Profile For Philip S.

Philip S.'s Info

  • Location:
    Fredericksburg, VA

  • Driving Status:
    Company Driver In Training

  • Social Link:

  • Joined Us:
    9 years, 3 months ago

Philip S.'s Bio

31 year old former IT professional making the jump to trucking. Being single with no children, I am looking forward to life on the road for a couple years.

Page 1 of 1

Posted:  9 years, 2 months ago

View Topic:

USA Truck via Driver Solutions

Week 2 With the start of the second week, the majority of our class went out to the range lot for backing maneuvers. Some were still working on permit testing, so they continued in the classroom. The lot had 1 straight line backing range, 4 full maneuver ranges and 1 designated pre-trip inspection truck. Our class was assigned to the straight line range for the first day. There were several of us, so we each only got 1 chance to get in the truck and go back and forth 3 times. For the most part, we could back up in a straight line; however, a few struggled and needed more one on one instruction. During the down time, we walked around the pre-trip truck to begin forming our pre-trip routine. Our class stayed after on the first day for a pre-trip lab where the instructor went through each part, showed it to us, and explained what we needed to look for, which was beneficial.

On our second day, the majority of our class was assigned to one of the full maneuver ranges. On these ranges, we had to complete three maneuvers: straight line, blind side offset and blind side parallel. My instructor, Jeff, put each of us behind the wheel, and walked us through step-by-step. It was a bit daunting, but not quite as difficult as I imagined it would be. We all made tons of mistakes, but could complete the maneuvers with instruction. I was able to get in the truck twice on the range my first day and began to feel quite comfortable with the maneuvers.

In addition to being assigned to a range, we were taken out on the road in groups of 3-4. I ended up being pulled to go on the road in the morning. The road instructors have a few places they like to go to teach various skills like turning and shifting. Today was the "playground" where we got familiar with the truck and how to start and stop. It was a rural stretch with 4 right turns and very straight roads. We did not have to worry about downshifting or double clutching yet as the sole focus was very basic. A couple of us decided to double clutch anyway, just to get in the habit. Our instructor, Vaughn, also showed a couple of us how to down shift. I went last and was lucky enough to be able to drive back to the school.

We continued with this for the remainder of the week. Part of our day was spent on the range working on the maneuvers and the other part was spent on the road. In addition to the playground, we went to "turn city," an industrial complex with lots of turns, the interstate where we got off at each exit to practice downshifting, and the CDL test route. None of us tested on the road; however, our instructor indicated a few of us were ready.

On Thursday, I did my first range test. C1 requires students to complete the range maneuvers twice out of three attempts with 7 or fewer points to pass. I nailed the first attempt, but seriously bombed the second attempt. The day ended, so I didn't get a third attempt. I was still upbeat though. On Friday, I had another test attempt where I perfected the first attempt, got 8 points on the second attempt, and completely failed the third attempt before I got to parallel. My confidence was shaken, to say the least.

That weekend, only those who were in line for the state CDL test were required to attend class. Others were welcome to come and work on pre-trip, but were not going to be able to get in a truck. I opted not to go, as I had my pre-trip down pat. I had my name on the list to test out on the pre-trip on Thursday, but the pre-trip instructor had been filling in for another instructor so hadn't gotten to us.

Overall, it was a good week. The weather, was nasty with snow and it was quite cold. I had to go to the Wal Mart to buy some better shoes and additional layers to withstand the wet and cold. The nasty weather quickly became a common theme every day, with the exception of Sunday. I felt like I learned a lot and was quickly becoming more comfortable in the truck. I was defeating myself on the backing maneuvers and that was starting to rattle my confidence a little. Thankfully, my family was all quite supportive via Facebook and text message.

The instructors were quite patient; though, my range instructor, Jeff, was quite animated. None of us in his group were able to pass the range. A couple of us were close, but couldn't seal the deal on the 2nd or 3rd attempt. Not to discredit him and his instruction, because he was great, but I started to feel I wasn't learning anything more from him and was ready to move on to another instructor.

We had some great camaraderie building between the students, both in our class and with the other classes. Some cliques had formed, which was helpful in some aspects but harmful in others. I tried to stay focused and remember why I was there, so I spent most of the time after class relaxing by myself in the hotel room. I made sure to get to bed at a reasonable time each night, and I think that helped keep me in check.

