Middle-aged Husband & Wife Becoming Team Drivers At Prime

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Kim S.'s Comment
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Training Diary of a middle-aged former "workkamper" wife embarking on a new adventure as my husband and I make a move to OTR driving with Prime, Inc. of Missouri.

Sunday 11/5/2017

First day in Springfield. Even with the time-change and going to bed around 9, I slept until at least 8 a.m. I can't imagine how I'd feel if we'd kept the original schedule and arrived at 11 or later the night before our first 5:45 wake up call!

So, that's my first bit of counsel for new folks coming for training: If Prime has you set to arrive late Sunday, consider asking to come in a day early. I don't know if they can arrange it for everyone - but it's worth considering.

Greyhound wasn't so bad - that is, the bus ride itself wasn't. If we were younger and thinner, it might even have been comfortable. But we passed through two major cities, so our bus was packed with the sights, sounds and smells of weary travelers - and whatever they decided to eat along the way. (Thank heavens, I thought to bring my sound-suppressing ear phones!)

Another tip: go ahead and fork over the money to check two bags if you need to! Especially if you will be changing buses en route. We would have been much, much happier carrying reasonably-weighted bags - and checking all of them - than we were managing our crazy-heavy duffle bags and overstuffed "carry-ons." And when others advise, "buy it when you get there," do consider it!

The terminals were crowded (but reasonably clean, to Greyhound's credit) and layovers are killer - we had two hours of standing-room-only in Nashville. Our bus schedule had a six-hour wait in St. Louis, but we decided to call Enterprise and rent a cheap car for the last leg of our journey. Even with stopping for amazing ribs at Poppy's, we beat "our" bus to Springfield by several hours.

We arrived at Campus Inn around dusk. The very friendly desk attendant, Jay, welcomed us with copious amounts of information and a boxed dinner. We also encountered other friendly Prime folks - including a trainer-in-training named John who appointed himself the Prime Welcoming Committee for the evening. He entertained us all with exhuberant welcomes for everyone who passed through the lobby.

My husband was thrilled to see the box meal included a packet of Miracle Whip instead of mayo. I was thrilled that the sandwich was not pre-made with condiments. The ample portion of meat was packed seperately from the very fresh bread, and the meal also included bottled water, chips (or in my case, Cheetos) and a sweet - we got candy bars but apparently the norm is a cookie. It all made for a surprisingly satisfying meal after a tiring day.

Granted, we had gorged on barbecue at lunch! Incoming students might want to consider bringing snacks to avoid a late night walk to the convenience store or Wal-Mart. The rooms do include a fridge, microwave, single-serve coffee maker (and coffee packets) and ice bucket. Ice machines are on the first floor. I did spy vending machines near the training rooms, but if they are like the coke machine in the hotel, you will need coins to get goodies. No dollar bills or debit cards.

The room itself was a pleasant surprise. I half-expected a stripped-down dorm room atmosphere, and the bare-floors and lack of air conditioning in the hallways do feel dormish. But the room is an ordinary discount hotel room. We have two reasonably comfy beds, a desk and chair, mid-size cable TV, private* bathroom (water pressure is okay, good volume and temperature.) It is big and clean; linens, bath towels, and soap/shampoo are provided. They also furnish an iron, ironing board, landline phone, and wi-fi. They even do housekeeping rounds and make the beds. (*Reminder that incoming solo trainees may have a roommate.)

Another benefit to our day-early arrival was a lazy meander to the Campus Inn Cafe for breakfast. The very cheery young lady behind the counter, Gabby, explained everything we could expect for the coming week so far as food service. I suspect that Monday mornings are a lot more hectic and more confusing for newcomers!

Free coffee and iced tea are available whenever the cafe is open (no dinner hours on weekends,) and packaged food is available as well as hot meals to eat there or to-go. The meal provision from Prime is quite sufficient, but - another reason to bring cash - if you want anything that exceeds the allotment, you'll need cash (or, eventually, your Prime comdata card.) No debit cards are accepted.

At breakfast we met Bill, a long-time Prime employee, former driver and current trainer. We plan to drive refrigerated box trailers - and he assured us that being married team drivers, reefer was likely the best choice (financially) even though he himself had been a flatbedder.

We also met another new student this morning. He said he'd just started reading the Permit Manual this weekend! THAT is definitely not something I myself would recommend. In addition to using the TT program to study, we tested ourselves using several other phone apps and practice tests online, just to ensure we were not relying on memorization of any particular terminology.

I took some tests on the bus and on most, I scored in the comfortable high 90s range...but on one of them I flat failed! True, we can take the real tests several times, but I want to have a solid grasp of the material whether or not I am "testing." I have a suspicion the knowledge will come in handy when learning to inspect and drive a truck!

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

DWI:

Driving While Intoxicated

Turtle's Comment
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Looking forward to hearing about your journey through training. It seems like yesterday that I went through Prime orientation myself. Good luck, and don't forget to write!

Kim S.'s Comment
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I remember reading your diary! (How could I forget a name like "Turtle"?) You helped me to prepare, and I thank you for that!!

Looking forward to hearing about your journey through training. It seems like yesterday that I went through Prime orientation myself. Good luck, and don't forget to write!

Kim S.'s Comment
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Day Two in Springfield Monday Orientation & Paperwork Stuff

I am still enamored of Prime, but, HOLY COW! There has got to be a more efficient way to do this! Standing in line for 2-and-a-half hours to pee in a cup is a just silly. And the musical-chair system of processing us for the file review and physical isn't much better. That being said, it was nice to swap Greyhound War Stories and Permit-Test Tips with other new students. And I took particular pleasure in observing all the Alabama shirts I saw today; I am pretty sure that "Roll Tide" was the first sports-related phrase I ever learned to say.

