I'm About To Become A 'newbie'....again! Lol

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Simon D. (Grandpa)'s Comment
member avatar

Hi folks,

Been lurking in the background for a few days now; reading many blogs and threads; trying to assimilate and absorb some of the collected wisdom presented on the site.

So; thought i'd better do the right thing and introduce myself. :-)

I'm 57 years old so consider myself a borderline 'old-fart' (maybe not even borderline - let me know lol)

I'm originally from the UK but have been here in the US. (for the majority of the time anyway), since 1979. My career has been interesting to say the least, including nearly 25 years as a Corporate and AIrline Pilot.

I returned to the UK a few years ago to take care of and help my ageing parents but have now been back in the US for a while. While in the UK I managed to rack up several hundred thousand miles as a truck driver, starting out by paying my own training to get the UK equivalent of a CDL Class B license. After 12 months operating a 'rigid' (which is what we call a straight truck over there), I then accepted my company's offer of sponsored training for my UK Class A license. Subsequently I drove a Mercedes Actros cabover style 'artic' (as a 'semi' is known there) for the next 5 years before returning 'home' to NC, where I hope to be around to see my beautiful Granddaughter grow up. I have spent the majority of the last couple of years rebuilding and renovating a lovely old Victorian house, That project is finally almost complete so I want/need something to do that earns some money to help pay back the savings spent doing so.

The point of all this blurb is to say that I have now accepted sponsored training from one of the larger carriers here - not sure whether i'm supposed to name them, but I'm sure you'll figure out who at some point! So I am starting school in Salisbury, NC bright and early Monday morning.

I am happy to say that I am experiencing almost all of the newbie jitters/nerves/worries and excitement exhibited by many in these threads.

However, nervous or not, It will be immensely interesting learning to drive a tractor-trailer here. I'm really looking forward to learning the different handling characteristics of the longer but lighter trucks here. 65 feet here, I believe? v 52 feet there and also 80,000 lbs max GVWR v 96,800 lbs. It's gonna take me a while to figure out turning and backing with that long nose out front along with the steer wheels being ahead of me rather than right under my butt. Not to mention double clutching!! lol The last 'manual transmission' truck I drove had a '3 over 3' with a range switch and a splitter - plus it was fully 'synchro', so therefore much easier..........and that was several years ago!! Lol After that I had a wonderful 12 speed auto that was in the words of our Head Driver Trainer, "Way smarter than you are, so trust it!' ...... In general terms, he was right, but boy does it make you lazy!

In summation; it's great to meet y"all! I'm really happy to be here and excited about training and hitting the road; albeit simultaneously as nervous as the proverbial 'long-tailed cat in a room full of rockin' chairs!'

I'll try to blog some of my training/driving adventures and inevitable misadventures, if you would like me too. I do not mind being laughed at, so long as it might provide some insight for another hopeful 'big-rig' wannabe! lol

Let me know what you think?

in the meantime; hope to meet some of y'all out there someday..... the coffee's on me!

Cheers,

Simon

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.

GVWR:

Gross Vehicle Weight Rating

GVWR is the maximum operating weight of a vehicle as specified by the manufacturer, minus any trailers.

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.

Turtle's Comment
member avatar

Welcome Simon!

That's a great story, and we look forward to hearing of your progress. It's always fun to follow along with someone through the trials and tribulations of acquiring their CDL. Lots of great info here, so please don't hesitate to ask questions, and also please keep us updated. Good luck!

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

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

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

Excited for ya Simon! Good luck, although I doubt you'll need much of it just to get through the schooling. You'll need to learn to double-clutch in school if you don't already know, but after that you'll probably end up with an automatic anyway. Most companies are switching to them, especially the larger carriers.

You'll get used to that nose hanging out pretty quick. I was driving a yard hostler for a while, even smaller cabover than your Euro trucks. When I hopped back in a big rig after several months it was a little awkward but I'm already backing like a pro again after just a little more than a month.

That's a cool background sir. You just can't get away from big equipment, can you?! Haha. Out of curiosity, how does the traffic in the UK compare to the traffic in the US? Are drivers more aggressive in the US than in the UK or vice versa, or generally the same in either place? What are the speed limits like over there--similar? Are the trucks mostly all governed like they are here? Were driver facing cameras becoming a norm over there as well?

Sorry if any of those are silly questions. I think it's cool you've driven so much over there and are going to coming back over here to do the same thing. Once you've got a few miles under your belt here it would be interesting to hear your comparison of driving a big rig in both places, something most of us will never do. I'd imagine driving in the US will be much easier in general because of how much open space we still have.

