Just Another Trucker Training Diary?

Topic 20450 | Page 7

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Paul's Comment
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The night before last I was finishing up my pre-trip rituals when my trainer walked up and handed me a pretty nice over-glasses pair of night glasses. Something like sunglasses but geared for night driving. That night it helped immensely. I had no drowsiness and in fact was full of energy at the end of my shift.

Last night I didn't have a chance to use them. When I was to begin my shift we were at the shipper , 16 hours early. They promised to get us into a dock within four hours, and as there was no truck stop close by I ordered a pizza and settled in for a long night. I watched movies and music videos and so on until I dropped off to sleep for a while in the front seat. Finally, ten hours almost to the minute after we arrived, I got assigned a dock. There was a broken down yard jockey in my way, so I had to wait for it to be moved. Then another truck decided to not wait for me to back into the dock and took off, only to realize he was missing some load locks, so he blocked my way for a good ten minutes.

Finally I got backed in and they had us loaded within an hour. When I picked up the bills he said we were very lucky--the power went out the moment they had us loaded. I pulled out, locked up and tried to figure out the seal. It was a wire that you feed into a little lock. It wouldn't go in the lock, so I asked one of the yard jockeys how to work it. He took it and said, "I think this is how..." and locked it. Not on the truck, of course. So I had to go back in and have the bills re-printed with a new seal assigned, the really look like a rookie when the guy told me, "You know the guard seals it, right?"

confused.gif

Live and learn.

I have to tell you, that chicken plant was extremely nasty. I walked up to the front to the guard shack to pick up the pizza and a truck was leaving, trailing rivers of chicken blood, which seriously pooled in the dirt road and flowed freely. Almost makes a guy want to join PETA. Almost...well, not even close, really, but seriously that has to be a health hazard. When I dropped the load off this morning I happened to step into a mud hole that was made by this same blood. I was lazily wearing my old, trusty sandals, and the smell was so bad I had to trash them. Another lesson learned.

I was wide awake and as my hours hadn't even started yet--I was in off duty the whole night...per my trainer. Was this right?--and my trainer's girlfriend is in the process of having his child--he refuses to go home, says he can't afford it--I offered to take the day shift and allow him to rest the whole day and monitor the delivery. I thought this an answer to prayers. Really would love to drive days again. But, alas, it was a no go.

Which really screwed up my sleep schedule. I woke up today and drove 320 miles to my receiver, dropped and hooked all by myself, thank you very much, and drove another 200 miles back the way I came. We have 40 more miles to go to our new 01, but we're not due to pick it up until 4 this morning, so I parked us at a TA with 20 minutes to spare on my clock. That last 200 miles was brutal. The glasses didn't help, but to be fair I don't think there was much help to be had. I had wanted to go to a closer truck stop to the 90 we just dropped at, knowing we were so close to our 01 and had so much time, but request denied by the trainer. So I pressed on and barely made it.

I am looking forward to running my own truck. So much I would do differently. But, on the up side, I have time for laundry!

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Paul's Comment
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Well, last week was pretty fantastic. Pretty soon after the last load I wrote about we grabbed a high value heading to Miami. It worked out to where my trainer could take the first shift, which was pretty great. To not get too personal, I have trouble holding nature at bay for more than two hours sometimes, and with a HighVal you have to drive 200 miles before stopping. Four hours may have been impossible for me, and it made me nervous. But all worked out just fine, and Miami was beautiful. We dropped that one and grabbed a flower delivery heading to Denver. The shipper and receiver took absolutely forever, but on the upside we didn't have to load or unload, which I hear is usually the case with flower loads.

I took the shift heading out of Florida and was on cloud 9 because we were 30 hours ahead of schedule and dispatch couldn't get the delivery time pushed up, so we routed ourselves through Oklahoma City and spent fourteen hours at home. My wife didn't tell the girls I was coming home. Instead said she had to pick up one of the regular customers she held onto after quitting the taxi gig. When they saw me coming then jumped out of the van and, screaming and crying, ran to give me a hug. I needed that. Just that morning I woke up with a hazy idea that Prime should really hire some old ladies to sit on stools next to the doors at terminals wearing shirts saying "Free Hugs." Call me unmanly, but hugs used to fuel my life, and now I go weeks without them. I'd ask my trainer for a hug, but he'd probably leave me on the side of the road. :-D

So that trip secured my day shift once again and I have been extremely happy ever since. I love daytime driving.

