Comments By Buster's Buddy

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Posted:  3 years, 10 months ago

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Feeling discouraged - afraid to park at crowded truck stops

I was just thinking about this. Today on 2 separate occasions I watched a day cab pull into a dock that I also pulled into. The first one was TIGHT, the second dock involved backing around the corner. In both instances the day cab pulled into the dock faster than I pulled into the driveway. That's what these guys do: hit docks all day long, and the faster the better. In both instances I took much longer, pulled forward a few times, and hit the dock like a professional driver and felt pretty good about myself. See, that's the part that got me thinking, I'm a professional driver (or I'm faking being one until I actually make it). I literally get paid to drive. I don't get paid to back up. So I'm perfectly content with being an adequate backer.

If you don't hit anything you win. It doesn't matter how much time or how many tries it takes. Even if it's frustrating, it is still success. You should be proud every time you back into a space or a dock without hitting anything. You're a driver, every mile you drive without hitting anything is a win. Backing gets easier with practice.

I'm in my 3rd month solo and I decided right off the bat to stay away from busy truck stops as much as possible. I much prefer to spend the night in rest areas. I usually hit a Pilot or Flying J during the day to grab a shower. The lines are shorter, the parking is easier. I always look for the easiest parking spot, often that means a spot on a corner or by a traffic lane where I can pull all the way forward to line up, then straight back into the spot. When I first started I really concentrated on pull through spots that were clear on each side and I focused on not crossing the lines. Some great advice already - park in the back, look for large truck stops, and above all get the Trucker Path App if you have a smartphone. I love that you can see a satellite image of the parking lot so I can scope out the choice spots for me (in the back, on a corner) and get a sense of traffic flow in advance. I;ve been known to park in a TA or other large truck stop that is across the street from a Pilot or Flying J because the parking is easier, and then walk across the street for my shower.

Posted:  4 years, 2 months ago

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Leasing a truck a requirement for employment as a driver ?

Well gang, hard to believe or not, this was all covered on TT 5 weeks ago when it happened. I did call 2 other recruiters and got the same story. I live in a small town about 100 miles north of Phoenix. Prime told me that was too many deadhead miles and offered me a choice of leasing or moving to Phoenix. I even offered to park my car at the terminal and drive myself home. No deal.

I'm not badmouthing Prime or claiming Prime has a don't-hire-if-more-than-100-miles-away policy. I can't speak for anyone else. I'm just offering my personal experience in response to the OP.

Today instead of being in Springfield MO with Prime I'm in Joplin MO with XPO/Con-way. Nothing I've seen in the past 5 weeks has my questioning my decision.

Posted:  4 years, 2 months ago

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Leasing a truck a requirement for employment as a driver ?

When I called Prime and said that I was ready to go to work for them (after several months talking to the recruiter), I was told that they would only hire me as a lease driver because I lived more than 100 miles from their terminal.

In general they don't push leasing, but there are specific instances where they do.

Posted:  4 years, 2 months ago

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CDL Hard Copy

Just got my CDL after graduating from driving school in Missouri. Paper copy for now. They are mailing the hard copy to my home in Arizona. Once that arrives I will have to pay $55 to get my CDL and all of my endorsements tranfered to AZ.

Posted:  4 years, 2 months ago

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XPO/Conway Training via Crowder College

Our final week of school has been mighty hectic. Our class started at 10 students and finished with 5. Due to illness for the past 2 weeks we have only had 1 instructor per day, and there has been a rash of accidents (a 4 wheeler turned too wide and struck a truck) and mechanical-issues. Making sure we had a truck and an instructor at all times has been challenging. The school has hired a batch of new instructors and purchased several new trucks so this shouldn't be an issue in the future. But that doesn't help my class. In spite of these problems we have had very little non productive time this week thanks mostly to Tim, our instructor. 

3 of us were scheduled to test on Tuesday and 2 on Wednesday. Monday was final polishing for the Tuesday testers, Tuesday the same for the Wednesday testers. 

I passed PreTrip but failed Backing Tuesday (stupid mistake on the 90 degree backing). The examiner told my instructor he was surprised I failed since I was handling the vehicle competently and right until the end I was doing fine. He said there was nothing for me to work on before my retest. 

Tried again Thursday morning. Even worse case of test anxiety than first time. Since I now new the point system I made sure all my stupid backing mistakes were low value ones, so I passed Backing with no problem. Road test was rough. The first time I drove a big rig in the rain was during my road test. My previous 7 scored drives were all in the 86-95 range. Although significantly easier than any previous drive I scored 73 on the road test. You need a 70 to pass. Whew. Still, I get the same license as my classmates who all scored higher. So very relieved that part is over.

