STUDENT: Observations After 3 Weeks Of CDL School With Swift Transport

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Vin_C12H24's Comment
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1) Out of the original 12 students in my class; 2 left during the first week due to a financial reason and the other for a stupid reason (did not want to pay CDL license fee for his state, thought it was free).

2) Lost another student that first week due to his admission of smoking pot before coming to CDL school.

3) Lost 4 students at the start of the 2nd week of school; one was kicked out due to him smoking pot before starting CDL school (he tried to dilute drug test) and smoking pot during his first weekend at CDL school. Another never returned to his hotel room until late the next morning and left, another met his parents for dinner the previous night and never returned. Another left that weekend for a short trip home and never returned. 4) Despite the large amount of rules, instructors will pick and choose which rules they will enforce or even break themselves, including the head of the academy.

5) All instructors are good, but each has their own techniques to doing things and how they teach you to do them. For example, one instructor will teach you one way to down shift, while the other 4 will teach you 4 different ways. They will each point out that its fine to do it different ways, but that when you are in the with them, to do it their way. This has been the main source of complaints from students and even possibly why it has taken a little longer for some to master shifting, and 3 different ways of parking. Personally, I felt it gave me a choice to select which techniques worked best for me, but will admit it was frustrating to master one instructors way of doing things, only to have to unlearn it and master another way. Also, I can also see how the different techniques may or may not apply to certain situations. Thus, it really depends on the student as to whether this is a good or bad thing.

6) Some instructors are good and some are really bad. For example, if you an instructor cannot speak or communicate properly as at least a Elementary School student they have no business teaching a class. Also, one instructor is an absolute GENIUS and every student learns 1000% from him. IMHO, if this particular instructor taught everything aspect of parking, shifting and driving, we all would have taken and passed the DMV after only 2 weeks of training. He is INCREDIBLE.

7) Don't argue with fools..although I got along with all students , you will encounter all kinds of persons. For example, students who think the earth is flat and that islands will capsize if there are too many people living on them (NO LIE), perverts, psycho's, sissy's, bully's, you name it. The good thing is that there was only one student who fit all those traits except sissy, and he has tormented a student with a medical condition for 3 straight weeks and broken every printed rule of the school. Not sure if he was written up, but he has not been expelled despite violated every rule multiple times that results in expulsion. In addition, the closest he came to being expelled was when he admitted to sabotaging an 18 wheeler of a truck driver after following him to a truck stop, because the 18 wheeler kicked up some road debris and broke his cars windshield when it struck. In the end, he explained after 1 solid week of defending himself to instructors, that "it was a long time ago and my brother made me do it". (cough).

8) Listen to your instructors 100% and do what they say unless it is unsafe or against the law. We had one instructor who demanded a student while in the middle of offset backing and moving to shut off an overhead light on the passenger side. After ordering the student to do this twice and the student ignoring him, the instructor finally told the student to stop and secure the truck and turn off the light. However, before the student could get out of their seat the instructor stated angrily "Nevermind I will do it!" ROFLMAO!

9) New found respect for truck drivers. As for myself I always had respect and admiration for truck drivers. However IMHO, it takes a very intelligent, skilled, and disciplined person to be one. Driving an 18-wheeler is a serious undertaking, it is no joke. It can be learned in 3 - 4 weeks, by most, but not mastered in that time. To master or even become "really good" takes miles, time, and experience.

In the end, you will find that driving an 18 wheeler is actually fun. However, you had better take it very seriously as driving an 18 wheeler is not a game.

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.

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.

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.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Vin, this is a really good post.

It's hard for people to understand when we talk about how your class size will diminsh quickly during that first two weeks, but it is a common occurrence. It's not an indication of the quality of the school, but generally a testament to the number of people who think they can jump into this career with no Real Commitment.

The fact that you have different teachers with differing methods may be frustrating at this point, but you may find later that you will benefit from the various perspectives. I've witnessed this enough to realize what makes that "light bulb" moment happen for one person may be completely different for another.