Anyways, good luck and keep us posted!

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Welcome to Trucking Truth, Simon!

Seems you have plenty of experience pulling a box around. As you admit, just some adjustments to make.

Being a bit cagey, as most people are:

sponsored training from one of the larger carriers here - not sure whether i'm supposed to name them,

Your best bet is to let on the company you're with, and the location of your school. You may find some co-workers here. And we can get you more specifics for the company and maybe the school. Also, please post your training diary in the other forum area: CDL Training Diaries. We can share the differences between US and UK driving styles.

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.
Simon D. (Grandpa)'s Comment
member avatar

Hi guys.

Many thanks for the warm words of welcome!

To answer some of your questions; I ended up going with Stevens. Primarily based upon the training offered.

Like most of the newbies here; i made the mistake of trawling the interweb for which company is best etc, etc. lol. I say, 'mistake' because, as I'm sure you're aware, the web is full of horror stories from (mostly) former employees, many of whom seem to have some sort of 'axe to grind'!! At first, I was horrified. But, through more research, I found this site and read a lot of what Brett and y'all have to say re: the said ex-employees and their disgruntlement and attitude towards certain companies. This combined with my experiences with Turners Distribution (check them out on Google) in the UK has calmed me down no end. So; many thanks to y'all for the words of wisdom.

Turners in the UK has the same problem as Stevens, Prime, C. R. England and many other large carriers in that there is much griping, whinging and moaning on the web about their working conditions, dispatch, pay....blah, blah,blah!! Having experienced much the same in the aviation industry, along with being that little bit older, I was able to look somewhat beyond all the negativity to try and rationalise a decision from a more logical and somewhat less emotional viewpoint. Having 'been around the block' a time or two, I know two things for sure: no job/career/company is perfect. they all have drawbacks and pitfalls. And; no contract lasts forever. Once my agreed upon time was finished, I figured that I could walk away, hopefully in good standing, and go somewhere else with my new-found skills and license. So, I set aside my misgivings and hopped on board with them. My decision at that time was based primarily on their training program and the fact that they were willing to give a total 'greenhorn' a chance. Once there and working, I put 'my nose to the grindstone', sucked in and tried to absorb all the information they were willing to supply and then busted my butt to prove myself to them. The training was excellent!! I figured that I had done the right thing and set out too prove myself...After orientation, the Head of Training told me, "You're gonna be working for Karen......she's the best boss in the company.....but; for God's sake don't p*ss her off!" Lol. Which turned out to be absolutely true! lol.

Long story short....despite the many, many aggravations, pitfalls, newbie mistakes and all of the trials and tribulations that make up the daily grind..... I loved it! I ended up staying for nearly 7 years and topped out the payscale and bonus programs there by diligently applying myself, not moaning (too much) and doing what was necessary to 'get 'er done!'. That's not to say that there weren't times of extreme frustration and aggravation....there were. I was by no means a pure 'company man'; indeed Karen and I had several major disagreements along the way. But, in the end, we would be professional, work it out and get on with it. She ended up with my respect and I earned hers. I left there on good terms and have a letter inviting me back, should I ever need or want to go.

So; in summation: I'm going to do the same here. Sign on.....take advantage of the training offered....check my ego at the door and learn, learn, learn. I know beyond of a shadow of a doubt there will be many of the aforementioned 'trials and tribulations', newbie errors and other problems. That seems to me, to be normal in all aspects of this crazy thing we call life!

I figure that, so long as I really give it my best shot and as Brett advises, give it at least a year, then; If at the end of my contract, things aren't as hoped for I can walk away with my head up.....knowing that I did it right.

I will try to be totally honest about my training, orientation etc, etc. After all, if you hide your imperfections and mistakes, the only one you are fooling is yourself. I will also try to answer all the questions about 'trucking' here in the good old USA versus my experiences 'Lorry driving' back in the 'Old country'.

As you can plainly see from these first couple of posts, I can ramble on with the best of 'em..... please forgive me ahead of time for my verbosity!

So; if you can bear to put up with my rather long-winded 'ramblings'.... climb on in....using three points of contact of course.....let's go for a ride!

Cheers!

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

PackRat's Comment
member avatar

Welcome Simon! I too look forward to reading of your past experiences, along with your future conquests in the Wonderful World of Trucking.

Simon D. (Grandpa)'s Comment
member avatar

Hi guys.

Headed out tonight to my 4th and final week of training.... I'm supposed to test on Wednesday 🤤lol

I haven't posted a training blog as the experience has been almost exactly as described by a multitude of others in the 'Training diaries' thread.