Thursday was more paperwork and finishing the Joplin Road Test and 45 degree backing test, both of which are specifically for XPO/Conway. A final written exam (which I thought we had already taken) and then some time on the simulators experiencing virtual ice and low visibility runs. I'm sure it was helpful, but I'm still bummed Skid Pad won't be fixed until next week. XPO supposedly will make arrangements for me to spend time on it if I can make that happen sometime in the future. 

Friday morning we went in for Graduation and to get our packets and discovered that during the instructors alternating sick days period we managed to miss an exam. Oops. Ripped that out real quick and now we are just waiting for the XPO bus to come down from Joplin to pick us up. It should be here around 1:00 and the first stop we be DMV to get our license. Then it's the hotel and waiting until Monday morning Orientation. Actually apparently Missouri uses 3rd party License Offices and has no DMV. We will get a paper CDL and the plastic one will be mailed to my residence in Sedona. I have 90 days to get it transferred to AZ. 

All in all this has been a great experience. I highly recommend Crowder Tranportation Training at Crowder College in Neosho, MO. My class is part of the 4 week XPO/Conway program where XPO is paying for everything except breakfast on the weekends. There is also a 5 week program open to all. I know there is a couple here with a team pre hire from Schneider, but I don't know who is paying for what. Great instructors, late model equipment, nice apartment, decent cafeteria food, glad I came. 

Next week: Orientation Monday - Thursday. With a little luck I'll be on the road with my finisher on Friday. Or maybe Monday. We shall see...

Posted:  4 years, 2 months ago

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Got my CDL! Finally.

Congrats!!!!

What company has orientation in Joplin? I used to live in Springfield, so I'm familiar with Joplin.

XPO Logistics Truckload (formerly Con-Way Truckload), the number 2 employer in Joplin.

Thanks to all for the congrats.

Posted:  4 years, 2 months ago

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Distance from terminal

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XPO/Conway doesn't care where you live in relation to a terminal. I live in Arizona and the nearest terminal is in Laredo, Texas, over 1000 miles away.

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That must be for their truckload division. I'm sure if it was Conway-Freight, their LTL operation, they'd want you close to a terminal. Not sure if they're still calling it Conway-Freight after the merger with XPO.

This leads me to make a comment to the OP. The only time you really have to be concerned about being close to a terminal is if it's a local gig, e.g. LTL work or food service.

You are correct, I am referring to XPO Logistics Truckload (formerly Con-way Truckload). Since the purchase last fall the Con-way name has been dropped completely. Officially. They are beginning to rebrand the trucks and trailers, but most still say Con-way. The signs at HQ and all of the paperwork just says XPO Logistics.

For those who are unaware: rather than lumping them all together or having different divisions that handled OTR, LTL, and Intermodal, Con-way set up separate companies for each. Last fall XPO Logistics purchased the parent company, although it wasn't until last month that they announced they decided to keep Truckload. Say goodbye to the white trucks with the blue stripe and blue Con-way script, say hello the white trucks with XPO in block red letters.

Posted:  4 years, 2 months ago

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Got my CDL! Finally.

Retested today after failing Tuesday (stupid mistake on the 90 degree backing). Bad, bad case of test anxiety. My 7 scored drives were all in the 86-95 range. I scored 73 on the CDL road test which was significantly easier than any previous drive. You need a 70 to pass. Still, I get the same license as my classmates who scored higher. So very relieved this part is over. Heading up to Joplin tomorrow for Orientation on Monday. With a little luck I'll be out on the road with my finisher on Friday.

Posted:  4 years, 2 months ago

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Distance from terminal

XPO/Conway doesn't care where you live in relation to a terminal. I live in Arizona and the nearest terminal is in Laredo, Texas, over 1000 miles away.

Posted:  4 years, 2 months ago

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XPO/Conway Training via Crowder College

Good luck out there and see on the roads soon! (I take DOT test on the 7th)

Best of luck on your test tomorrow. See you out on the road. good-luck.gif

Posted:  4 years, 2 months ago

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XPO/Conway Training via Crowder College

WEEK 3

Another unusual week at school and I did not keep a daily diary. I'm so focused on testing Tuesday the details of last week are a little vague and we went way off syllabus. My roommate and I are finally healthy, but now our instructors are both sick. This is a 5 week program that has been condensed to 4 weeks. Our first week was 4 days instead of 5 thanks to Presidents Day. We have only had 1 instructor each day, although the 2 instructors traded off being out sick. 

