Profile For AndMilesToGo

AndMilesToGo's Info

  • Location:
    Male / New England, MA

  • Driving Status:
    In CDL School

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  • Joined Us:
    2 years, 3 months ago

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Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Beginning CDL Training in Massachusetts

July 18, 2017

First 2 hour lesson today and with Mr. Portable Parking Lot no less! Since traffic was pretty heavy and I felt a little rusty after 4 days since last class, PPL drove us from the school down to the 2nd training field. This practice field was huge in comparison with the field for the group class. Could see at least 3 different areas setup for maneuvers and a huge track setup for shifting practice. PPL had already asked what I felt were my strong points and weak points. Obviously straight backing and maneuvers have been very difficult while air brakes and pre-trip haven't really been an issue. He recommended we put those off for now and focus entirely on maneuvers. So that's exactly what we did.

First thing PPL had me do was back up and try and keep the tractor in line with the trailer. No lines, no cones, no worries. In-line while not really caring where it ended up. He stood back while I did this and noted what I was doing and how. Then I slid over while he jumped in, pulled up and backed up himself while moving his head constantly between the 2 west coast mirrors maybe .25 to .50 of a second the whole way back. It looked comical and a bit dizzying but that is what he wanted me to do next. Constantly checking both sides of the trailers in the mirrors the whole way back so quickly as to nearly be still processing the last mirror view while staring at the next mirror. I backed up straight for the first time!!!!! Instead of relief I actually felt more anxious because it could have been a fluke. 30 minutes and a couple of other PPL demonstrations later I had not only backed up straight half a dozen times, but had backed up within the test lines 3 times with only 1 or 2 pull ups. PPL also randomly stuck his hand through the window and put me in a bad angle to make me recover - which was challenging but amazingly wasn't a problem with the swivel.

PPL; Wherever you are tonight can't thank you enough brother.

In the group class they did things a little differently and mainly had us focusing on the driver side west coast mirror only while watching the trailer and the line gap. I don't know the psychology behind it but like I mentioned in previous entries I'm guessing my mind just couldn't get over the illusion that the trailer always looked like it was drifting one way or the other. Swiveling around non-stop to constantly check both sides definitely helped overcome that and catch actual drifting and also helped to develop a sense of how much to turn the wheel to make corrections. I noticed towards the end I was doing less swiveling and spending more time in 1 mirror or the other and it was going well. However if it really started to get out of line after over-correcting then going back to swiveling helped correct it again no problem.

It's tough to articulate the immense weight that came off my shoulders today. Not having straight backing down in the slightest after like 4+ days was really disheartening. It really feels great to make progress. With so much more to learn and practice to get good at not having to stress over that one starting area is a huge relief.

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Beginning CDL Training in Massachusetts

July 14, 2017

Last day in the field with group class after switching schedule to private instruction. Nailed the air brakes test twice. Felt pretty good. Ever since we got our air brake and pre-trip sheets I try and go over them at least twice a day even if it's just glancing through the items quick. Laying in bed at night I actually conduct an entire pre-trip in my head and that seems to be working pretty well and... it puts me to sleep!

More trouble straight backing today. We were pretty focused on offset alleys. The first half of my attempts at offset alley seemed to go well because following the basic procedure with cutting the wheel, sighting the cones and lines in the mirror, and aligning the tractor and trailer together is almost foolproof - but - then inevitably it requires a straight back and I still can't catch the drift in time or seem correct it! It really sucks! I've tried so many different things with the mirrors, where to look, how much to cut the wheels, it's kryptonite for sure. Hopefully with a dedicated lesson I can figure this out.

Did well enough in shifting practice today to be unleashed on the road and highway! IT FELT AMAZING.... and also felt terrifying. We pulled out of the practice field on to a long, semi-busy road that eventually dumps out down by the highway but a couple of exits up. While it was well-paved with well-painted lines (surprising for New England) it was a bit narrow and hilly. Even though we were only going 35 - 40 it felt like we were going 80. Maybe because of the hills or maybe because of the constant corrections from narrowness I could really feel the tractor and the trailer pulling and pushing on each other.

