Profile For Oak and Iron

Oak and Iron's Info

  • Location:
    PA

  • Driving Status:
    In CDL School

  • Social Link:

  • Joined Us:
    5 years, 10 months ago

Oak and Iron's Bio

Don't follow where the path may lead....go where there is no path ad leave a trail.

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Posted:  5 years, 8 months ago

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Schneider - Diesel Driving Academy

Jamie...this is a great diary! My apologies for not reading it sooner. Its very good and I'm sure a lot of folks will benefit from it going forward.

Best of luck on your test Monday!

Posted:  5 years, 8 months ago

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Training with Drivers Solutions in Philadelphia

Hey Longshot.

When I went to the AAA Trucking office after I passed my test, I didn't receive hard copies of anything other than my medical paperwork. All I received was a single page that said Drivers Solutions and Swift at the top. It had a couple of phone numbers of people I needed to contact. I spoke with Emily at Drivers Solutions briefly and I left a message saying that i graduated at the second number. Then i called my Swift Rep (Dawn L.) and she was fabulous! She has me set up to start orientation in Harrisburg on Monday 8/6. The list of things she sent me me has "Bring your driving school diploma and student loan agreement (if applicable)." I have my loan agreement copy from my first day in the classroom and that's what I'm bringing. Other than my actual CDL, I don't have anything that says that I completed the course and graduated. And now, I find that a little disturbing. :/

Posted:  5 years, 8 months ago

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Training with Drivers Solutions in Philadelphia

Thanks all!

Jamie...We had 10 speed Freightliners at the school.

Army...It looks like you and I learned to "hurry up and wait" at he same place. rofl-3.gif

Posted:  5 years, 8 months ago

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Training with Drivers Solutions in Philadelphia

Days 16-20 July 23-28: Fourth week of Classes. The range is basically a repeat of the previous weeks. We have some folks testing everyday...some succeed some... not so much. I feel pretty good about my chances if/when I test. At this point, that's all I'm waiting on. I just need a date. I've settled into the role as the pre-trip person for the new folks. Ange has the air brakes...and she does a great job. And Mike is helping with the maneuvers. We're all just waiting for our turn but there are only so many slots available each day. Finally on Friday afternoon I'm told I'm testing tomorrow at noon. Tomorrow? Saturday? Yep! I wasn't aware that there was testing on Saturday. I had a couple hiccups on pre-trip and air brakes (I forgot Budd rims :/ ). Maneuvers weren't award winningly beautiful but I only picked up a point so its a pass. And (if i do say so myself) I crushed the road the course. I still have to hang out here for the weekend so I can go to the office on Monday to complete paperwork and talk to my company folks but I'm ready to head out on the road.

And that's my training diary. I've tried to make it an informative read with a minimum of griping/complaining. But, there should be enough here for folks to make an informed decision about the place. Good luck and thanks for reading!

Posted:  5 years, 8 months ago

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I Got It!

So...the day has finally arrived for me to test. 12:00 Tomorrow. Saturday? Yep...Saturday. I didn't even know we tested on Saturdays here :/

But, a few minor hiccups on pre-trip and air brakes, a slight stumble on maneuvers and a run through the road course and I am the proud owner of a brand new Class A CDL!!!

I appreciate all the help from the contributors to this awesome site and the High Road Training Program! Thanks!!!

Posted:  5 years, 8 months ago

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Training with Drivers Solutions in Philadelphia