I was particularly concerned about the agility test and rumors of a "duck walk." The agility test was a piece of cake since I am not going Flatbed....I gave the tarp test a shot just for the hell of it, and although I could lift it, I could not pick it up high enough to put it on the shelf. The duck walk is actually just a quick "crouch down and take a step" scenario that is part of the doctor's physical. Not a big deal at all. Several people were having minor complications - a few apparently couldn't pee (drink LOTS of water your first Monday, lol!) and some had blood pressure issues. I think there is another diary on here that discusses how much Prime works with PSD prospects to resolve blood pressure issues.

We are all curious to see what tomorrow brings, what with widely-reported tales of class sizes dropping by half after the first day. Even as an unaffected observer, I can tell you that Dave the Security Guy delivers a pretty clear reality check for anyone who might be trying to hide a sketchy past!

To sum things up....HURRAH! We got all four on-boarding segments done, so we're set to get our Permit Tests done tomorrow. Even if i pass - wait, make that - EVEN THOUGH I WILL PASS, - I may have to wait for my actual in-hand permit. The healthcare people need some reports from the doctor before releasing my medical card. Here's hoping the doc's office responds quickly!

Sim Lab appointment at 6:30 and then hitting the sack! Lots of nice people here, and except for the crazy on-boarding, Prime's way of doing things is very impressive. A promising first day!

PSD:

Prime Student Driver

Prime Inc has a CDL training program and the first phase is referred to as PSD. You'll get your permit and then 10,000 miles of on the road instruction.

The following is from Prime's website:

Prime’s PSD begins with you obtaining your CDL permit. Then you’ll go on the road with a certified CDL instructor for no less than 75 hours of one-on-one behind the wheel training. After training, you’ll return to Prime’s corporate headquarters in Springfield, Missouri, for final CDL state testing and your CDL license.

Obtain CDL Permit / 4 Days

  • Enter program, study and test for Missouri CDL permit.
  • Start driving/training at Prime Training Center in Springfield, Missouri.
  • Work toward 40,000 training dispatched miles (minimum) with food allowance while without CDL (Food allowance is paid back with future earnings).

On-the-Road Instruction / 10,000 Miles

  • Train with experienced certified CDL instructor for 3-4 weeks in a real world environment.
  • Get 75 hours of behind-the-wheel time with one-on-one student/instructor ratio.
  • Earn 10,000 miles toward total 40,000 miles needed.
Kim S.'s Comment
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UPDATE - MONDAY P.M.

Struggled a bit Sim Lab and had a hard time holding it together. I'm tired and hormonal and I overthink everything, and that overshadows my coordination, which my instructor said was very good.

Funny part is, I wasn't all that worried about struggling a bit with the gears, I just needed to get the hang of it. But I got self-conscious, and I started feeling like my lack of progress was slowing Nick down, because as a team we were not on par with the others (even though I know better than to worry about what the other people are doing!!) And my anxiety made me feel teary and once I started feeling teary, I got even more worried about feeling teary, which made me actually BE teary, and it went downhill from there. I was watery-eyed and red-nosed before it was all over, and I knew it looked bad, and that just made me start worry that that the instructors would think I was too anxious to be a safe driver when really all I need was a little more time to get used to it.

Gawd, how I wish I'd inherited a stoicism gene!!!

And also? It was about 1000 degrees in there. It's extra hard to "keep my cool" when I am not literally cool. Better to wear shorts tomorrow than to get all weepy again.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

PackRat's Comment
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Hang in there!

Kim S.'s Comment
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Hooray! We both passed all four Permit tests!

My husband got them all on the first round. I had to take two shots at the Combination test. There were some unexpected questions....no necessarily ones I hadn't seen at all before, but ones I truly hadn't anticipated would be on the test. And, of course (just like in high school) I did NOT get asked about the things I knew forwards-and-backwards! The examiner commented to both of us on our solid scores (except for me and my Combo test, natch!)

Overall, there were far more questions & answers I felt confident about than there were "close my eyes and hope I'm right," ones, and only one or two that I completely blanked on.

SO MANY people are headed back to the DMV tomorrow for re-tests! As expected though, the ones who passed were the ones who studied before getting here. (And of course, Trucking Truth was mentioned by quite a few of them.)

Newbie Note: The shuttle to the DMV only holds about a dozen people, so if you want to use it when you are here, don't lollygag! Get out the the shuttle stop well before the scheduled time or you'll be one of those sad people who sees the door shut before they can step on.

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
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Bravo to both of you!dancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gif

Paul's Comment
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Congratulations to both of you! Training can be hard, but stick with it and don't allow the negative emotional moments to affect you and it will be over before you know it. I'm sitting right now across the street at the Econolodge, waiting on my truck to be ready, and it seems like just yesterday I was right where you were. I'm looking forward to reading your adventures! :-)

Turtle's Comment
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I remember reading your diary! (How could I forget a name like "Turtle"?) You helped me to prepare, and I thank you for that!!

double-quotes-start.png

Looking forward to hearing about your journey through training. It seems like yesterday that I went through Prime orientation myself. Good luck, and don't forget to write!

double-quotes-end.png

I really wrote that diary more as therapy for myself than anything else, but I'm glad it was of use to someone. I sometimes felt I was just babbling on.

smile.gif

Don't sweat the Sim lab too much, part of me thinks it may be designed to throw you off your game a little bit in order to see how well you handle it. At any time during the day, as long as there are no Sim classes going on you are welcome to practice on the Sims as much as you want. Just walk in there and ask them.

big congratulations to you both for passing the permit tests. That's a huge hurdle to cross. Onward and upward from there!

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