After leaving Denver I had a super close call. My trainer was in the passenger seat and suddenly he told me to take a left. The GPS told me to take the next left, so I was off guard and didn't have time to plan properly. In retrospect I should have been in the right lane to make it, but it was a two lane road packed with cars and there was no way for me to move right. When I was halfway through the turn I saw that my trailer was a foot or so from hitting a One Way sign. Going back wasn't an option, so I did all I could think to do -- went forward, up a curb and onto a sidewalk, completing the turn with an inch to spare on the rear and an inch away from a sign up front. Whew! That was rough. I should have told him no and followed my GPS, but on the other hand I was watching my wagon, so I didn't hit anything. I decided to look at that incident as an example on what not to do followed up with a solution that, while far from ideal, solved the problem. Another hard lesson learned very well.

The only thing I could think was, "I'm 2 weeks away!" If I hit anything now I'd likely have miles added on and oh man I don't want that! As of now I'm seven days away from being done with this thing. On the 30th I'll go home, spend the week with my family and celebrate my 7-year-old's eighth birthday. Then I'll head back to Springfield for my upgrade!

All in all this has been a great week and today was a great day. I started my day around Lewisburg, PA, and drove through it to drop off the load I was hauling. What a beautiful town! Man I want to move there. The Susquehanna River was absolutely gorgeous, and the drive down through Amish country was so incredible. I gradually made my way down to 81 and headed south toward North Carolina, going through the Shenandoah Valley, which was something else, let me tell you. I love history and read a library's worth of Civil War books when I was a kid, so this was special to me.

One more quick note: I was concerned about my backing skills, but after today I feel pretty darn confident. Today's was a drop and hook , which is always nice, but the shipper was super tight. I had to drive down a narrow road up a hill, where there was a lot with three empty spaces and absolutely no room to turn around. The only way to get in the space was to blindside it, and after a moment of unease I decided to just go for it. And I got it on the first try without even having to GOAL once. I would have, but I just didn't need to. It clicked. Then, I had to go back down the hill and pick up my trailer, which was, of course, facing the wrong way. I had to go BACK up the hill and blindside this trailer back into another spot so I could turn around. And, again, no problem.

In short, I think I'm ready for my own truck. :-)

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

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.

Drop And Hook:

Drop and hook means the driver will drop one trailer and hook to another one.

In order to speed up the pickup and delivery process a driver may be instructed to drop their empty trailer and hook to one that is already loaded, or drop their loaded trailer and hook to one that is already empty. That way the driver will not have to wait for a trailer to be loaded or unloaded.

Josh's Comment
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I love the diary, Paul! I just finished going through my training with a school to get my CDL and I'm now deciding who I want to drive for. Your diary makes me feel at ease and what I could expect when I finally go out driving with a trainer.

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.
Paul's Comment
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I love the diary, Paul! I just finished going through my training with a school to get my CDL and I'm now deciding who I want to drive for. Your diary makes me feel at ease and what I could expect when I finally go out driving with a trainer.

Hey Bob, I'm glad to hear you're digging the diary. Training is almost at an end and so this diary will be closing down soon too.

So this diary has made you feel at ease? Man, I'm glad! I was worried I was too negative about the whole process. It's not easy, but worth it. I'd recommend Prime for sure. They have great pay and seem to be a fairly good company. I'd just advise to be very selective with who you choose to train you. Remember that when a trainer interviews you, it is a double interview. You interview him/her as well, and be very prepared in advance as to what you'll ask. I was not, and suffered. Ask what they expect from you, what their goals are, what they intend to teach you in each phase. What are their personal practices when they drive solo? Are they by-the-book, or do they tend to skirt the line? What is their temperament? I don't know...are they germaphobic? I know it seems silly, but my trainer IS and let me tell you, the truck is too small to be concerned about catching germs from the person you're sharing it with. That is hell on earth.

In general, picture yourself in a closet-sized box with a stranger. You are going through an incredibly stressful transition in your life. You've left your friends, family, loved ones, for who knows how long. You're struggling to learn something that you imagine will be pretty simple but turns out to be incredibly hard. Your emotions are swinging and your mind is reeling--and you're having to share a box with a stranger, who is also going through an awful lot by giving up a significant portion of their living space to a stranger and putting their life in your hands as you try to learn how to drive an 80,000 pound vehicle. In short, it's crazy stressful in so many ways that the best of people will butt heads. When you plan your interview with your trainer, think of questions to ask with these things in mind.

Lastly, I don't care what they tell you in orientation, if your trainer is brand new, pass on them unless they have a crazy amount of experience and a high level of maturity. Mine is 22 and has been driving less than 2 years. The guy has no business being a trainer, in my opinion. In short, a new trainer may have head knowledge about what training is like, but very little practical knowledge. He or she will be going through this as green as you are, only on a different level, and that's a thing you just don't really want to deal with. SOMEBODY has to be his first student. It doesn't have to be you.

