A Husband And Wife Trucking Journey

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Larry K.'s Comment
member avatar

The Beginning

My wife and I have done a considerable amount of research into the possibility of becoming a husband wife OTR team over the past year. In doing so we have come to greatly appreciate those who chronicled their journey in almost diary like ongoing threads, wether they were solo or team, as reading them has shed a great deal of light on the whole process for us. In keeping with that I thought I would do one of my own in the hopes it may be equally as helpful to future readers. I will continue to add to this thread throughout our training and into our future in the industry. (This will be the first and therefor lengthy as I'm catching up.)

We are in our early forties and for the past seven years have owned our own company. Unfortunately we found ourselves seeking a new career and shutting our doors as of December 31st 2016. As we had seen this coming in advance we had been looking into trucking for quite some time. We've been accustomed for nearly a decade now to being joined at the hip 24hrs a day, both in our working life as well as home life, and actually live aboard a sailboat together, so the concept of life and work within the confines of a truck was not much of a stretch. In late January we began the process of obtaining CDL school financing through a WIOA grant (Workers Innovation and Opportunity Act) here in California. For those who may have questions regarding this process I'd be happy to tell you our experiences or answer any questions you may have. We had already looked into the school we wished to attend and had even begun speaking with recruiters regarding potential employment upon obtaining our CDL's. As the process of obtaining our grant continued throughout the month of February we continued communicating with both the school and recruiters. In early March we were informed of our grant acceptance and began school on March 6th.

CLASSROOM AND PHYSICALS

Upon starting school our first order of business was to begin studying the CDL manual to obtain our CDL permits. Due to needing to obtain and schedule our DOT physicals, and the scheduled yard time for the school, we were given until March 23 to complete the process. Considerably longer than normal, and considerably longer than we had hoped for that matter. On the morning of March 23 we each took and passed our physicals and drug test and received our two year cards. That same afternoon was spent at the DMV where we each took, and passed, our general knowledge, air brake and combination vehicle tests. Unfortunately, the school never informed us that we may be required to take a class C renewal test. I passed all four and received my permit, unfortunately my wife missed one more than was allowed on the class C renewal and had to go home that night and cram for a retake. Needless to say she was not to happy to have been given a completely unexpected test she didn't know to study for. The fact I had passed it didn't help. The next afternoon she went in and passed 100%, receiving her permit as well. -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.

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.

Combination Vehicle:

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

WIOA:

WIOA - Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (aka WIA)

Formerly known as the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), the WIOA was established in 1998 to prepare youth, adults and dislocated workers for entry and reentry into the workforce. WIOA training funds are designed to serve laid-off individuals, older youth and adults who are in need of training to enter or reenter the labor market. A lot of truck drivers get funding for their CDL training through WIOA.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

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

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

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

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

DMV:

Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

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

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Larry K.'s Comment
member avatar

YARD TRAINING

DAY ONE

This past Tuesday, March 28th, we were called by the school and told we were starting the next day. Now a little background is required here. I have done plenty of things outside my normal comfort zone. I worked as a commercial diver in the Gulf of Mexico for a few years, received a pilots license at seventeen, I've driven just about anything that doesn't require a CDL , I've been skydiving, rock climbing, spent years scuba diving, and we routinely captain our 44' sailboat up and down the California coast and even make night passages. I'll pretty much try anything. My wife, on the other hand, has been a homemaker and an instrumental part of our company for the past seven years but has never driven a stick, never backed a trailer and certainly never driven a semi! Day one we were given a basic run through and immediately placed in a 10 speed with a 53' trailer and began straight line backing....alone! All of our training at this school will always be with a 53' trailer. The instructor simply had us alternate from 2nd to reverse as he walked alongside the truck instructing us how to turn the wheel. I was blown away to see my wife accomplishing this as this was WAY outside her comfort zone! She was utterly stunned when the instructor did not get into the truck with her! When it wasn't our turn to drive we practiced the exterior portion of our pre-trip inspections. By the end of the first day we were both successfully managing to perform a straight line back all the way through the cones without the instructor anywhere near us. Having some experience at backing trailers I was able to quickly get to the point of accomplishing it successfully on each pass. My wife still required a pull up here and there but I find her progress far more impressive as she had never done anything even remotely like this!

DAY TWO

The second day we were thrown in the truck and walked through the process of a 90˚ alley dock. As with the day prior the instructor would walk beside us telling us how to turn. Initially we began from a position about 30' out from the cones but were moved into the DMV required distance after we had the basics. Once I had successfully performed this a few times with the instructor I was cut loose to practice. I nailed it the first time and then proceeded to completely pooch it the following three times. I then got out and allowed a 23 year old guy, who is now in his second week, to practice as I watched what he was doing like a hawk. After that I nailed it four times in a row. My wife and I had been separated for this and she was over practicing her pre-trip. Afterward we swapped out and she began her alley docking as I headed for the pre-trip. Occasionally I would get a moment to stop and watch and she was doing it like a pro. Later she told me she actually found the 90˚ alley dock to be easier than the straight line backing. -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.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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.

Larry K.'s Comment
member avatar

DAY THREE (What a day!)