Hang in there, it sounds like you're doing great.

Vin_C12H24's Comment
member avatar

You are correct, I am doing well. Not perfect yet, but closer each time I get behind the wheel. A few things I forgot to add.

1) According to the instructors, the DMV where we go to test got a new employee who also gives the DMV test. The instructors and students noticed her harassing students during the DMV driving test, i.e. instead of observing or giving directions during the test, she chooses to harass students. Last I heard the school is demanding her removal.

2) Each new class, including mine, that I observed and came after mine (three), not only loses most of its students before the 3rd week, but those that remain who were once enthusiastic, are no longer...regardless of how well they are doing. They all act differently, gone is the excitement and eagerness. Instead, they literally stare glassy eyed, and don't talk, and walk like automated robots with no emotion. As for myself, I go thru cycles like this as well, but I do admit my excitement for the job is more tempered. This is not due to how I feel about the truck; in fact, on the contrary...most of the students are all saying the same thing. "There motivation to pass and move on from the school is not due to eagerness to become a truck drive, it is 100% due to leave the school and never ever have to deal with all of its negatives ever ever again. Case in point, in military basic training and tech school; no matter how tough or rough the Drill instructors were we all remained motivated and morale increased. It was a 100% positive and motivating experience. Unfortunately, with this particular school every student in my class has stated their only motivation is to finish up and get their CDL so they never have to deal with a (insert cuss word) school like this one ever again. I do not think its a bad school, its a "ok" school, maybe even good, but I do not think it sets any standards at all. Also, almost every student has already stated they will not accept a job offer even of presented, and have already applied at other trucking companies, as there are a ton of better opportunities out there. Not sure how I feel about that.

3) The trucks are falling apart.....one time it it took 3 tries to find one operational. Bald tires, gouges and cuts in the side walls and treads. Electrical issues, windows and mirrors that do not work. On a positive note, the instructors do everything they can to fix them despite not being mechanics.

4) The hotel is ok, but cramming 3 people into a normal sized hotel room is crazy. Although , marketed as "suites", they are not true suites. Basically, they cram a kitchen into a small hotel room, and force one poor soul to sleep on the crappiest roll out bed ever made. The hotel does not change sheets except for once a week and only if you strip the bed yourself and bring it all downstairs. We are paying for these rooms.....

5) We had two fires at the hotel and there were no fire extinguishers. When a student informed the front desk, the clerk told the student "hold on let me finish with this customer"....ROFLMAO

In a nutshell, everyone in my class agree's that although the classroom training was kind of boring it was still top notch. No one feels that way about the range and driving training. In fact, regardless of how good the outcome is, I will not be recommending this particular school or hotel.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

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

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

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

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

DMV:

Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

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

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OOS:

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

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Vin...this is truly a hot mess.

The hotel has nothing at all to do with Swift. So please spare us the BS on that. And you are NOT really paying out of pocket for it, it's part of the total cost of the school. 3 guys in one room? You were in the service weren't you (and thank you for that)? How many guys were in your barracks? Good grief Man,..this is nothing.

That said...I don't care what all of your classmates are saying. We want to hear how you feel. Other than the older, well worn trucks (which is common), you haven't shared anything specific or tangible about what is wrong with road and yard training. I went to that school, so keep it real.

Unfortunately you seem to be falling into a trap here Vin. Focused on all the wrong stuff and listening to all the wrong people.

Susan D. 's Comment
member avatar

Absolutely NO SCHOOL, company sponsored or private, is going to turn a bunch of permit holders loose in perfect new trucks. Those trucks are going down the road making money for the company and the driver.

You're fussing about a crappy motel room? Seriously. The company is investing a lot of time and money into your training and you're complaining about that?

Waaaah. My sheets only get changed once a week if I pull them off my bed. Do you realize how ridiculous this sounds?

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

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.