We spent most of this week practicing backing. One of my roommates insists they should change the name from "Truck Drving School" to "Truck Backing School". There was already quite a bit of backing scheduled for this week, and with only one instructor half the class was always out on the pad backing while the other half was driving. We have only been on 6 of the 9 scheduled drives, and of course the only aspect I am having trouble with is high speed shifting, which can only be practiced out on the road. 

In addition to practicing Straight Line-, Offset-, and Parallel Backing, this week we learned 90 Degree Alley Backing. Of course we've been studying the PreTrip. We also had our final written tests. This course is an accredited College course and after our final exams we lost 2 more students because of their GPAs. By Friday we were down to 5 students from our original 10. One of those fellows has already enrolled in another trucking school which has no written component in a state with an easier CDL exam so he will still be driving, just not for XPO/Conway. 

Our instructor Tim came in on Saturday and spent one-on-one time with each of us, that was extremely helpful. 

As I said at this point I am more focused on next week than last week. Monday we will hopefully be getting in another drive, and will hopefully have 2 healthy instructors. Monday is also our chance to practice everything one more time. Myself and 2 students are scheduled to test for our CDL license on Tuesday and the remaining 2 on Wednesday. 

The test is in 3 parts: PreTrip Inpection, Backing Maneuvers, and Road Test. You must pass each section to move on to the next. The PreTrip breaks the vehicle down into sections: Engine Compartment, Tractor, Trailor, and In Cab. Everyone tests on the In Cab portion plus one or more other sections. We won't know until the test begins which section(s) we will draw. The Backing Test consists of Straight Line and Off Set Backing, plus either Parallel or Alley. Then the Road Test. 

Theoretically we have as many chances as we need to pass the first 2 sections. Missouri State law only allows 3 attempts at the Road Test, then you must wait one year to apply to retest. The word is that Missouri has the strictest tests. In reality we will have Thursday and Friday to retest. There are exceptions but generally XPO/Conway feels if you can't pass by then they don't want to hire you. 

Once we've passed our test we will have some teaching that is specific to XPO/Conway. On Friday afternoon they will ship us back to Joplin for the next week's Orientation. On our way to the  La Quinta we will be stopping at DMV to get our CDL. 

I'm still a big fan of Crowder College Transportation School. They offer a 5 week course for getting your CDL. Conway has used them for years and they have a special 4 week course just for XPO/Conway. One of our instructors worked for Conway for years as a driver and in their Safety Department. The other instructor drove for 18 years, as an O/O and for a number of companies. 

Overall I am doing very well. I just have clipboard syndrome. I'm start driving and I'm nice and smooth and all is well, until I grind a gear. Then I get frustrated and tense and the grinding gets louder and more frequent, until we hit a nice straight stretch and I take a deep breath and relax and everything gets nice and smooth. Until I grind a gear and... My instructor said I really need to find something that will calm my nerves before I take the test. I told him a shot of whiskey usually does that for me. 

I keep reminding myself that if I get a 99 or a 71 I still get the same CDL and the same paycheck. I have confidence that come Tuesday I'll be Good Enough. 

Posted:  4 years, 2 months ago

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I need help slowing down

... The reason I do this is because if I hold the brake down too long, the truck stalls out. It'll do that, right? I can't just apply the brake without consequences like in my car. Am I doing it wrong? How do I brake properly without stalling?

Actually, Not right. These modern trucks aren't like normal standard transmissions. I was worried about lugging the engine or stalling out, and I regularly overreved when out on the road. Yesterday my instructor had me slow down to a crawl and then take off again - all while in 6th gear on a 10 speed. I've been driving a wide variety of standard transmissions (cars, trucks, motorcycles, volkswagons, farm equipment, etc) for decades and I've never seen anything like it. He said the computer takes over and it is practically impossible to stall out a newish truck. It won't be smooth or pretty, but you don't have that "oh sh*t I just killed my engine in the middle of traffic" moment. If you are able to I recommend trying to stall out or lug the engine in a controlled environment. Then you will know where the limits are when your out in traffic.

I really liked OS description of the proper procedure. Every truck & trailer in our school and at XPO/Conway has ABS brakes. There is no need to pump them or stab them, just apply pressure smoothly.