Downshifting is challenging. The concept of revving up while shifting down is awkward to embrace, I guess? About 3/4 through the drive back I randomly started revving up to upshift. For whatever reason, I don't know but it just somehow got stuck in my head. Couldn't figure out why the gears were suddenly grinding until the 3rd time doing it the instructor corrected me. Surprised the heck out of me! Just one of those things to watch out for. The ride on the highway back going 55 was much better than the back roads. The shifting was easier and the lanes had a little more room but best of all the tracking of the trailer felt so much more on point. At speed on a straight shot it stayed straight behind and wasn't all over the place.

So at the end of the day it felt amazing to get out there and experience a little real world action. Definitely a little sad to have to say some goodbyes and leave the class behind but it is what it is. Still here and still learning just changing tack.

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Beginning CDL Training in Massachusetts

July 13, 2017

Third day in the field. We started off splitting into 2 groups and helping each other with pre-trip. My pre-trip inspection papers were destroyed in the storm a couple of days ago and they finally handed out new copies today. Going to scan these copies into a PDF file and then laminate the originals and and use a dry erase marker on them and see how it works out checking stuff off. Edit: It works awesome, but using Vis-a-Vis wet erase markers instead because it comes off easier.

After pre-trip 2 people went off to start practicing shifting while the rest of us did some straight backing and then attempted offset alleys.

I went first for straight backing and adjusted my mirrors to see less of the trailer than usual, still keeping thin sides in sight - if that makes sense. After searching old forums posts here member "Terry" had previously suggested doing that as he found that too much trailer in the mirrors can give the illusion of phantom drifting. It went a little better than yesterday but it is still a struggle. Forget the offset alleys; As usual I had to be walked through each one by the head instructor. They're pretty difficult and obviously also include straight backs anyway. Practice practice practice.

After that got a chance to practice shifting and do some laps. The instructor was a cool cat who stayed calm through the whole ride. Don't know how these guys do it! Cool Cat immediately asked about experience level with manual transmissions and familiarity with big trucks and didn't even blink an eye at my lack thereof.

Honest to god in 10 minutes Cool Cat had me double clutching up to 5th and then flipping the splitter and hitting 6th. It was rough but it definitely got a bit easier and smoother the longer we went. Was skipping from 1 to 4 a couple of times before getting the feel of it along with some total grinding misses, but getting a little bit of muscle memory and then some real quickness helped. Not having to think about the whole process so much.

Downshifting was another story. Did it a few times for sure but the muscle memory isn't there yet. Having to think out the steps is slowing the execution down and making it a bit harder. More to remember.

The route around the lots isn't a perfect circle and it was more than a little awkward making left turns and laps due to the other truck also lapping and a private student practicing maneuvers in a coach.

It's tough to shift and also pay attention to mirrors and gauges and everything else while in a decent forward motion. Every day of class further proves to me that good truck drivers are underrated, underappreciated and deserve more respect for all the distractions, weather, other drivers, terrain, techniques, knowledge and BS etc. they have to deal with. Much respect. Tractor-trailers are no joke.

A nice surprise today was finding out that I'll be heading back to work next week!!! But the schedule straddles both the weekdays and weekend classes so I'm going to be forced to switch to one-on-one instruction anyway. We'll see.

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Beginning CDL Training in Massachusetts

July 12, 2017

Today was an absolute nightmare.

After 2.5 days backing straight is still a huge issue for me. Every time is a disaster. I'm listening, watching, asking whatever questions pop up and understand the concept of what happens but I just can't execute. I don't have a feel for making drift corrections at all. Even getting walked through it is a little rough. I'm certainly not competing or comparing learning speed or ability with anyone else but for the sake of honesty the other 7 are doing well with definite improvement.

While aware and acknowledging both my current anxiety level and that fact that it's only day 2 I'm thinking I may need to switch to private lessons and don't think that's entirely jumping the gun or jitters. I'm not a great group learner and do better one on one when mastering something and it's almost impossible to focus only getting a few minutes at a time here and there. Need to sleep on it.