Days 11-15 July 16-20: Ok...third week at the school and I've kinda settled into the routine. Get to the range early, schedule says 8:30 but several of us are there earlier to chat and drink coffee. Knock out pre-trip and air brakes and get ready for the day. Most days are just waiting to try maneuvers, but with folks graduating its not as long between wait periods. Then around 5:00, everyone that hasn't already bailed on the day gets dismissed. Get back to the hotel to shower, get a bite to eat, and next thing you know its time to hit the bed and start all over again when the alarm goes off at 5:00AM. It looks like someone is testing everyday. There are a bunch of private students, independent students from wherever, those in Drivers Solutions, etc. On one particular day we had someone fail on each section of the test! (one for pre-trip, one for air brakes, one for maneuvers, and another on the road). Crazy! I lobbied to test on Friday (July 20) which would have been my first day eligible but no luck. :( I feel like I'm ready. I want to do this! I've only been able to get out on the road twice and only once on the actual course. On the test course, I hit the first right hand turn curb...instant fail! But, I made it through the rest of the course without catching a single curb...so lesson learned. I figure that if I can get out on the test course at least twice more before my test date, I'll get it locked down. Of course, I need to do it clean on one of those trips for my own confidence. Our test course covers a ton of of different driving scenarios: Industrial area, residential area, the interstate, and a heavily congested urban area. It has multiple left and right turns. Some decent straight stretches so you can shift through the gears. Oh yeah and it has some railroad tracks to cross. One thing of interest on our course, we go under 2 bridges that are marked 13' 5" hmmm... A recruiter stopped at the school this week from TMC. Unfortunately, he's not allowed to talk to any of the Driver's Solutions people about his company, but he did seem like a nice guy. A few of the independent students talked with him and seemed to like his presentation. I imagine there are several recruiters that meander through the range/school on occasion. but I haven't noticed any others. The weather has been fabulous so far. Actually, some might say its been a little too sunny for hanging out in an empty lot waiting to get in a truck. This week they are calling for rain everyday but Friday. It'll be interesting to see how that makes things work. And that's my third week's notes...I'll post again (hopefully with a test date in hand!)

Posted:  5 years, 9 months ago

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Training with Drivers Solutions in Philadelphia

Day 10 July 13: Friday...another test day. Rumor says there are 14 tests today. Fortunately, most are retests and a good portion of them are road test only. So we won't get to see the resized course's impact on testing. I get into my pre-trip and quick mental walk through air brakes. Of the folks testing, it looks like only 2 want/need to practice maneuvers. So I get myself "in the line." I'm watching people do their offset and I'm a little worried. All the notes and diagrams i had made and studied were made off the observations on the 14 ft lane...now its only 12 ft. Again, its only 2 ft but right now it seems like a mile. A couple are just really good drivers and aren't having issues. Others still have open season on traffic cones. Interestingly, this is the second Friday and I'm seeing a pattern. It seems that's the day most people blow off. Got a small group of those testing , the newest group that showed up on Wednesday, and maybe 12-15 others. It looks promising that I'll get in the truck this morning and relatively quickly.

An instructor came over and told the group to only do Offsets and to do alley docks this afternoon. So the line is moving quick. My turn. I take my note card and head to the truck. I read through my card and I'm sure I have it. Put my fender mirror on the striped cone...hard right...hard left...no yellow stick! I check every mirror...I can't see my marker cone. I jump out and look....it's in a line directly behind the trailer! Now I see the impact of that 2ft lane change. Augh! This is my first unassisted offset...I don't have notes on how to correct this. Simple math tells me I need to change my angle...but how? All I could think was start over, so I move back to the striped cone. Longer hard right...hard left to get under trailer...Boom! Theres my stick! Left...left...more left...hard right...make it a straight back...in the box! Huge sigh of relief. Not a complete success but would have passed for the test...allowed 2 pull-ups and I only did one. Jumped out of the truck and updated my notes. After lunch, I went and found one of our instructors and relayed the process to him. He verified for me that my notes were correct. So I feel a lot better about it. I'll be jumping in again later.

Well, its later. I asked an instructor to come watch my offset because as I told him "If I nail this, I'm going straight into the alley dock and I'm gonna need help." And I nailed it! I'm sure it looked like I was doing it in slow motion cuz I know I was creeping through it, but I nailed it! He showed me my mark to hard left to set up for the 90....my mark for my hard right to get under my trailer. Then he walked me through the process and said now do it. Slow and steady....hard right....little less right...little less right... hard left...OMG I'm in the box! Ok he says back it in and we're gonna do it again. Yeah...I couldn't duplicate it. I couldn't line my trailer up in to the box...I squashed cones...It was a mess. :( But, now I have first hand notes on the alley dock to study and Monday is another day to try. Lots of folks passed so the "line" is shorter and I can count Friday as a successful day...mostly. :)