Rather than repeat what has been said about schools and training, I thought that I might give you my thoughts on some of the things that, if not exactly surprising me, have at least enlightened me.....many of them in a heartwarming and positively reaffirming way.

The training itself has generally been fun and (mostly) interesting. My only minor gripe at first was need to spend an entire day 'straight line backing'. However, by the end of that day, having seen the 'pickles' that some of the guys n gals got into trying to sort out 'turn towards your trouble' and 'left to go right - right to go left' .....made me reconsider any complaint, as well as providing us all with some much needed laughter and merriment. What did amaze me was the overall attitude of my classmates, with nearly everyone being willing to laugh at themselves as well as others ☺

Angle backing and alley docking have also provided much entertainment! lol

As the oldest member of the class by at least 12 and in some cases 30+ years (and actually of the entire school of 4 consecutive classes) along with the fact that, with my previous experience, i performed all the maneuvers easily; has meant that I have become the de facto Grandpa of the school! Almost all of my fellow students have at some point come to me for advice, encouragement, explanation and even at times for a shoulder to cry on! Lol

At first, I was a bit reluctant to 'coach' as I did not want to step on any instructors' toes or annoy the school. However, and bless them for this, several of the instructors and even the School Director actually ended up asking me to help out a little as our class size is quite large.

So, I have sort of become an unofficial coach, mentor, troubleshooter, head cheerleader and guidance counsellor as well as a student! Given that our classes are very diverse in terms of nationality, ethnicity, social background, gender and sexuality, this has been incredibly heartwarming to me.

It may be naive of me, but I constantly ask the guys and girls to remember the 'camaraderie' of the class and to 'pass it forward' when they eventually hit the road. Goodness only knows, this industry and many others could certainly use it!

Due to the sheer numbers, our particular class has been assigned testing at the DMV rather than in-house. This has made many of my classmates even more nervous than they already were. I have spent quite a bit of time reassuring them with a bit of advice given to me many, many moons ago by one of my flight instructors; namely that: " When the license is finally sent to you in the mail, it does not show anywhere how many attempts it took you to pass. If you unfortunately don't make it first time around; learn from your mistakes, saddle 'er up, get right back on and give it another shot!" ....... Incidentally, not being immune to nerves, I also tell myself the same thing! Lol

On the lighter side; some of the lads from....shall we say...more urban environments?....have been trying to teach me to speak like they do and in return, I have been having them try out some of the finer points of the Queens English! The results are usually hilarious! 🤣

'On the road training' has been generally good fun and extremely interesting watching from the back seat. To see everyone go from extreme anxiety and nervous about the sheer size of the vehicle to delight when they realise they are actually doing it ("I Actually drove a big rig!"is the most common phrase), to pride when it goes right has been wonderful!

Maneuvering the vehicle has come easily, as expected with my background. However, for me; learning to downshift while double clutching has been interesting to say the least..... a real 'lightbulb' moment for me....vehicle speed is not just important, it is critical!! Doh!!! Lol. As was promised; several of the students with no manual transmission experience seemed to get it right away.... a valuable lesson in humility! lol

Overall, I have enjoyed it immensely so far, made some new and hopefully long term friends and learned a whole lot. 👍☺

For those that asked; the biggest single difference that I notice with the conventional v cabover tractor and the dual tandem v triple super-singles trailers is that turns don't need to be as wide as I would tend to make them in England. Partly because the roads here are generally a bit wider and also because the trailer follows slightly better 👍

The one thing that has remained consistent between the two continents however is the lunacy and mindless driving antics of the average 'four-wheeler' driver!! They are just as crazy here as there! I guess some things never change! lol

So; I'm off to pack my bag for another week as 'Grandpa', mentor and chief supplier of gum, tissues and emotional support.

I'll report back on how testing goes and again once I reach orientation. 👍

Until then my Brother (and Sister) truckers....keep the shiny side up and stay safe. And please, please help out when you are able.... a little kindness goes a long way

Cheers,

Simon

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

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.

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.
PackRat's Comment
member avatar

Great post, Simon!

Simon D. (Grandpa)'s Comment
member avatar

Great post, Simon!

Thanks, I appreciate that 👍☺

Tomorrow should be interesting as, over the weekend, the school has switched trucks from KW and Peterbuilts with 8 speed trannies to Internationals with 10 speeds. Another 'learning curve' and chance to broaden the knowledge base, methinks? lol

Cheers ☺

Pianoman's Comment
member avatar

Great post, Simon!

I second that! Dude you're my favorite not-so-new-newbie haha

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