We arrived at the yard early as always and were told by one of the other students we were heading out on the road today. Neither my wife or I could believe it as, after all, it was only our third day! Our instructor arrived, got everyone working on their pre-trip and brake tests, and told me to hop in as we were headed out. Bare in mind that while I've driven stick for years the concept of double clutching and the process of downshifting is completely foreign to me. Thus far our yard maneuvers simply involved 2nd gear and reverse. I also have to admit the most nerve racking concept to this whole adventure has been the idea of driving a semi on tight intercity streets in traffic. Somehow I managed to drive that dang truck for over an hour, first on farm roads, then on the freeway and then right through downtown in heavy morning traffic! Left turns, right turns, through construction...you name it! Missed a few gears here and there but all in all it went relatively smoothly...especially towards the end. Then it was my wife's turn. I was told to tell her it was easy so as not to freak her out. As I said she's never even driven a manual car. He had her start in fourth and she immediately killed it as she never had to accelerate in second or reverse. Then, after a moment of sitting there, off she went. As she drove out of sight I think I was far more nervous for her than she possibly could have been for herself. The instructor took extra time with her and they ended up being gone for about an hour and a half. In the meantime I practiced my pre-trip and tried not to dwell on how unbelievably stressful this had to be for her and just hoped she didn't completely freak. Low and behold though the truck returned with her still at the wheel. She had gone everywhere I had gone and more. She admitted to killing it a few times, some at very inconvenient locations such as right in front of a cop, but she did it! It was then that a young man in his mid-twenties ran up to us wanting to know how she'd done. Turns out he's never driven stick either and was nervous as could be. His final words to us were "I can't even back up yet, I can't believe he's gonna have me drive!". Turned out he just rode along on that one.

So that's it guys. That's where we're at. Tomorrow is Monday, day four, and I'll try to give you an update at the end of the week. Sooner if something particularly interesting happens. So far we're loving this school as it's a trial-by-fire and then they give us all the behind the wheel time we need to practice. Perfect training method for us. I'm blown away by how much we've learned in three short days and especially impressed by how quickly my wife is taking to it. We have a pre-hire from our chosen company so hopefully, with a lot of hard work and a little luck, we'll have plenty to document here as the process roles on.

(Incidentally, I will purposely be withholding the names of our school and the company we eventually hire on with so that nothing I say here has the potential of jeopardizing our careers.)

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.

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.
ChosenOne's Comment
member avatar

Congrats on your permits and finding a school you like. I am adding this as it may help someone else. In California the Class C test and the criteria DMV uses - If you renewed or obtained your Class C license within the previous 365 days, you don't have to take the written test. If you are beyond the 365 days, you are required to take the Class C written test. I am not sure if it is the shortened 18 question test, or the full 36 question test. I will find out tomorrow.

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.

Larry K.'s Comment
member avatar

Hi ChosenOne. Ours was just the 18 question renewal test. Relatively easy however my wife got a few of those famous DMV oddball questions that you have to answer the way the DMV wants rather than with common sense. She easily passed on the second attempt. Something for folks to be aware of though as we had no idea it was required.

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.
Larry K.'s Comment
member avatar

Day 4 (Monday)

Practiced 90˚ alley docking and pre-trip. Learned that the young man who had no experience driving a stick did in fact get a chance to drive last Friday and apparently did so poorly he was booted from the driver seat until he could get more practice in the yard. He took it so hard he hasn't shown up at all this week. I can't understand why people think they should just know something automatically and get so down on themselves. Don't quit! (Especially on your 2nd or 3rd day! At least give yourself a chance to learn.)

On the bright side, my wife was actually encouraged knowing that it was in fact possible to be booted from the drivers seat as she wasn't. Now she realizes she must have done alright for a first timer. (Again, she also has never driven stick or backed a trailer.)

Day 5 (Tuesday)

Practiced reverse lane changes, straight line backing, pre-trip and went out on the roads for the second time. Awesome drive today! 100% improvement over my first drive! Actually felt as though I was just driving the truck and not hyper focused on every little mechanical aspect. Wasn't enough time for my wife to drive so it will be her turn in the morning. She's doing great with all the in-yard maneuvers though!

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Larry K.'s Comment
member avatar

I think it's safe to assume that at some point a potential husband/wife team is going to be very interested in this thread. In the meantime however I'm not sure this level of detail is worthwhile, so if you're following along...let me know!

Days 6-8 (Wednesday - Friday)

We continued with practicing our straight-line backing, offset backing (what I was calling "reverse lane change") and alley docking as well as practicing our pre-trip. To this we added parallel parking to the drivers side and began learning our in-cab inspections. By Wednesday my wife had still not fully mastered the straight-line backing, which was of course effecting all other skills, so she spent the latter part of the week working to master that primarily. By Friday she had it down to science!

I got to ride rear seat on one of my wife's on-the-road outings this week. I'm utterly amazed that the girl who couldn't drive a manual car last week is able to drive a semi this week! She even pulled us into a truck stop to get fuel.

By the way, the young man who disappeared on us after having a rough first drive was called by a fellow student and convinced to return to training. Glad to see him return!