Posted:  9 years, 2 months ago

View Topic:

Drivers Solutions Trucking School Costs with PAM

Having just finished this program through Driver Solutions (though I went with USA Truck), I can affirm that what is listed on the Driver Solutions website is the most current. It is possible they changed their structure since Brett last received an update with them.

Posted:  9 years, 2 months ago

View Topic:

USA Truck via Driver Solutions

Thanks Brett! I'm a little behind on my updates, but have been making notes so when I do provide them, I know what I want to include. Just a quick status update: I passed my pre-trip inspection and 4 point brake check test on Monday and my road test on Wednesday. I'm struggling with the backing maneuvers (straight line to offset to parallel) on the second attempt (C1 makes us pass the backing maneuvers 2 times out of 3 in a single session and we get fewer points than the state allows). I got the maneuvers down last night with 6 points (pass!) but opted not to test so I could get another crack at it and will test today. I've done all 3 maneuvers with 0 points on the first attempt twice, but then have gotten 8 points on the 2nd attempt both times. 8 fails at C1, but passes at State. I'll give more details when I do the more thorough updates.

Yes, I used eGears through the Driver Solutions website prior to coming. It is not the best tool for learning. Basically, each lesson is a series of questions. A couple sentences are at the top of the page, with 4 multiple choice answers below. All you do is match the answer with what you see in the sentences at the top to get through the course. Then, the test is the same set of questions with the same multiple choice answers. To make things worse, C1 uses eGears and the same set of questions are on the in class tests. It's great for rote learning, but does not help much for the state exam.

I intend to mention The High Road Training Program in my end of course survey with my other feedback. They don't mention any outside tools during the course, which I think is a bit of a disservice to students.

Well, my laundry should be about done, so I'm going to go check on that and get ready for another cold day out on the range!

Posted:  9 years, 2 months ago

View Topic:

Birth Certificates...?

From my research before starting school myself, most schools require the birth certificate due to the state license requirements or the I-9. In both cases, a passport meets the requirements. When in doubt, a quick phone call to the school/program will give confirmation.

Posted:  9 years, 2 months ago

View Topic:

USA Truck via Driver Solutions

Days 4 & 5: Finishing Classroom The rest of the week was to finish out the classroom instruction. Thursday was logging, using paper logs. We did several examples where we were given a list of activities and had to draw the lines and brackets. This took the majority of the morning, but was great practice. Both carriers want us to know how to paper log, in case the electric logging systems go down, which makes total sense. After logging, we went to lunch. Those of us with our permits were dismissed to the range for straight-line backing. The remaining students went to the BMV for permit testing.

Straight-line backing went well. There were 5 of us that went to the range. A couple students already had their CDLs, but were required by their carrier to go through a refresher course. We all did fairly well. I managed to not only go very crooked going forward, but also stalled the truck. The instructor walked the truck back with me, giving simple left, right, straight instructions while I looked in the mirror to get a feel for what I should see. After that, I was able to move back and forth successfully without instruction. During the afternoon, a couple more students joined us as they had passed their permit tests that afternoon. The instructor stayed late to allow us each to get in the truck once.

Friday morning was spent on mapping, which was another good exercise. We used the basic Rand McNally Motor Carrier Atlas, which is apparently on the lower end as far as trucking maps go. Just using the Washington DC map (having lived there for 8 years), I can say this was not a map to use to navigate a city! Our instructor said our carriers would provide us a "mid-grade" map in our starter kits with more details in some of the cities. We also went over some basic information about staying healthy and safe on the road. After the instruction, one of the road and range instructors came into the class and gave a very terse talk about how important knowing the pre-trip inspection and 4-point brake check. We were given an assignment to write out the 4-point brake check 10 times for Monday. After, we were dismissed to the range or BMV for testing.

Unfortunately, going to the range was wasted time. The range instructors were busy working with students in the groups ahead of us. We were also informed the pre-trip truck was unavailable to us. Only 3 of us went. We made the best of our time by watching a pre-trip video a couple times.