The other big thing thing I have to remember is Everything Happens Slower. Much lower engine speeds than what I am used to. I just have to keep all of this in mind when I test on Tuesday. Good luck with your slowing!

Posted:  4 years, 2 months ago

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XPO/Conway Training via Crowder College

WEEK 2

Our 2nd week flew by. I was still sick and I didn't take any notes. We spent hours out on the pad every day practicing backing and learning new techniques. Every time I'd start feeling better several hours in the biting windy cold would change that. 

Monday was a rough day. Bad test scores, issues that made me feel old and worn out. Life improved once I got on the road. 

We learned parallel parking (from both sides) as well as offset backing. I heard a lot of folks *****ing about learning parallel parking when there is little or no real world call for it. To me the whole purpose of this exercise is to learn how to get the tractor trailer rig to go where you want it to backwards. I may never have a call to parallel park but I'm certain there will be days when I realize my whole rig needs to move 2 feet to the left. 

We spent more time driving on real roads. I don't think I'll ever forget that moment driving down the highway when it hit me "This is what it feels like to be a trucker."  I've done well on my drives but there is still room for improvement. My biggest problem is shifting, but it m getting better. 

We had our midterms on Friday, and will have our finals this Friday. Other than the times I way overthought the problems I did very well. This weekend I just stayed in bed and ate pizza. I'm feeling hale and hearty now and look forward to an intense week. 

Posted:  4 years, 3 months ago

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Self employed for 5 years...is this gonna be a problem?

I've been self employed for 18 years and am halfway through company sponsored school right now. Every recruiter I spoke to assured me that my tax returns with my Schedule C and Schedule SE would be sufficient.

Posted:  4 years, 3 months ago

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XPO/Conway Training via Crowder College

Got to Joplin MO Thursday afternoon after a 26 hour bus ride. While Greyhounds are much nicer than they were in the 80s, I think 10 hours is my comfort time limit these days. Checked into the La Quinta and was told I would have a roommate when anyone else on the list showed up. Spent some time in the hot tub, which was great after the bus ride. 

Friday morning 12 of us went in for urine and hair follicle tests. Since I already had my CLP and my DOT Medical card I didn't need a physical. Got back to the La Quinta and was informed no one else showed,so they were moving me to a King room. I picked up a cold on the bus so it was really nice to have my own room and soak in the tub. 

The hotel provided breakfast Friday and XPO fed us lunch, but we were on our own for dinner Friday night which I wasn't expecting. 

On Saturday morning they bused us down to Crowder College to attend their Truck Driver Training Program. Con-way established a special 4 week training program with the school. Their normal school is 5 weeks. It is an intense program, but I believe one of the best available. There are 10 of us in the XPO program. We are staying in a very nice 2 bedroom apartment, 2 to a room. There is also a much older dorm. 2 of our group are in one of those rooms. Not as nice, but they each have their own room and bathroom. 

XPO isn't paying us while we are in school, but theoretically they are covering all room and board expenses. I say theoretically because we found out upon arrival that the cafeteria is only open for lunch and dinner on weekends and holidays. We brings me to the fact that Monday is a holiday. Now our already intensive program just got more intense our first week. We did get our books and a 4 chapter homework assignment on Saturday, so that helps. 3 of us made a $24 cab ride run to Walmart for breakfast food and items people forgot. Not too bad a price except our recruiters and instructors keep insisting it's a $6 cab ride. So ther than the expectations everything is going well. 

Tuesday we spent time on the simulator learning the shift pattern and double shifting. I've been driving a very wide variety of standard transmissions for 4 decades, and I had more trouble than I thought I would. Up shifting was easy, but down shifting took some learning. We have great instructors who had me running great in no time. I'm glad to have started on the simulator where I didn't have anything else to worry about. 

Our second day was more simulator and then had us in the trucks doing straight line backing. It felt so good to get behind the wheel of the beast. We did lose 2 of our class when the drug tests came back, so we are now at 8 students and 2 instructors, Skyler and Tim. 

Thursday we drove around the back lot. It's 3 blocks long and 2 blocks wide and we drive a figure 8 that's about 1 mile total. Learning button hook turns and straight turns with lots of up shifting and down shifting. Again, I didn't do as well as I expected but both instructors assured all of us we weren't doing as bad as we thought. My very first turn was a right hand button hook that I accidentally took in 5th gear (I was aiming for 3rd). Way too fast but I didn't panic and I didn't hit anything. The guys in the back weren't near as scared as I was. The trucks have the beds and cabinets removed and 3 or 4 passenger seats with seat belts installed. Tim gave a demo drive and showed me exactly what I was doing wrong with my double clutching. Next time I got behind the wheel was smooth as silk (most of the time). A big part of that was just slowing everything down. 

