onboard Recorder

Electronic Logbook

A device which records the amount of time a vehicle has been driven. If the vehicle is not being driven, the operator will manually input whether or not he/she is on duty or not.

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.

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.

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.

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

Days 9 & 10

Classroom training: almost over, thank heavens! I'm not going to bore you with the details of each chapter we covered; I'll just say there are 36 chapters in our textbook, and by the end of Sunday's session we'll have finished the book. The format has been pretty much the same: watch a video or two related to chapter-specific material, view an amazing powerpoint presentation summarizing the key points of the chapter, answer the quiz at the end of each chapter, than complete a separate quiz handed out by the instructor. All quizzes have and promise to be open-book. We grade our own quizzes, then hand them in so that the instructor may record our scores. What I don't understand is why I'm seeing papers turned in with "-2," or "-4," even "-5..." we grade our own quizzes, we used PENCILS THAT HAVE ERASERS to take the quizzes, so everyone should be getting 100's, right??

The videos are pretty dated, but the information is still very relevant. While great changes have been made in truck technology, the principles of driving and safety remain the same today as existed 30 years ago. We ended our classroom session early today, allowing us about an hour-and-a-half to go out to the trucks that weren't being driven to practice our pre-trip inspection. Next week I'll be on the driving range for three days, with three days unscheduled; those three unscheduled days means I'll be at the school practicing my trip-trip on parked trucks.

Monday I'm finally getting into a truck; I have been looking very forward to that for a long time now. Instead of reading about and watching videos on shifting, I'm going to actually do it. I'm very excited. I will also get to begin backing; all of the tips and advice I've been reading about backing I'll finally get to put to use. Small movements of the wheel. Turn towards the trailer. Monday can't get here soon enough.

I've been staying in this hotel now for nearly two weeks, and finally last night opened the directory to see what was in it. I found pages of ads in the rear, including one for a sharp-looking shop that made and sold custom cowboy hats, Rand Hats. Never having owned a real cowboy hat, and wanting something eventually that will be waterproof as well as keep the sun off my bald head, AND living in Montana for almost five weeks, I thought I'd look into a cowboy hat. I found one on their website that I really liked, but needed to contact them as prices were excluded from their online catalog. I received a reply today and, YIKES, it seems I won't be getting a real cowboy hat after all. I'm sure they're a good investment, quality is superb (beaver pelt/fur), but it's just very hard for me to justify spending close to $800 for a hat. And they don't recommend wearing them in the dead of summer, as they are hand-made using fur; the lady who responded to me admitted that even they wear straw in the summer!

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.

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

Days 11 & 12

We came in over the weekend for the last two days of classroom, which I don't think is normally done, but due to the size of our class (8) they needed to wrap up our classroom requirements so they could begin our driving rotation. Looking ahead to next week, I'll take a turn in a truck tomorrow (Monday), Friday, and Saturday. Needless to say, I'm happy to be done with the classroom. Don't get me wrong, I mean, I love powerpoint presentations, but I'm anxious to put to practice what I've been reading about and watching on a tv. Yesterday I actually moved a tractor trailer, while coupling and uncoupling the tractor to the trailer, and performing the air brakes test, and for a few brief moments realized how BIG those things really are. After class I went to the Wal*Marts with another student, and watched a guy drive his custom tractor through the parking lot like it was a sports car, maneuvering through the parking lot and to the front of the store where a promotional trailer was parked, and thought, "man, I am light years away from that!"

The format of the classroom yesterday and today was the same as it has been: videos, really awesome powerpoint, two quizzes. Yesterday we broke early for lunch, sat through one class afterwards, then spent the rest of the afternoon practicing our pre-trip on the trucks. Today was even shorter; we finished up before noon, and due to a nice wintry mix of snow and rain, called it a day. I was happy for the short day, as I had several weeks' worth of laundry to do. I did my shopping yesterday at Wally World, so I'm hoping this afternoon there's a ballgame on the picture box.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Day 13/Monday, beginning of 3rd week

Well, today marked the day I had been anticipating the most since Day 1 of CDL school, so it pains me to write today's update. In my own estimation, I performed horribly today. My instructor seemed a little surprised when he learned I had never spent any time in the seat of a truck, save for a coupling/uncoupling exercise, and had never backed anything other than a car or straight truck, nothing with a trailer. That's what school is for, right? To learn those sorts of things; so outside to the range we went.