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

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

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Kortney M.'s Comment
member avatar

I'm following!!!!

I think it's safe to assume that at some point a potential husband/wife team is going to be very interested in this thread. In the meantime however I'm not sure this level of detail is worthwhile, so if you're following along...let me know!

Days 6-8 (Wednesday - Friday)

We continued with practicing our straight-line backing, offset backing (what I was calling "reverse lane change") and alley docking as well as practicing our pre-trip. To this we added parallel parking to the drivers side and began learning our in-cab inspections. By Wednesday my wife had still not fully mastered the straight-line backing, which was of course effecting all other skills, so she spent the latter part of the week working to master that primarily. By Friday she had it down to science!

I got to ride rear seat on one of my wife's on-the-road outings this week. I'm utterly amazed that the girl who couldn't drive a manual car last week is able to drive a semi this week! She even pulled us into a truck stop to get fuel.

By the way, the young man who disappeared on us after having a rough first drive was called by a fellow student and convinced to return to training. Glad to see him return!

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

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

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Lynn H.'s Comment
member avatar

I'm in California and interested in the WIOA application process if you have any info on how to qualify and what other hoops. I've been working as an independent contractor for a company for several years but don't make much. Can you qualify due to low income?

WIOA:

WIOA - Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (aka WIA)

Formerly known as the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), the WIOA was established in 1998 to prepare youth, adults and dislocated workers for entry and reentry into the workforce. WIOA training funds are designed to serve laid-off individuals, older youth and adults who are in need of training to enter or reenter the labor market. A lot of truck drivers get funding for their CDL training through WIOA.

Larry K.'s Comment
member avatar

Glad to see some folks are interested! I have an update for the past week but will begin by addressing Lynn's WIOA question.

When my wife and I began researching the possibility of a WIOA grant I honestly thought we didn't have a prayer. I'd read numerous stories about what a nightmare it was and how easily one can be turned down (many from states other than California). My wife and I ran our own company for years and honestly made dang good money, probably more than we can hope for from trucking, and I thought that would be the end of it. Unfortunately, without WIOA we were in a position that paying cash for school would have exhausted the vast majority of our resources and left us in a situation of making one heck of a gamble. As far as income, it seems clear to me that, at least in California, what matters is the income you're currently making now. They don't care what you made in the past or what you have in savings/investments (in fact we were specifically told they didn't want to know), they do however care if you're currently unemployed and what you're qualified to do. In our case we ran our own business for over seven years and had to shut down in December 2016 due to the industry being regulated nearly out of existence. To them the key point was that there was not much for future opportunities within the industry we had experience in. My work history immediately prior to that was commercial diving (diving NOT driving) which has extremely limited opportunities within the state of California. My wife had been a long time homemaker raising three children. These factors combined designated us as "displaced workers", which is exactly who WIOA is designed to help. Worth noting is that nearly every one of the younger people at our school are also attending on WIOA, so if you have not yet established career skills then you are clearly also a prime candidate. The key is to start the process and ASK! In general I believe that issues would really only arise if you possessed experience in a field that currently is in high demand. I'm guessing that if you're currently employed the key would be to stress that you are under-employed and can't make a living without a full blown CDL. Again...ASK! (IMPORTANT NOTE: We were told about two weeks ago by our school that we got really lucky. Apparently WIOA was frozen for a couple months in our county and won't begin giving grants again till July. From what we're told this only applied in our county but it's worth knowing that it can happen.)

So the process: You'll go to your local county career center (typically the place where your unemployment EDD office is). You'll tell them that you're interested in CDL training and inquire about a WIOA grant. (CDL training is a prime educational choice for WIOA). You'll begin with a brief interview with an office assistant type person who will just get your basics. If you appear to be a potential candidate they'll schedule you for an interview in the next few days. The first interview is essentially just someone asking you questions as they electronically fill out the application for you. You'll then be scheduled for a second interview. This individual will be the top-level person who will go over the details of that application. They will then schedule you for the Work Keys Assessment Test. This is a 3.5 hour test which includes math, reading comprehension etc. and is designed to measure your aptitude and ability to be trained. It's important to know that we were told that your score on this test had no effect on wether or not we'd be accepted for WIOA, in fact it seemed rather pointless and I think it's primary purpose was to make sure we'd show up. At that point you'll wait about 3 weeks for processing and, if accepted, you'll start school. After that you'll have a "case worker" of sorts who will check up on you and the school to insure you are showing up for training and fulfilling your end of the bargain.

One last note. We actually identified, and spoke with, the school we wanted to attend FIRST. They pointed us towards the career center and after the whole process we immediately began school at our chosen institution.

Hope that sheds some light on the process for 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.

WIOA:

WIOA - Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (aka WIA)

Formerly known as the Workforce Investment Act (WIA), the WIOA was established in 1998 to prepare youth, adults and dislocated workers for entry and reentry into the workforce. WIOA training funds are designed to serve laid-off individuals, older youth and adults who are in need of training to enter or reenter the labor market. A lot of truck drivers get funding for their CDL training through WIOA.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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