Posted:  5 years, 9 months ago

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Training with Drivers Solutions in Philadelphia

Day 9 July 12: After a disappointing and wasted Wednesday, I was not setting any expectations for Thursday. We arrived at our normal time of about 8:15 and there was an instructor sitting where the sign in sheet hangs. No sheet?? Nope...no one is to sign in until 8:30. Ok...thats different. He wanders away a few minutes later, someone opens the door, grabs the sheet and it makes its way around those of us waiting. Very different start to this day. Trucks are just sitting around so we start doing pre-trip. The instructor makes an announcement "No one gets in a any truck until they have done pre-trip and air brakes." Yes!! I can actually do an air brakes walk through! In cab pre-trip went well but I think I failed my air brakes walk through. When i was doing my LAB (leak, alarm, buttons), I touched the buttons and a person in my group said that's an auto fail on the test. So, I need to watch that going forward. But, I was pleased and could count the day as a success already and its not even 9:30! Things started to get weird then. The instructor was redesigning the practice lanes. Apparently, the test can be done/passed with lane widths of 12-14 ft and the "wall" is set at 60-70ft for the alley dock. The instructor was resetting all the dimensions to the lowest possible acceptable numbers. Hmmmm... Now, I still haven't attempted any of these but the folks that had been practicing were worried that all their spots/markers were getting shifted and all their practice would be for nothing now. It was a disaster once folks started rolling. It was like open season an traffic cones! In one of the newbie articles somewhere on this site, a person (I believe Brett) made the comment that new drivers shouldn't make waves. As the day progressed, we learned that 3 "someones" created waves. I wasn't the only person to leave Wednesday feeling disheartened. Whoever the 3 were took the time to call the school office, Driver's Solutions, maybe even their PAM rep and complained about the school, the instructors, whatever. And, I'm guessing a little butt chewing took place. So the range instructor (or all) decided that if people wanted to complain then they'd give them something to complain about. Now, I'm sure a 12 ft lane or a 14 ft lane is nothing to some experienced drivers but to these folks just learning...take 2 ft of lane away...wow! Even worse I think was taking 10ft of the "wall" away. A lot less room for pull-ups on the alley dock.

About 3:00, one of the instructors took my group in a truck! It was time to learn Offset! On our course, there are 2 different areas set for Offset. On the test and normal practice course, the center cone is identified with a stick painted yellow that you are to pick up in your mirror after you straighten the truck from your hard right/hard left. On the other, there's a tree branch stuck in the cone. We were working the tree set-up. So, i hard right it....then hard left to get under my trailer. There's my tree. Just ease back so I can start cutting into the box...Wait! I lost my tree! I stop...I can't find my tree! The instructor looks at me and says "Use your small mirror." Doh!! I'm an idiot! Left...left...more left...hard right...make it a straight back....in the box and done! By the time my group cycles through, it's close enough to the end of the day. But after such a dismal Wednesday...Thursday is a resounding success....In cab pre-trip, air brakes walk through, and offset.

Posted:  5 years, 9 months ago

View Topic:

Training with Drivers Solutions in Philadelphia

Day 8 July 11: Wednesday another Testing Day. A couple of items of note, some of those testing aren't AAA Trucking students. There have been Fedex, UPS, and random other trucks here for testing. Also, some folks testing for Class B licenses. You can't really get too close to see/hear because they want to make sure you aren't helping the person being tested. This school has an 85% first time pass rate and a 95% second time pass rate. That's got to be pretty good. So, test day. One truck for testing, one truck for those testing today to practice maneuvers, one for those testing to take out on the road, one being used for private student, and Big Red (the one no one is allowed to touch.) Big disappointment. There isn't even a truck to do pre-trip on. So, walk around Big Red and do mental pre-trip. I catch an instructor before he gets occupied doing whatever he's doing that day and ask for the keys to Big Red to do air brakes. No! I get a big story on how someone ripped the drive shaft out of it and it cost like 150k to fix it...blah...blah...blah... Oh and since its Wednesday, the group that started in classroom on Monday the 9th...they are now on the range as well. No instructors available...no equipment available...this is gonna be a long day. And it was. Sometime in the afternoon, they relented and unlocked Big Red. Made it a bobtail and let folks drive it around the range practicing shifting. Sadly, I didn't make the list of people allowed to do that. An entire day wasted. Nothing learned...no progress.

