Profile For Hawkman

Hawkman's Info

  • Location:
    Lancaster, PA

  • Driving Status:
    In CDL School

  • Social Link:

  • Joined Us:
    11 years, 5 months ago

Hawkman's Bio

No Bio Information Was Filled Out. Must be a secret.

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Posted:  11 years, 4 months ago

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How I got a leg up at school - Swift Richmond, VA

I finished up Swift's Richmond, VA driving academy just last week. To help others along their path, I thought I might put together some useful pointers. I'll put together an overview in another post, as this one has grown.

The good stuff:

1. Know thyself. Are you a private person or do you like company? Do you prefer to study with the absolute silence or have the tv/radio/conversation going all at once?

Swift offers reasonable accommodations for a reasonable fee that they will then deduct from your future paychecks. You will be sharing the room with up to two other people. Hopefully everyone will be as serious as you are about taking advantage of the opportunities to learn. Private person that I am, I begged and borrowed enough to find a local place through Craigslist. My time in Richmond was peaceful, and filled with plenty of time to study.

2. Frontload. You have a steep learning curve to climb. Many have said it here and elsewhere - take advantage of the learning resources here to know as much as you can before you get to school. It will give you that running start to make climbing the curve that much easier.

3. Frontload - Part 2. Make absolutely certain you have all of your paperwork in order before showing up to school. To start you will need some very basic paperwork in hand - driver's license, learner's permit, DOT physical long form and short form. You will be filling out school contracts, make sure you have your information as well as information of friends and family that Swift can contact in the event of an emergency, loan default, etc. Check that list the recruiter sends you, make sure you have it all covered. If you don't understand, pester your recruiter with questions. Better to get answers rather than sent home the first day.

A special note: make sure you get your DOT physical from a Swift approved clinic prior to arrival. I think the window is within 60 days prior to arriving for school. More than half of my class had to go get their physicals the 1st day - what a waste of time for them and and the rest of the class. I spent the time in my textbook, but I'd rather have been out on the range learning about Pitman arms, drag links, and crown bolts with cotter pins. Swift reimburses the cost of the physical at orientation, whether you do it at home or in Richmond.

4. Take every opportunity to learn. There will be students right next to you chatting amongst themselves, taking smoke breaks, and telling all kinds of stories. Focus! Watch what the student in front of you is doing. Watch how the trailer tandems move as angle between the tractor and trailer changes. Learn from their mistakes and successes. Visualize how you would do it. This is true for all things, from learning how to shift, the 45-degree alley dock, and on the road.

The Swift academy gave us much more than ample time to practice on the driving range - 2 1/2 weeks, several hours a day practicing the PA skills circuit. I would always just shake my head and chuckle at the students who would complain over how difficult something was. These were the same students not availing themselves of the opportunities right in front of them.

5. Network. Company sponsored school is actually a 3-week interview. I know I just said I'm a private person. But as they say, it's not what you know, but WHO you know.

Get to know your instructors. Be friendly, cordial, professional, and show them that you are doing your level best every time. They will notice, and they will document it. Your instructors have been around the block. Feel free to ask to stay in touch when school has wrapped up. You never know how you might be able to assist each other down the road.

While you're at it, it's great to make some friends among your fellow students. But focus on why you are in school in the first place.

6. Play with other's equipment. You have the opportunity to learn a new skill using other people's equipment. Take advantage of it. The penalty for making a mistake is much lower while in school than while out on the road. It is student equipment after all, it is expected to be handled a bit rough.

Imagine you are having difficulty getting those rpms just right during your downshifts. Ask to practice downshifting with an instructor in the yard using the student equipment. Your mentor/trainer will want you to baby their equipment while out on the road, i.e. treat their truck as if it were your own. I can just imagine the look on their face if I proceeded to grind through the gears from 8th down through 2nd.

7. Above all, be ethical. I really shouldn't have to say this, but an incident late in my training compels me to include this.