I spent the majority of the time trying to unlearn everything I knew about driving a stick-shift, something I've been doing for over 30 years in a four wheeler. Probably the concept I'm finding hardest to grasp is how little the clutch needs to be activated to change gears, particularly when downshifting. And, according do my instructor today, downshifting is easier than upshifting. Repeatedly I kept pushing the clutch in, way too far. As experienced drivers know, that doesn't allow you to shift quickly and just slows the truck down and below the target RPMs. That was driving forward.

Backing up proved to be even more challenging for me. I picked up straight-line backing fairly quickly, thank goodness. Made very small movements with the steering wheel, something I'd learned from advice gleaned from this site. The off-set backing? Well, I know basics, such as turning the wheel opposite the direction you want the trailer to go, but I just wasn't able to figure out how the trailer is going to react to the movements I was making with the steering wheel. Swinging the trailer back in front of the trailer. Fuhgeddaboudit. I did complete it several times, but not on my own. If the instructor had stepped out and left me to my own devices, I'd probably still be out there, making my 10,000th pull-up.

At this point this entry seems pretty negative, but I'm already doing what I can outside of the truck to make my next session go more favorably. Using my carry-on luggage, I pulled out the telescoping handle, positioned it behind me with my arm extended straight out backwards, my hand gripping the handle, acting as the 5th wheel. And I backed my little suitcase all around my room trying to better understand the tractor-to-trailer relationship. It helps, a little bit. While walking I'm stopping and tapping the ground quickly twice with my left leg while slapping my right leg/side in unison with my right hand, trying to learn or teach my muscles a quicker rhythm that I'll use when shifting. My goal is that when I have my next session on the range, which isn't until Friday, I'm going to surprise my instructor with the biggest improvements he's seen.

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.

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.
G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Pete...no worries. Everyone experiences the exact same thing. Everyone!

I can write 1000 words on how to back, but it won't help. Like trying to put toothpaste back in the tube, amazingly frustrations and unnatural. Beyond what is obvious, persistence and repetition are the only things that will get it done.

Same with shifting. Pushing the clutch in too far will engage the clutch brake, thus fouling your shift. No more than an inch. Again not what we were taught shifting Dad's Chevy...

Try not to be so hard on yourself. We have all been exactly where you are right now. You'll be fine...

Han Solo Cup's Comment
member avatar

Pete, keep your head up. Like you said, learning is why you're there. You can't be the only student in their history to ever have this issue. And you're probably way harder on yourself than your instructor. I know it's tough but remember to take a breath and repeat yourself: you're learning, you're not the first and won't be the last, and they're not going to let you fail. They gain nothing by throwing their hands up and tossing you to the wolves. It's in their best interest to help you be successful.

It's interesting you mentioned the shifting as I just asked in another thread how it was similar (or not) to car shifting. Your answer and G-Town's help. So it's similar in that I need to shift and I get the mind-muscle connection but it's much abbreviated compared to my car.

And, if none of my "remember the positive" crap sticks, think about all you've already accomplished here. Would you have ever thought any of that would be possible? Probably not. If you can make it past all those tests, etc, then surely you can figure this backing out and dominate it too.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Ed T.'s Comment
member avatar

Hey Pete am also in my third week at Sage, am glad u been very thorough, can u please post the steps they gave u on the study guide for the different maneuvers ( alley dock, parallels & offset) to compare it to ours, i wanna know if it differ from truck to truck or school to school, thanks & good luck!.

Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

G-Town and HSC, thank you very much for your words of encouragement. They are much appreciated. I know I can be my own worst critic. My wife appeared to be a little irritated with me for how hard I was being on myself. I studied pre-trip all morning, then was back out at the driving range, watching other drivers' backing, observing how their wheels were turning and how the trailer was reacting. It seems I am not alone in my struggles. I learned from one of the instructors that my next session, Friday, will be spent mostly backing. Four hours to learn off-set and 90-degree. I'll get it; I just need practice.