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Beginning CDL Training in Massachusetts

July 11, 2017 - First day in the field

Incorrectly checked the weather before leaving the house; Brief early morning showers then clear. Took Mr. Umbrella and left Mr. Raincoat. Did not check weather 20 minutes north where the practice field is and where it was going to rain hard all day. One other guy came prepared with a raincoat. Mr. Raincoat and Mr. Umbrella are now permanent residents of SeƱor Trunk.

3 trucks with 3 instructors and 8 students. 2 students practicing air brakes at all times with 6 pre-tripping and later on some straight backing.

Exciting but a little scary. For the air brakes steps my memory is pretty good and there was only a couple of small slips up in remembering the proper order.. However, I've never driven standard before so the brake test on the very first go-around was really rough and consisted of struggling with the clutch to get it in first or reverse and to remember to push the clutch in when stopping (forgot like 3 times). Don't know how, but the instructor was very patient. The execution the second time around went a lot smoother.

However I also had a really hard time with trailer drift when backing up and I can already tell this is going to be a huge issue for me. More tomorrow so we'll see.

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Beginning CDL Training in Massachusetts

July 7 / July 10, 2017

Last 2 days in the classroom for kinetic energy, perception hazards / hazard testing, aggressive driving and a big section on turning and some videos required by law! Average classroom days with not too much to report.

Recruiter from Schneider came in and got right into the details with us. Health benefits are pretty much the same everywhere so far. 401k trumped Werners. The pitch seemed to be the opposite of the standard recruiting BS every recruiter for anywhere seems to do. Instead of 20 reasons why you should come work for us it really was more like "Hi folks. We have our s*** together. This is what we do and how we do it. If you want to come work for us this is what you can expect and if you think you can handle that and are interested - we'll give you a shot." Well not exactly - but it was clear he was honest and wasn't there to waste time. I filled the information card out and will look into them more later on.

We're out in the field starting tomorrow.

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Beginning CDL Training in Massachusetts

July 6th, 2017

Today we had a substitute instructor with 2.5 million miles under his belt. He was a car hauler so I'll go with PPL short for Portable Parking Lot. PPL is more laid back and had a completely different view than Old Hand on career choice as he strongly disliked going over the road. In the last couple of days both instructors have given us a lot of background on their own career choices and their reasoning and pro's and cons, while also giving examples of other people they know who went one way or the other or ended up switching and why. It was nice to get that bit of career contrast.

So we spent time outside going through pre-trip. Our pre-trip study sheets are about half a dozen pages front and back, so it was good to finally go through it on the vehicle and be able to start committing locations to memory. I've rolled around in my driveway plenty of times pulling engines and replacing parts so most items were recognizable but seeing things makes all the difference.

Something PPL showed us that was extremely helpful was how to take advantage of equipment that physically flows from one item to another E.g. Radiator and two-stage reservoir to radiator hose to water pump/belt. Or steering shaft to steering gear box to pitman arm, drag link upper/lower control arm, knuckle, tie rod, etc. It really knocks off a huge chunk of what needs to be touched on. Remembering the isolated equipment and of course properly describing what I'm inspecting for is the tricky part.

We also had a recruiter from Werner come in. It was an actual presentation with video and he showed us some of the regional employment they have around this area. The available work didn't seem too bad but the 401k seemed pretty lacking in comparison to the other companies so far.

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Difficulty of practical exam / road test in different states

My class has been hearing that we have it pretty tough here in Mass and keep hearing horror stories about students failing the registry exam for things like forgetting to use 3-point contact getting in or out of the vehicle, or slipping up and saying the low air warning alarm will come on at 60 instead of before 60. The air brake test is 6 - 7 steps and the pre-trip is the entire truck.

Is this how it is in other states or is it easier?

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Hazmat and a TWIC card

Having a TWIC isn't as big a deal as it used to be but it's still good to have IMO. I got my first one in 2009 and when it expired 5 years later a second one. Both were fully reimbursed by the company (around $130). It's $60 if you lose it. Believe there's a discount for the Hazmat if you already have a TWIC or vice versa?