One of my roommates was diagnosed with pneumonia so he will be dropping back a week, so we are now down to 7 students. 

Friday was our straight line backing test. I aced it, although the official verdict was that if the trailer had one more coat of paint I would have been out of bounds. Hey, no contact, no foul. I've really learned to appreciate going slow, and the necessity for Get Out And Look in the real world. 

In between the time behind the wheel we have had some class time and lots of time learning the PreTrip. We have a hand out, a dvd, and access to the trucks after hours and weekends. The cab is locked, so we can't do the In Cab portion, but we can pop the hood and do all the rest of the inspection. Next Friday is our mid-term, which includes the CDL Test PreTrip. 

I am really impressed with this program, and glad I ended up with XPO/Con-way. The school has great staff, and a nice variety of new and fairly new equipment. 

Posted:  4 years, 3 months ago

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Thank you everybody, I'm enjoying trucking

Good to hear things got better for you. The number #1 issue I worry about is getting a bad trainer, or "finisher" as XPO/Con-way calls them. I'm an education junkie (another "Thank You" to Brett for The High Road Program) and there is just so much you could learn from a good trainer. I would be sorry to see such a unique opportunity be wasted. So I hope for the best, and take courage from your experience that I can get through the worst.

Posted:  4 years, 3 months ago

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First conversation with a recruiter(Roehl), not what I anticipated

It's true. In AZ your license is good until you turn 65. You aren't required to update it even if you move, you just have to update your address with DMV. Or update a Graduated License. AZ has always been a bit odd about licenses. I was in the Navy in the early 80s before the "good until you turn 65" rule. The rule then was if you were active military your license did not expire, in spite of the expiration date printed on it. A nice idea, and of course all Arizona LEOs knew that, but good luck convincing a Georgia Sheriff who doesn't like swabbies in his town...

That being said, even though it meant losing the best license photo I've ever had I did make a point of purchasing a duplicate license with my current address before I went for my CLP specifically so that when I started applying to Trucking Companies all of my addresses would match (DL, CLP, current residence) to avoid any possible complications. I would recomend just get an updated license. You and I and any AZ based company know you're OK, but an out of state company will interpret it according to their own state regulations.

Posted:  4 years, 3 months ago

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Orientation begins this Monday

Well, I now have a CDL Class-A w/XT Endorsements. Glad to have that behind me. I did write a review of my school but it exceeds the character limit. I PM'd Brett to inquire of the publishing options.

Thanks to all of you here at TT for the knowledge and advice.

I personally couldn't be more excited to get going in this industry!

I will check in occasionally. Good luck and be safe!

Sax

Congratulations Saxon! I look forward to reading your school review. Stay safe, and remember - Don't hit anything!

Posted:  4 years, 3 months ago

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Once more with Feeling!

So you're saying Prime would have hired you as a lease operator but not a company driver because of your home location?

Yep. My legal residence is in Sedona, about 100 miles north of Phoenix. Too far for Prime. They said they would only hire me as a lease operator unless I moved to Phoenix. Too many deadhead miles. Con-Way is happy to take me where I am.

I believe I've made a good choice. There just seems to be very little web presence for Con-Way, good or bad. As far as I can tell there are no Con-Way Truckload drivers active on TT. I am planning on creating a diary to help correct that deficit.

Posted:  4 years, 3 months ago

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Once more with Feeling!

I am boarding a Greyhound tomorrow to Joplin MO to drive for Con-Way/XPO. I will be attending a 4 week training program at Crowder College, followed by 4 days of Orientation, then 7,500 miles with a finisher (trainer). XPO isn't paying me during school, but they are providing room & board & transportation. Once I begin Orientation I will start getting paid. Luckily I am in a position right now where this will work for me.

I would have gone with Prime had they been willing to hire me as a company driver at my legal residence. But I have absolutely zero interest in leasing, and the advantages didn't seem to justify moving. I think Con-Way/XPO will prove to be a good choice, and if not it's only for a year. Crowder seems to have an excellent reputation for training.

Thanks again to all who made suggestions on my earlier post concerning companies that train that have a pet policy. In my copious amounts of free time I intend to consolidate all the updated information I collected.

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