Just a few thoughts. :-)

To update, I'm sitting somewhere in Ohio, about 130 miles from my 90. Back on nights...no idea how that happened, really. I know that a couple of nights ago I worked 12 hours and asked my trainer when I'd be up next. He said 1AM, so I scheduled my sleep appropriately. I was exhausted, but stayed up watching Stranger Things on Netflix (digging that show!), then crashed with 8 hours to go until 1AM.

At 11:30 he woke me up, said he was done driving and we were now behind schedule, so I best get to the 02 ASAP and don't stop along the way unless absolutely necessary. I sucked it up and made the six hour driver with 25 minutes to spare. Got docked, unloaded, and by then his ten hours were up. I hoped he would take over, but after writing the comcheck for the lumper he went back to bed, told me to get another two hours down the road. So I did, and now 13 hours after getting my day started I was done. He had about 400 miles to drive to the 90. I stayed up a couple of hours, then slept for 8 and woke up with him 130 miles away from the 90, parked at a flying J. He decided to let me drive the rest of the way to unload in the morning.

On the upside, I'm getting laundry done and enjoying some quiet time in the driver's lounge. I was clear with him that I would not be off duty for 5 hours then go on duty and be on for my full drive shift. I am doing a max of 12 hours from the time I woke up. He agreed. We'll see. Five days left. :-)

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.

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.

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.

Paul's Comment
member avatar

Last week was beautiful. We took a trip from American Falls, Idaho and dropped it at the Dallas drop yard. Little did my trainer know there is a rule that when you use the drop yard you have to take a local load from there if one is waiting. One was waiting, going 40 miles and paying 40 bucks. It wasn't due to be delivered--live unload--for 8 hours, and it took four hours to get it unloaded. So 12 hours for 40 bucks. He wasn't happy, but we immediately grabbed a load in Waco and drove it to the Springfield terminal and dropped it, then deadheaded home on Monday morning.

Being the day before Halloween my wife had hired a babysitter and was out taking her sole remaining regular customers (a blind couple) to haunted houses. At midnight she dropped them off and picked me up. The next morning my 7-year-old daughter came in and said, "Mom, it's 6:30!" and when I responded she shrieked and suddenly I was at the bottom of a pile of screaming girls. They had no idea I was coming home, which is always so much fun. :-D

We ended up taking my girls out of school on Wednesday and spending the whole day with them. On Friday we moved my mother into a nursing home, a hard move but a positive one I think. My brother is now in the TNT phase at Prime and my sister just can't take care of my mother anymore on her own, so we accomplished that. I was grateful to be home to help.

Then on Saturday, my daughter's eighth birthday, we woke up early. I gave my girls a bunch of money and we spent the morning garage sale shopping, followed by lunch at my daughter's favorite Chinese restaurant (they sing "Happy Birthday" to her and bring out a slice of cake with a candle every year). Then a party at a park followed by Thor: Ragnorak in XD 3D. I put up with my trainer and all that entailed just so I could be home for that day, and it was worth every single argument, every cussing out, every immature and snide remark, every single thing I had to learn on my own.

Sunday we drove back to Springfield and rented a room in the Econolodge across from the Campus Inn--which was full. I unloaded all of my stuff, then we ate dinner at the Millennium and watched a movie in the room. The next day I had upgrade classes all morning. Safety classes, extreme weather videos, some driving in the sims and finally a backing test. I can back in real life fairly well, but let me tell you I stunk it up pretty badly on the sim. The instructor finally started giving me hints, and when I finally passed the thing I looked around and everybody was gone! Man was I embarrassed! Geez...

Finally, we had lunch and then I sent my family on their way. I had one more class and then I was done. Now I sit in the motel, number 19 on a list to get a truck. But, no worries--I brought all of my stuff! I have a good book--"Nuremberg: The Reckoning"-- my xbox, a 32" flat screen TV, a Ninja coffee bar that will fit perfectly on my truck and save me a ton of money. Truck stop coffee is crazy expensive. I have tupperware containers full of coffee and a mix of equal and splenda, something I've come to like in coffee, along with essentials like silverware, trash bags, coffee filters, a skillet to cook in, small plastic tubs to wash dishes in, and so on. When I get my truck I'll be set for a bit. Lastly I bought a good sized mini fridge from a friend for twenty bucks. It works very well, but I know it won't last long on a truck. Hopefully long enough for me to be able to afford one made for a truck.