The turnaround time used to be months so having one was more valuable (could get all the overtime or deliveries to a TWIC site by default) but they process pretty quickly now. It's not just ports that it grants you unescorted access to, but any facility deemed worthy. Power stations, chemical plants, airports etc. With permission from the facility you could also personally escort others who don't hold one. That may or may not be a hassle depending on your time constraints and how you're getting paid. Doing a delivery that takes a couple of hours and then having to wait within earshot of coworkers while they do the same could be brutal if you're not on hourly pay.

Can't speak to Hazmat other than the sheer amount of jobs for it around this area.

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

View Topic:

Beginning CDL Training in Massachusetts

Thanks icecold24k! Will do. It's definitely been interesting so far. We were told that getting the Hazmat endorsement post-CDL is beneficial anyway because otherwise the State Troopers here would tack on a Hazmat stop during the road test. Around here we have a lot of ports and chem plants running Hazmat so it's definitely a must-have eventually.

July 5, 2017

It was super tough to get back into the routine today after the mid-week holiday. Barely slept and was up at 0530 per usual to shower and get to school earlier than 8AM. Leaving early is necessary as the first 25 miles of Route 24 is only 2 lanes before opening up to 3 and with all the traffic heading into the Boston area in the morning it doesn't take much to slow it down and back it up solid for miles. There's a Walmart to kill time at near the school and they've had some great Manager's Specials at open. Scored a ridiculous 9 lbs of turkey pastrami for $4.30!!!! and $7 "hot and ready" chicken, wedges, rice meals for $2.19!

Three other guys have their permit now which leaves 4 to go, with another completing air brakes but getting tripped up on general and combo. Permits are "due" tomorrow but we'll see what happens. Also, one guy did do doubles / triples but it won't be active until after he is a CDL holder.

In class we got hit with quite a few subjects and movies;

Air brakes & Pre-trip / intra-trip / post-trip Hours of Service Regulations, driver's record of duty status / paper logs / electronic logs Bridge law, weigh stations, axle weights, proper sliding of tandems & fifth wheel Cat Scales procedures; standard, split, doubles

The day flew by because it was all super interesting. For every subject Old Hand had stories and examples from his years out on the road from common mistakes and tips, dealing with the DOT, shippers, receivers, other drivers, violations, and the comedic drama of people improperly weighing their vehicles or sliding their tandems.

Everyone did mock paper logs from a day of written times and activities which is harder than it looks and it took me 3 sheets to get right. Was definitely relieved when the hours added up correctly. One small mistake just ruins your entire Christmas which is frustrating but kind of funny at the same time. Seems like properly completing it going about the day will be easier? It's almost a little disappointing that the electronic logging device law is almost in full effect because the paper logs are kind of cool and weirdly satisfying.

Tomorrow we're outside with a substitute instructor and it's finally time for practical air brakes and pre-trip. The pre-trip here in Massachusetts is absolutely crazy. It's necessary to do the entire truck and I understand why but is still a lot of pressure.

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Do any of you go geocaching?

Hold on, hold on, hold on...

Let me understand. Is this free stuff? Because we Russians LOVE free stuff. This changes everything!

rofl-3.gifsmile.gif

The casual etiquette is usually to swap or give even if it's just something random in your pockets. I've seen people get creative and leave doodles drawn on scrap paper. Not every cache is big enough for goodies (or a writing utensil, BYOP) just written logs.

ugYu5wS9HuNd_XPehyA6P2n8lzQZtBr2TXlufRpNoqxkQHgbCzLA1uAoZkzkHZh7BcXgx-8GcQ=w328-h280-no

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Do any of you go geocaching?

Is pokemon go geocaching lol.. but thats a good idea.

It's more like a secret treasure hunt. Unlike the Pokemon Go kids standing in traffic with their phones in front of their faces.

In populated areas you try and play it cool around the unaware but it's not easy especially when they're well-disguised. It helps to have another person or child or even a dog with you. Have had some pretty strange looks going solo. My favorites are the multi-part caches that send you on 'National Treasure' type hunts. Coordinates for one place, riddle at another etc.