The logging exercise was great experience; however, the instructor did not cover the split-sleeper berth nor was he aware of the recent DOT HOS changes. He stated our carriers would go over the July changes at that time and that the regulations change quite frequently. As for staying healthy, the information was a little outdated. He was still using the grain heavy food pyramid, which has been replaced by the fruit and vegetable focused MyPlate.

The school starts a new class every week, so the range always has at least two full groups working with instructors. Being able to go out in the first week is a bonus, so I wasn't too upset about not being able to work with an instructor on Friday. I was a little upset that the pre-trip truck was made unavailable to us, given the lecture we received about its importance. On the flip side, the previous groups were apparently not passing the pre-trip portion of the state test, so they needed a little work.

The First Weekend

On Saturday, I had the option to go to the range. They weren't sure if we would be able to work with an instructor, so I decided not to go. Instead, I found a local Starbucks and wrote out the 4-point brake check 5 times. By the 4th attempt, I had it almost word-for-word from memory. I then spent the remaining time exploring Fort Wayne. I completed the other 5 Sunday evening and had it down word-for-word by the 7th attempt. It was a good relaxing weekend and I was ready for Monday.

Posted:  9 years, 2 months ago

View Topic:

What if you get sick on the road?

An recent analysis of food based outbreaks has shown that many have come from vegetables in recent years (I can't find the articles, but I believe the CDC did the analysis). Major Salmonella outbreaks have occurred in spinach, tomatoes, jalapeno peppers and peanut butter in the last ten years. The best things you can do to help prevent infection are to wash your vegetables, properly cook your meat and drink plenty of non-alcoholic fluids. The digestive system is incredibly efficient when it comes to removing contaminates, but proper hydration is essential.

Botulism generally comes from canned products that aren't canned properly, honey and corn syrup (never give honey or corn syrup to a baby for that reason). Underheated foods, especially when left out, can quickly become a breeding ground. Glad you survived the ordeal :)

Posted:  9 years, 2 months ago

View Topic:

USA Truck via Driver Solutions

Sorry for the delay. I've had terrible headaches the last few days and have been going to sleep as soon as I get home from training and haven't much bothered to open the computer. But, it's Saturday, I'm feeling better and I have a lot of updates to give.

Days 2 & 3: Permit Testing On Day 2, we spent the entire day finishing the permit testing requirements. We went through both air brakes and combination vehicles fairly quickly. The information was a rehash of the online course we had already done. At this point, several of us were a little upset that there wasn't much in the way of instruction. Thankfully, there are good resources out on the web, including the online courses here on Trucking Truth. After lunch, we went over the Indiana Operator information because all non-Indiana residents were required to take the written test, even though we all held valid operator licenses from other states. The director of the school came in to speak with us for about half an hour before we were dismissed early due to deteriorating weather.

When we arrived on Day 3, we started going through some FMCSA information and had about an hour to study before the tester arrived to the school. Because we did not go to the BMV, the permit tests were old-fashioned pencil and paper. Most of us had 4 tests to take: Indiana Operator, CDL General Knowledge, Air Brakes and Combination Vehicles. Surprisingly, there was no hard time limit on the tests. The state tester stated she would like them finished in about 2 hours, but more time was available if needed. Once we finished the tests, it was off to lunch.

After lunch, we were told we would get our results at around 1400-1430, so we continued with our classroom lessons. We went through a Hazmat overview. Our instructor emphasized that the overview was far from sufficient to pass the Hazmat endorsement test; however, our carriers PAM and USA Truck wanted us to have the overview. Shortly after Hazmat, our results came in. Those of us who passed were dismissed to the BMV to obtain our permits. The others remained behind for some studying.

After seeing the Permit tests, I cannot emphasize enough to use whatever resources you may have available. I am thankful I covered Hazmat on my own because there were questions on the CDL General Knowledge test, but we did not do the Hazmat overview until after testing. I intend to make this point to the school during the end of course survey. Going over the FMCSA information prior to the test screwed a few people up as well, I think. While the exercise of looking through the green book was great, going over new information right before the test was not in the best interest of helping people pass. Out of our 18-20 person class, only 3 passed all 4 tests on the first shot. Out of a class that large, not everyone was expected to pass, but I think it speaks to something about the classroom instruction that so few did pass all of them. At least one person failed all four tests. In Indiana, they do not charge for permit testing and allow a person to test once per day with no restrictions on the number of retests. One person in the previous group took two weeks to pass the tests and was allowed to continue. Attitude matters a lot, and they realize that not everyone is good with tests. While the instruction was not the greatest, they had other resources available for students who needed it. While the school could use some improvement in the classroom instruction, they give people the opportunity to improve. That is something that cannot be found very often today, especially in a bad economy.

