Oh Where, Oh Where Did the Wolfie Go?

by Adrian Nunenkamp

Welcome back, everyone, once again to my blog. Sorry I disappeared for a while. As you may remember, I've been out of work for over a month, so finances got really tight. I am back now, however, so shall we get on with it?

First of all, let me touch on a very important point for everyone who is looking at becoming a truck driver. Take care of your back! This one came up and bit me during week 3. Simply put, I overstressed my back trying to pull the release arm on the fifth wheel of one of the yard trucks and wound up in bed for two days because of it. I couldn't even climb up into the cab to do the driving portions of the days. So I strongly recommend that you stretch every day, as well as do some form of exercise for your back. It'll thank you for it in the future.

Finishing Up CDL School

Okay, so back to the important stuff. I managed to finish week 3 of the school by coming in on Friday and Saturday. Both of those days were just like all the others... so I'm not going to tire you out with descriptions. The only thing that was different (and a bit scary at first) was the fact that on Saturday, I was taken out by an instructor I didn't know well to tow doubles through some very tight turns. Now, I've been vague as to what part of the U.S. I live in, but I'm going to get a bit more specific now. Well, rather I'm going to give a very strong clue. The area where I was driving was a stretch of road called the Carver curves. It's an old set of logging roads that were paved and turned into a two lane highway. So, imagine if you will: it's your first time towing doubles , there is little to no room for error, you have to hug the high side lines, plus you have to worry about the silly civilians and the 'super truckers' who come whipping through the curves. Add to that equation an instructor who pointed out, with glee I might add, a chunk of metal imbedded in a pine tree due to a 'super trucker' who didn't plan right and slammed their trailer into said tree. I'll tell you, I could have broken a cinder block had I been sitting on it!

Fortunately, I managed to do everything right the first time. No damage to the tractor or the trailers. With that little episode over, we continued on our way to Promentory Point... a little nearby reservoir. Just before that area is a hill that's a 6% grade one way and a 7% grade the other. This gave me the opportunity to play with the Jake brake and learn how to operate it in both low and high settings (low was 2 cylinders and high was 4 as I remember on the Freightliners).

CDL Testing Time

Week 4 was school testing and prep for the state test. I did suprisingly well on my tests, except for the in-cab inspection. I got one thing out of order and failed that one, but I did get to re-take it and got a 70%. The school tested us on 4 backs: 45-degree sight side, 90-degree sight side, 45-degree blind side, and the straight back. We were also tested on the pre-trip (both outside and in-cab) and on coupling/uncoupling the trailer. The Sunday following all of that was the State test. My state's test was fairly simple: pre-trip, 45-degree sight side back, straight back, then road test. Fortunately, I passed them all (I did not want to pay another $100 just for failing). So, as of May 19th, I became an officially liscensed CDL Class A driver. Yay me.

Headin Out On The Road

On the down side, the company I had orignially planned on going with decided to recant on their hiring promise... something about having to redistribute drivers between terminals. I'm now going to go to work for my second (and only other) choice. The company doesn't have the best reputation, but we'll see how it all works out.

I start with my mentor on Thursday (supposedly). I'll keep everyone updated with what I'm doing as I roll along.

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.

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.

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.

Doubles:

Refers to pulling two trailers at the same time, otherwise known as "pups" or "pup trailers" because they're only about 28 feet long. However there are some states that allow doubles that are each 48 feet in length.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

EPU:

Electric Auxiliary Power Units

Electric APUs have started gaining acceptance. These electric APUs use battery packs instead of the diesel engine on traditional APUs as a source of power. The APU's battery pack is charged when the truck is in motion. When the truck is idle, the stored energy in the battery pack is then used to power an air conditioner, heater, and other devices

by Brett Aquila

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