Hey Pete am also in my third week at Sage, am glad u been very thorough, can u please post the steps they gave u on the study guide for the different maneuvers ( alley dock, parallels & offset) to compare it to ours, i wanna know if it differ from truck to truck or school to school, thanks & good luck!.

Ed, we were not given a study guide for any maneuvers. The materials we were given and could keep consist of the FMCSA regulations handbook, the Montana Commercial Driver License Manual, and some stapled papers re: troubleshooting issues with a truck: symptoms, probable causes, and fixes. Nothing to do with driving maneuvers. Which school are you in?

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.
Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

End of Week 3

G-Town and Hans Solo Cup, thanks again for your support earlier in the week; it helped calm me down quite a bit. With regard to the backing maneuvers, I spent the week visualizing what the trailer is going to do when I turn the wheel, as well as studying the pre-trip inspection. By Friday morning my confidence was back, and I'm happy... no, elated, to report that I nailed the two off-set backing maneuvers, right-to-left and left-to-right, right off the bat. The remaining 3 1/2 hours I spent practicing my 90-degree backing, which I got before my session had expired. This morning (Saturday) I was back out on the range, started with the off-sets as a warm-up, then continued practicing the 90. My goal is to perform the 90-degree backing with 3 pull-ups... I did two with two pull-ups, two with three, and the others using four or more. Our range is large enough that we have two sets of cones we are practicing with, so two trucks can perform backing maneuvers simultaneously, without running into each other. The DOT examiner tests on only one set of cones, the set I haven't been using. I almost separated my shoulder patting myself on the back at the end of this morning's session, when, after engaging the other set of cones for my first time, the set the DOT examiner tests on, I did my 90 with only two pull-ups. I feel I'm in a really good place now; I have four four-hour sessions scheduled next week, Tue-Wed-Thur-Fri... Tuesday & Wednesday it looks like I'll be going out on the road for the first time, then Thursday & Friday it's back on the range. Saturday one student is scheduled to come in for a make-up class, so I asked the instructor if it would be alright if I showed up and drove on the range, since the school was going to be open anyway. He said 'sure, no problem.' I don't know that I'll necessarily need the extra practice, but it certainly can't hurt.

Prior to tonight, I hadn't added any entries into this diary, as there really wasn't anything to report. I spent the week studying for the pre-trip inspection , as well as watching others practice backing on the driving range as well as visualizing the backing maneuvers. My classroom time had ended, and when we're not scheduled to be driving, our time is left to us to do with as we please. For me it's rather simple: I'm here for one purpose and one purpose only... to get my CDL. So when I'm not driving I'm studying my pre-trip, either by myself or partnering up with a buddy, and/or observing others on the range, watching and learning from their backing maneuvers. I'd say it's worked out pretty well; I'm confident in my ability to back that rig up, and could pass the pre-trip tomorrow, if need be. And I still have at least eight hours remaining to continue honing my backing skills, as well as a week + a weekend to continue reviewing the pre-trip.

We have four tractor trailer combinations available from which to choose when we drive; I think I surprised the instructors yesterday when I asked for the 53' trailer, as my previous experience (Monday) hadn't gone so well. "Trial by fire," one of them said. I figured if I was going to learn how to back that thing up, I might as well learn it on the longest tractor trailer we have. If I can figure it out on that one, then the others won't be a big deal, and the 53' is the standard size anyway. This morning I got to the school 30 mins early to make sure I could get back into the tractor pulling the 53' trailer. The other combinations in our training fleet are a belly-dump trailer, which I'm not sure of the length, but it is much shorter, and two 48' trailers.

Tomorrow is Easter and I am over 3800 miles from home and without a car... my big plans for the day are to go for a long walk, end up at a coffee shop where I can enjoy a nice cappuccino while reviewing my pre-trip inspection notes, and laundry. My wife reminded me that beginning Monday I'll be able to score some nicely-discounted Easter candy. Cadbury Eggs for 25¢!! Yes, I am that guy who scours the pharmacies and the Wal*Marts looking for the 75% discounts on holiday candy after they've passed!

Pre-trip Inspection:

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

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

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

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

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

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

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

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

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.

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