Posted:  9 years, 2 months ago

View Topic:

USA Truck via Driver Solutions

I'm in my second week of CDL training and just got a new laptop, so thought I would share my experiences up through this point. I'll try to be as thorough as I can, so this post will be broken up into multiple parts due to space limitations. I will give a rundown followed by some quick opinions.

Pre-Enrollment I filled out the application for Driver Solutions on their website and worked with Stacy. We went through my previous 3 years of employment (10 years for any driving jobs), including unemployment gaps. I also had to provide a couple personal references. Once I completed that information, I went through an online course to prepare for the Indiana Operator, CDL General, Air Brakes and Combination permit exams. The longest part was waiting for my prior employers to complete the employment verification. Overall, Stacy was helpful and receptive to my questions. The information on the site could have been more thorough, but I felt confident coming here. The entire process, from first call to Day 1 in the program took less than 2 weeks.

While Driver Solutions is paying for the hotel, they did not pay for my travel from Virginia to Indiana. I opted to drive rather than take the bus and have to rely on classmates for rides from the hotel to school. As with many other programs, they do not pay for meals. The hotel is the Extended Stay America in Fort Wayne.

I was not impressed when I first got to the room. The dishes from the previous student had not been washed and the counter was still dirty. The school, C1 Truck Driving School, has an ongoing contract with the hotel so they have a revolving door of students. My roommate is in my group; however, there are some students who have roommates from other groups. Aside from the initial issue with the dishes, the hotel staff has been incredibly accommodating. We have a full fridge, stove top (no oven), microwave and a set of 2 dishes (bowls, plates, etc). Vending and laundry machines are available on site at typical hotel prices. We have about a dozen TV channels and free wi-fi.

First Day My roommate and I carpooled the first day. When we arrived, we checked in and provided our required documents.

Shortly after registering, we went over the contract. I don't have a scanner here, but I will upload a redacted image of the contract. After completing the course and completing a year, the course costs about $2,000 paid via payroll deduction during the first year. If I don't complete the year with USA Truck, the total cost increases. In addition to the $5,995 tuition, the contract includes $400 for housing and $125 for the physical. There are other provisions for dropping out/being dismissed which reduce the cost some.

Immediately after the contract review, we started physicals. The physical included vision, hearing, weight, neck size measurement, drug screen, history review, range of motion checks, reflexes and a hernia check. I passed with the 2 year certificate despite my concerns about being overweight. We had 5 people dismissed during the physical: 1 for medication and 1 for high blood pressure; I will not speculate on the cause for dismissal on the remaining. The physicals took the remainder of the morning and part of the early afternoon. No one was dismissed for lunch until after all of the physicals were complete.

After lunch, we received our learning binder. Inside were the relevant sections of the CDL manual, basic student guidelines, backing maneuver diagrams and other professional driving information. We started working on the CDL General Knowledge information. We were dismissed from class and did not have any assigned homework. All in-class tests were open-book collaborative tests. The reasoning for open book was that he wanted us to be familiar with how to look-up the information we needed. My collaboration buddies and I worked well together. With each question, we came to an answer and found justification for our answer in the class material.

The girl at the front desk wasn't very friendly, nor was she able to answer many questions from what I witnessed directly. Thankfully, I didn't have to interact with her much. The training campus is in an industrial park and has that well-worn blue-collar feel to it. Everything was in working order and fairly clean. The instructor was a former driver. He mostly read from the slideshow, which is a rehash of the online course done in pre-enrollment. I would highly suggest using other study tools prior to attending class while keeping in mind there may be some small differences due to Indiana (or other state) requirements. My first impressions were overall positive. With each hiccup, I reminded myself of the end goal and kept "suck it up" at the forefront of my mind. I was expecting things to be difficult, so getting through the first day with such ease made me quite happy.