Said incident included damage to Swift property. Had the incident been promptly reported, I believe the student would have been allowed to continue. However, the incident was discovered later, and evidence was reviewed. The student was immediately expelled. Accidents may happen, hopefully not with careful and safe driving. But if something does happen, don't try to ignore it or cover it up.

I think that's plenty to get going with. I'll put together an overview of the academy in a day or so. Feel free to reach out to me via pm for anything at all.

Posted:  11 years, 4 months ago

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The last step is always the hardest. Any advice?

Sorry to hear that I won't have to double clutch much longer, I kind of like it. Sure, it took me a while to break all those habits I learned shifting a manual transmission car. But there's just something sensual when you hit the rpms and road speed just right and she shifts oh so beautifully.

If I were you, I'd jump right into a company sponsored school that offers manual transmissions. We had a few students come in who had learned on automatics. They had gone out with their mentors for OTR training, and promptly dropped at the nearest truck stop.

In short, pay attention to what the instructors tell you to do. It really isn't all that difficult to get the rhythm down. It's just paying attention to what the truck is telling you - rpms, road speed and engine noise.

Best of luck!

Posted:  11 years, 4 months ago

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UPDATE: I'm An Employee !!!

Congrats Steve - that's great news!

Posted:  11 years, 4 months ago

View Topic:

Some new questions

I haven't started driving a truck yet, but I couldn't resist this - too much fun!

The list keeps growing so here are some more random questions.

1- What's the craziest thing you've seen going on in a passing car?

Besides the typical application of mascara, cell phone meandering type distractions, the craziest I've seen had to be the woman taking care of her man...

2- Is there any rules about appearance? I have a tattoo on my lower arm that I have to cover up at my current job. I'm also considering growing out a zz top style beard.

Swift requires a neat and tidy appearance. No idea on tattoos, but I'd imagine the beard won't fly.

3- Do many companies go to Mexico? I see a lot about going to Canada but nothing about Mexico.

I don't believe any companies actually go far into Mexico yet. I'm not sure if they even enter Mexico. Despite NAFTA going into effect in January 1994, very little has been done about standardization of trucking equipment across our southern border.

4- How often do you come across low bridges? Are they few and far between or are there a lot of them?

They're everywhere. Watch out for the sides of the Cross Bronx (12'6") after you cross the George Washington Bridge in NYC.

5- As a company driver for a large company does the company pay the tolls with EZ pass or something? Those prices are crazy for 18wheelers.

Yep. Swift has a combination deal called Pre-Pass. It covers EZ Pass tolls, and communicates with weigh stations before you have to enter. Yeah, $15 per axle to cross the GW seems excessive.

6- Does anyone have experience with pets on the road. The companionship seems nice but shedding and litter boxes would be a pain. Also if you have a dog I'm sure its difficult to find a place for them to run around. Thats probably why so many companies have banned them.

Swift won't let company drivers bring pets. I believe lease operators may be able to, after all, they are responsible for the tractor.

7- How often should you do your pretrip? Every time youstart driving for the day? Before each load?

Every day, and before every load. Check the essentials while on the road. You never know when some joker has decided to pull your fifth wheel release handle!

8- As a company driver does the company assign your fuel stops or do you just fill up as you see fit?

Fuel stops are pre-planned by Swift.

Posted:  11 years, 4 months ago

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Sleep apnea and Swift

Sleep apnea is certainly not something that you mess around with. As I understand it, Swift takes sleep apnea quite seriously. Word has it that a sleep apnea diagnosis was the reason that a member of my class was let go within an hour of his arrival in class.

I suspect you'll be fine with a BMI of 32. But like all things, moving in a positive direction will benefit yourself most of all.

Posted:  11 years, 4 months ago

View Topic:

Interesting things on the Truckers Wives Forum

Are there any restrictions on cooking tools that we can keep and use in the truck?

I was thinking of the little camp stoves previously mentioned, or perhaps a rice cooker / steamer. I'd love a toaster oven too, but I'd imagine that would require quite a powerful inverter.

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