John M.'s Comment
member avatar

To be fair that is kinda gross about the sheets, atleast in a hotel and did you atleast roast some marshmellows.. if not you wasted fire...

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

To be fair that is kinda gross about the sheets

To be honest, I'm not sure if I even believe that.

I would love an update on your situation Vin_C12H24. Are you sticking around or you heading home?

∆_Danielsahn_∆'s Comment
member avatar

The hotel I stayed at only changed their sheets once a week, also. It is not an uncommon thing. However, we had the option of gathering the sheets and changing them out at any time, in between scheduled changes.

Vin, if you are having a rough time now, I can't wait to hear about your time with your mentor. The school I attended had run down equipment also. But that just made me appreciate the top notch equipment that I was trained in, at Swift. I had multiple instructors also, but my mentor taught me the Swift way, and his way, for 4.5 weeks, which was nothing like at school. Instead of focusing on what is wrong, focus on the prize, and treat everything else as a learning experience.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Vin, I think what we have here is Great Expectations Not Being Fulfilled. (For fun, search here for "BBQ sauce" to read about the first Expectations Hall Of Fame honoree)

In the following, I am simply echoing the others here. Reality is sometimes not as pretty as we expect. I think one "fault" with Trucking Truth is that so many members prefer to poke back with their description of how things actually work in trucking. Vin, if you focus on getting your own be-hind out and on the road instead of complaining about the situation, you'll be better off. On the trucking road, you'll find many new things to complain about if you want to take that route.

According to the instructors, the DMV where we go to test got a new employee who also gives the DMV test. The instructors and students noticed her harassing students during the DMV driving test, i.e. instead of observing or giving directions during the test, she chooses to harass students. Last I heard the school is demanding her removal.

We rarely go with hearsay/rumor. "According to the instructors" and "Last I heard" mean you only heard about this examiner, you didn't see her in action, right? 99.9% of all hearsay is negative.

Instead, [students] literally stare glassy eyed, and don't talk, and walk like automated robots with no emotion

There's too much to quote from your #2. Sure, it's not so exciting after things aren't new anymore. The above may be your interpretation ("automated robots"), but just maybe the shine is off and these students are getting frustrated with the backing practice - either in how hard it is, or they feel they don't get the practice time they need. As for motivation, I bet even Seal Team students get motivated to "just get out of here" as they lay in the cold surf for hours.

More of Danielsahn's sage advice: focus on the prize, and treat everything else as a learning experience.

3) The trucks are falling apart

One of the benefits of smaller private schools.

4) The hotel is ok

Vin, believe me, this is SOP for hotels. Not that they are all trashy, but the terms they use ("suite", extra "bed") are standard, even at Holiday Inns. As for the sheets, you need the Ritz Carlton for having fresh sheets every day. It's a labor/laundry question. Danielsahn describes it best.

Finally,

5) We had two fires at the hotel ...

There is simply too much missing here. I have been in hotels with the alarm going off, false it turns out. It's fun to see all the sleepy people standing in the street wrapped in sheets and jackets. And a false alarm is an easy pull on a handle. This leads me to consider the quality of the guests.

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.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Vin not sure if you are still lurking out there,...if you are I suggest taking some time to read the diary of Danielsahn. He is a Swift driver who just successfully completed his mentoring phase and was upgraded yesterday.

He is assigned to a Walmart Grocery DC as a Dedicated driver. Since his training was also on this account its a natural and logical progression to continue working that territory.

My point of all this is two fold:

1- Daniel had a positive experience in his training. He was paid to learn...and learn he did. Otherwise he would not have been invited to join the Walmart account as a full time driver.

2- Realistcally if he commits to the Walmart account, this time next year his weekly pay will likely average $1200-1300 per week plus 1/4ly performance bonuses. Not too shabby for one year of experience.

Keep this reality in mind as you seek "better" opportunities after quitting Swift after graduation. I encourage you to share all of this with your classmates and consider it one of the best opportunities available to a rookie driver.

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