Posted:  9 years, 2 months ago

View Topic:

About to Embark on a New Career

Just a quick update, I passed the physical and permit tests with no problems. Just got the permit today. Finish classroom this week with logging and mapping. Starting pre trip Saturday. Very exited. Only have my phone here with me, but keeping notes for a more detailed write up when i get to a computer.

Posted:  9 years, 3 months ago

View Topic:

Old and new forum

Hey, I see you were assigned one of my favorite trucking pics for your avatar. When people signup I assign them a random image from the group. You just happen to get one of the coolest ones!

I thought it was pretty cool too. My first thought was that it's a ton better than default avatars on other forums (of any subject, not just trucking).

Posted:  9 years, 3 months ago

View Topic:

About to Embark on a New Career

Just this afternoon I got my slot confirmed for CDL school starting Monday. I'll be going to C1 Trucking School in Fort Wayne, IN through Driver Solutions. Technically, they're still waiting for 1 employer to verify, but the agent with Driver Solutions fully confirmed the slot anyway. After school, I'll be driving for USA Truck.

A little about me. I come from the IT field, where I've spent the vast majority of my short 12 year adult working career. I've done support to project management to development and love information technology itself; I just have grown to hate the field, if that makes any sense. In May of 2012, I lost my job and have struggled to find full-time work since. I considered numerous options in several different industries and ultimately decided on trucking.

I am going to give this at least 2 years from the time I start driving on my own to make my decision on whether to continue. From reading about other experiences, that should be sufficient time to make an informed decision. As an outsider, I have two things that I think will help to some small degree: I love to be alone and I enjoy driving on long trips. To me, flying is great when you're on a time crunch, but I'd much rather drive to get where I'm going, even if it's 1800 miles away.

Right now, I'm both excited and anxious. I worry about failure because I'm a perfectionist at heart. Plus, the recent struggles to find full-time work have chipped away at my confidence a bit. I am also worried a little about the DOT Physical. I'm overweight, 6'0" 220, and would hate to get all the way out to Indiana to be turned away needing to get an apnea study done. My BMI is less than 35, but I have a large neck (18 - 18.5). In the end, there is no use stressing about things over which I cannot control.

I plan to keep the community posted as best I can during the process and I'm sure I'll ask some bonehead questions along the way. This site has been the best resource I have encountered, by far. Without it, I'm not sure I'd be so eager to make the jump.

Posted:  9 years, 3 months ago

View Topic:

Old and new forum

I've already stopped signing people up for the other one and they're going to start coming in here.

I was hoping that was the reason I never got signed up on the old forum. I sent the request just a couple hours before you posted the thread indicating this forum was ready.

This site has given me so much information in a positive tone so far. I'm glad to have the opportunity to be a member.

Page 1 of 1

Join Us!

We have an awesome set of tools that will help you understand the trucking industry and prepare for a great start to your trucking career. Not only that, but everything we offer here at TruckingTruth is 100% free - no strings attached! Sign up now and get instant access to our member's section:
High Road Training Program Logo
  • The High Road Training Program
  • The High Road Article Series
  • The Friendliest Trucker's Forum Ever!
  • Email Updates When New Articles Are Posted

Apply For Paid CDL Training Through TruckingTruth

Did you know you can fill out one quick form here on TruckingTruth and apply to several companies at once for paid CDL training? Seriously! The application only takes one minute. You will speak with recruiters today. There is no obligation whatsoever. Learn more and apply here:

Apply For Paid CDL Training

About Us

TruckingTruth was founded by Brett Aquila (that's me!), a 15 year truck driving veteran, in January 2007. After 15 years on the road I wanted to help people understand the trucking industry and everything that came with the career and lifestyle of an over the road trucker. We'll help you make the right choices and prepare for a great start to your trucking career.

Read More

Becoming A Truck Driver

Becoming A Truck Driver is a dream we've all pondered at some point in our lives. We've all wondered if the adventure and challenges of life on the open road would suit us better than the ordinary day to day lives we've always known. At TruckingTruth we'll help you decide if trucking is right for you and help you get your career off to a great start.

Learn More