Turtle 900 finds is amazing!! Are you surprised by the way people hide them or have you seen it all by now?

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Do any of you go geocaching?

Hey someone else who has done this! It's been a while since doing it here but it's a good outdoor activity and can be a challenge. Mostly stuck to local caches. It's been tough to want to devote time to it when going somewhere new as there is usually other stuff planned or to see. andmilestogo - Geocaching.com

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Beginning CDL Training in Massachusetts

July 3, 2017

Today's class was cargo securement and Hazmat oriented. We watched a mix of videos over the course of the day. The first cargo securement and Hazmat videos were newer with the Hazmat being a real glazed eye, memory overload. The final Hazmat video was obviously much older but was actually much easier to follow. Passed the tests with no issue. As usual prior High Road Training Program experience helped immensely. We're off tomorrow for the 4th. Looking forward to pre-trip and air brakes later in week.

We have conflicting information on whether or not getting the D/T & Hazmat endorsements are possible without an actual CDL. A couple of the other guys are going today to get their permits so we'll find out Wednesday.

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Beginning CDL Training in Massachusetts

June 26 - June 30. 2017

First 5 days of class with 8 other hopeful guys. Our instructor is an old hand with over 4 1/2 million miles. Packets and study books are handed out and filled out. Old Hand is surprised I have a permit already. We watch some dated, industry standard instructional movies and are issued many, increasingly lengthy general knowledge, air brakes, and combination paper tests that almost all of which was already covered in The High Road Training Program. My tests are finished in record time with all passing with usually only a couple wrong due to wording or trickery. It was noticable how in just a couple of days everyone else caught on to the test questions through memorization. Due to taking The High Road so many times and coupled with the paper tests in class I'm very much over the questions. It's good practice but it does get tiring. A silver lining is all the insight and experience our instructor is giving us while reviewing the questions. Old Hand has a good sense of humor and I'm grateful for all the stories and anecdotes about the industry and trucking lifestyle. You can tell he actually cares a great deal about sharing his experience to help us become truck drivers and not just CDL holders.

Noticably; The High Road Training Program has many questions in it that the were actually on the Registry tests that weren't covered at all by the school. That may actually be something to bring up with them later on.

We also had 2 recruiters come in and talk with us; Adam from TMC and another from a local construction company. If anyone from TMC is reading this your man Adam may be the best pitch man in the business. Take everything with a grain of salt of course - like it'd be nice if he replaced the words "more responsibility" with "more liability" - but he did make hauling flatbed loads for commission in a new Peterbilt tractor with your own name on it sound pretty good. On the flip side everyone I know who has done flatbed work hasn't liked it at all.

Lastly at the end of the week we all got to do a drop and hook. No one wanted to go first especially with the rest of us standing there staring at them but finally one kid took one for the team.

The backing up looked pretty rough and while no one was judgemental some of the guys recognized it to be because of the clutch work. I'm probably the only guy there who hasn't driven a standard so that scared the **** out of me. A few other guys went including one who had Coach and one who had large but non-CDL truck experience. They didn't have any issues. During break time I expressed my shifting concern to Old Hand who reassured me it was OK and it was actually better than having to break bad habits from someone who has driven stick in a passenger car or truck. Briefly wondered if that was a default response to put guys at ease but decided to take it at face-value. By dumb luck one of the other instructors had a private lesson and had to take the truck. That left us with an older automatic they used to road test with before it would give an automatic-only restriction on your license.

I jumped in and was immediately confused because there wasn't a shifter at all. Just vertical buttons on the dashboard to change gears. These buttons did not give any sort of confident click or anything when you pushed them so it was a little tricky. After pulling forward I couldn't seem to line up the outside edge of the tractor tire with the trailer in the mirrors - it looked fine but was too far outside - we all went under the trailer and talked about what could happen if you miss the slot for the kingpin. After getting back in to try again I realized I had been looking in the convex distance mirrors and looking in the actual side mirrors everything was so much more obvious. With the tractor frame slowly backing under the trailer and a slight "you're good" nod from another student it coupled up.