It's interesting. When I found out I was headed here, I looked for a training diary and couldn't find one for this location. I decided I would take some notes and try to do one while I was here. I sit here now and look at my notes and each of these days come flooding back. My notes for this day were Big Red No! and Nothing! And I can see that whole wasted day. To date, that is the lowest I've felt about this commitment I made. I'm not a quitter but I could easily see why folks "on the fence" would take that day and let it become their reason for quitting.

Posted:  5 years, 9 months ago

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Training with Drivers Solutions in Philadelphia

Day 7 July 10: Our training schedules that we received on day 1 say that we are to be at the range everyday 8:30AM-5:00PM. There's a sign in sheet we use when we get there. This is my 4th day out at the range. And when you spend a lot of time watching and listening you pick up a few things. Although I can't do an Offset because someone "will get right with me on that" I can still take notes from those practicing and questions to other students. Apparently the sign in sheet doesn't count as a sign out sheet. Several folks sign in, hang around for a bit, then bail. Go back to the hotel, go home, wherever. I've actually been left at the range when the person I paid to carpool with decided to call it a day and take off. That's how I learned the bus schedules going back to New Jersey. Another interesting item of note, there are people that have been out at the range for 5, 6, 7, 8 weeks or more. Supposedly someone tested out the week before and he had 11 weeks in! This is supposed to be a 3-4 week course to get your CDL. That's it. But the commitment level some of these folks are showing is horrifying! Even worse is the watching people try to practice maneuvers and "the Line" is determined by whoever walks up and says "I'm next" whether they just got there, at 8, or whatever. The argument they make is I'm testing sooner." Of course you're testing sooner you've been here for 2 months and should be gone before now! We also have a group that arrives everyday about noon. They get to take over the maneuver truck for the next 2 hours and practice as much as they like. So it seems everyday is dead time from 12 til 2. Right now I'm just a spectator because I haven't been cleared for offset or alley dock. But I don't see this going well. It looks like I'm stuck in the bottleneck of all these folks who can't/won't test out. That's like 50 people I'm behind to be able to practice on our one maneuver truck. I understand that some of these folks live locally and they are just taking their time to build their confidence. I get that. But I put my life and earning potential on hold to come down here and do this program in 3-4 weeks. I am not seeing the light at the end of the tunnel right now. About 3-3:15 I caught up with the trainer that was taking folks "on the road." I said to him "I come out here everyday. Here by 8:30...don't leave til 5. I'm watching all these people just come and go however they please and I'm stuck sitting here and i can't even get cleared to practice Offset. I've been here all day and all I've been able to do is my pre-trip at 8:30 this morning." He said "You've done nothing?" "No. We aren't allowed to touch that truck. The test truck is locked. The other instructor here is working with a private student." He said to me "I have to get all these guys out on the road today but you can ride along. If we have time maybe you'll get some drive time." We crammed 6 of us into that truck and off we went. One of the guys says "you can be next." "I'd love to but I can't until all you guys go." The instructor piped up and said the same. I can tell you that the first 5 guys went through and didn't hit anything or squish anyone as we drove through the streets of Philadelphia. One guy didn't watch his mirrors and had the instructor pull his trailer brakes to stop him from clipping a couple cars. After the second time, he made him get out of the seat. Then I got my turn behind the wheel. It was awesome! No crunching...no squishing...I consider it successful. Hanging out at the range, I had learned folks had failed the road test for shifting on the railroad tracks, shifting on a curve, and also shifting in an intersection. And I thought, that's General Knowledge stuff. How could you do that? Well, now I know how. I was going through an intersection and I caught myself as I went to shift. The truck was telling me to shift and I instinctively reached for the gearshift. I had to stop myself. But the double clutching thing, I think I can do that. Next time out. I'm confident on that. Downshifting, well...I need to work on that. Day 7 was looking pretty gloomy but I ended learning something and making some progress. I'm still concerned about that logjam in front me but I made progress today.

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