So I'm set, I think, ready to get in a truck and get on the road. Training is done and I'm so thankful for that! Hardest two months of my life, but looking back I see how much stronger I am now because of it.

Deadhead:

To drive with an empty trailer. After delivering your load you will deadhead to a shipper to pick up your next load.

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.

TNT:

Trainer-N-Trainee

Prime Inc has their own CDL training program and it's divided into two phases - PSD and TNT.

The PSD (Prime Student Driver) phase is where you'll get your permit and then go on the road for 10,000 miles with a trainer. When you come back you'll get your CDL license and enter the TNT phase.

The TNT phase is the second phase of training where you'll go on the road with an experienced driver for 30,000 miles of team driving. You'll receive 14ยข per mile ($700 per week guaranteed) during this phase. Once you're finished with TNT training you will be assigned a truck to run solo.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Good luck Paul. Followed your trials and triumphs from the very beginning. Well done Driver.

Safe travels!

Susan D. 's Comment
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Paul's Comment
member avatar

Well, guys, I went through an awful lot out there and triumphed over all of it, but as it often goes one mistake brought it all down. It didn't have to, it was my choice, and it was a decision made based off of emotion rather than logic so it may very well have been a bad choice. But it's done, and I'm sticking with it for now.

I got my truck on a Thursday, a beautiful platinum colored Freightliner. I spent hours picking out all I would need from the Campus store, then hours loading up all of my gear. I brought everything with me to Springfield to upgrade: a mini-fridge, TV, Xbox, a wide array of supplies, and so on. Finally, exhausted, I went to sleep in the Econolodge. The next morning I checked out and proceeded to drive that beautiful truck straight into the awning of the motel.

Perhaps I needed to be humbled, because this is an incredibly humiliating thing to do. Over a week later I still have no idea why I would do that. I knew it was there, had gone out of the way to avoid it the night before, but for some reason all I saw was a clear driveway. I tell you, in the 40,000 miles I dove while training I drove through some crazy harrowing scenarios and made it every time. How something as simple as an awning would trip me up I'll never know. But, it did.

This, of course, did not end my career with Prime. Safety simply told me I would need to spend thirty more days in training. I took a bunk room in the terminal and spent a few hours trying to calm myself and figure out the next step.

After the hell I went through for the last two months, very little of which I actually wrote about here, the thought of going through another month of it was gut-wrenching. I knew I may be able to find a good trainer, but I've heard so many horror stories that I just didn't like my chances. I was so fed up with everything, so unsure of myself now as a driver, and so sick of being away from my family that I decided to resign and go home. I felt that when my truck came to a stop under that awning so did my career.

An emotional choice, I know. Perhaps a bad one. It's easy to say I should have sucked it up and taken my consequences, and perhaps you would be right to say it. And I even think it now at times. But the abuse I took over the past two months was absolutely horrifying. It was degrading and humiliating and I couldn't stand the thought of doing it again. So many times I should have gotten off of that truck and reported my trainer, but I knew that if I delayed my training I would miss out on my daughter's birthday--not a small thing in my family--and my trainer knew it as well, which gave him even more leverage. If I felt he was the anomaly in the training system I would have made a different choice. Still, I can't put this choice on anybody but myself.

So, I received a bill from Prime. I knew I would. I accept it and will pay it. For the time being my family is elated to have me back. We've sold all of the "fluff" in our household and all of the bills are covered and all of Christmas is paid for. So I can recover my senses and decide what to do next. Prime has even invited me back if I so choose. There are LTL companies, food service (LAST on my list), even cement trucks and the local bus company. All of it pays well and is local. Not the adventure of OTR , which I DID love, but trading my family for adventure is a good trade.

I still recommend Prime. They truly are a great company. I do believe they could take steps to ensure their trainers are not psychopaths, but my recommendation is to interview the crap out of your prospective trainer and hope they're not lying through their teeth as mine did. And if they are, don't hesitate to get off that truck in the middle of a cornfield in Iowa and call your DM. Unless doing so will make you miss your kid's birthday. I'll never regret that sacrifice. We had the time of her life.

Thanks for riding with me on this journey. For now, and likely quite some time, this will be my last entry.

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.

LTL:

Less Than Truckload

Refers to carriers that make a lot of smaller pickups and deliveries for multiple customers as opposed to hauling one big load of freight for one customer. This type of hauling is normally done by companies with terminals scattered throughout the country where freight is sorted before being moved on to its destination.

LTL carriers include:

  • FedEx Freight
  • Con-way
  • YRC Freight
  • UPS
  • Old Dominion
  • Estes
  • Yellow-Roadway
  • ABF Freight
  • R+L Carrier

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.

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.

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