No one really had any issues with the landing gear, king pin/checking, or line hook-ups during their turn other than wear and tear on the glad hands making life difficult and rememebering to release tension on the kingpin so the next guy up could pull it.

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Beginning CDL Training in Massachusetts

June 02, 2017

The school that had actually come personally recommended to me is south of Boston. The location is much more time & distance from the house especially with traffic in that area which is annoying. They have a good website with an online form for information requests and had sent back an e-mail within a day with all the relevant info someone could ask for. It may or may not have been an automated response but it contained various upcoming dates and times for open house and classes so it was up-to-date. As a bonus they welcome walk-ins during business hours.

Showed up right behind another fellow interested in driving a Class B straight truck. The office is what you'd expect to see at a CDL school. Plenty of seating, water/magazines, job boards/recruitment posters. Assumably they've been around a while and the proximity to Boston and some major industrial parks for the area probably helps their cause. The two clerks were friendly and joking with us and spent quite a bit of time answering questions for Mr. Class B and even showed him new job postings they had open for Class B job placement.

Supposedly because of the job placement they send everyone for new medical cards and drug tests regardless if you have a valid card already. Was a little disappointed not to save some money there as mine is still good for 1 more year.

After the clerk had stuffed me full of jolly ranchers they mentioned that after the academic hours are over the hands-on schooling and testing is done at a site 20 miles closer to my house. I paid the initial enrollment fee and signed up.

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Beginning CDL Training in Massachusetts

June 01, 2017 - Afternoon

There really isn't too much information out there on basic Massachusetts trucking driving schools other than it being difficult to get licensed here because of the state troopers conducting the testing.

Without mentioning names I had e-mailed the closest place for more information but received no response. Not really a surprise as their website was out of date. Showed up anyway around 3:30PM and rang the (broken) bell at a standing room only counter. After several long minutes a clerk appeared from the back and asks if I have an appointment. I didn't, but explained I was just looking for Class A program or enrollment information. Clerk says that they only take appointments for an interview with the owner. After more long minutes another clerk for scheduling comes out but we can't decide on a day and time. I mention already having a permit and ask to leave my name and number for the owner to call me and they looked as if I just ran over their dog.

Never did receive a call.

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Beginning CDL Training in Massachusetts

June 01, 2017 - Morning

One year later. Started and finished a good part of High Road, again. It's a great program. Went to the RMV and passed General Knowledge, Air brakes and Combination (and the vision test). Couldn't take the tanker endorsement due to lack of money. My driver's license was expiring in less than 6 months and you can't hold a permit that extends past the license expiration date. So an extra $50 was spent there instead of the extra endorsement. In the long run having to pay another $30 test fee plus the tanker test fee doesn't really matter. Since Hazmat and Doubles/Triples can only be issued to an actual CDL holder another test will be necessary as it is.

In case it happens to someone else; The clerks at the registry had a tough time figuring out why the tests wouldn't activate properly and later on why the CDL permit wouldn't print. Both were due to the license expiration date issue. They did manage eventually.

Posted:  1 year, 2 months ago

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Beginning CDL Training in Massachusetts

June 2016

After a long while of starting and restarting of The High Road Training Program I went and successfully obtained a 2 year DOT medical card from a chiropractor licensed to do DOT physicals. The exam wasn't that involved and it was cheap at $60. My insurance didn't cover DOT physicals and it was cheaper than the $150 and up other places were quoting. Happily bopped on over to the RMV to take the CDL learner's permit test and promptly failed their vision test. Regardless of what the vision box on the DOT card says the RMV will spot test you again. They do have an official waiver that can be signed by an optometrist which will get you out of the test.

It was a bit confusing as reading books had never been an issue and neither is seeing clearly straight to the horizon. Also no issues with colors or peripheral. A few weeks later the optometrist said it's an astigmatism and the mid-distance area has trouble coming to a focus. Issued a new pair of glasses that are a pain but have eliminated a lot of head and jaw aches. Who knew. Transferred job, CDL on hold.

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