Profile For Michael B.

Michael B.'s Info

  • Location:
    Phoenix, AZ

  • Driving Status:
    In CDL School

  • Social Link:

  • Joined Us:
    3 years, 9 months ago

Michael B.'s Bio

I'd thought of becoming a driver for years, and started training at the Swift Academy in Phoenix, Arizona, in September of 2022.

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Posted:  9 hours, 21 minutes ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Thank you George. I will take your advice, and I will update here on TT when I pass the exams.

Wishing you the best of luck. Dont overthink it. Just relax and go with it. You will pass. Keep us in the loop, Driver!

Posted:  9 hours, 28 minutes ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Wednesday 5 October 2022

Today was pre-trip inspection, range time to practice backing maneuvers, and even more pre-trip inspection. I was up first for the pre-trip inspection, and I did better than I ever have. I am starting to understand all the systems I am checking and how they relate to each other. I now feel confident I can do the pre-trip inspection without missing any “parts” of the truck, and I couldn’t really say that yesterday. I like the repetitiveness of the suspension, brakes, tires/wheels on the steers, drives and tandems. Three cheers for five axles, but only having to talk about three!

During maneuvers, I was hit and miss again. Straight-line backing is still solid, thank goodness. It’s a relief to feel confident about one of three backing skills. Offset was going well when one instructor helped me set up, but went south when another instructor took over for them and obliterated my train of thought with their different expectations of how perfect a lineup should be. My efforts to start over failed over and over again, and eventually, the instructor gave up, told me exactly how to back it into the box, and we broke for lunch. "Go study your paper," they said. I felt just like I did during the first two hours of the left-turn road driving: Horribly stupid. Lunch was a much-needed break to reset mentally and emotionally. It worked.

After lunch, I did the maneuvers with a different instructor and it was not perfect, but I had a chance to see what I was doing wrong and received instruction on how to fix it. I know I am not as far along with offset and parallel as the school wants me to be, but I will get there. Not everyone learns at the same speed. Some in our class are already doing all three maneuvers completely on their own. Some are still getting there. I’m with the latter. Frankly, my immediate concern is the pre-trip inspection, because if I don’t pass that, the skills and road test won’t even happen.

Our test dates and times for early next week were posted today in the break room. Some of us will test Monday, and the rest of us will test Tuesday. I am scheduled for Tuesday morning, just before lunch. I was surprised to see my name on the board, because in all previous weeks I've not known a single name written there. And I was even more surprised to not feel panicked about it. I felt relaxed and relieved, like this is finally coming to an end. All the hard work will pay off on Tuesday morning, or more likely, early Tuesday afternoon. And I'm gonna really tug down on that air horn when I get word from the test proctor in the passenger seat when they say, congrats student, you are now a driver!

Posted:  22 hours, 53 minutes ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Tuesday 4 October 2022

Today was Erika’s turn to do the pre-trip inspection. She did really well! I am proud of her. Tomorrow will be my turn again.

After the pre-trip inspection, we spent the morning on the range, practicing the three backing skills that will be on our CDL exam. Straight backing I feel I understand, and I can perform that skill with no need to pull up. All thanks to well-adjusted mirrors! Offset backing is getting better. I’ve done it once without assistance, but all other times have required some help. Parallel parking I have not yet done without assistance. The academy teaches six simple steps for offset and six simple steps for parallel. Well, it’s simple on paper. While we continue to get better at offset and parallel, sometimes we get lost in the six simple steps, and the trailer does not go where we want it to go. Constant practice brings more familiarity, and eventually, I know the steps will “click” for us. Our instructor, April, said some students don’t “get it” until the final day. We hope to impress her before that.

This afternoon we took a truck outside the wire. We practiced our commentary driving, our right turns, and our left turns. For the first time, we got on the freeway. Has anybody ever been Westbound on Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Los Angeles? Well, that’s where we were, Westbound and down! Man, that was amazing! But only for a couple of exits. We soon took the junction to Arizona Loop 101 Northbound and got off that freeway at the very first exit, Thomas Road. But that freeway time was great while it lasted! I think I’ll like freeway driving more than city driving. Today’s trip outside the wire was much less stressful than Friday’s on-the-road episode. I remembered to “close the door” when my tandems cleared the corners. I think it’s that familiarity thing I mentioned earlier.

While Erika drove, I studied the air brakes portion of my pre-trip inspection. Here at Swift, missing anything on the air brakes portion of the pre-trip on exam day is an automatic fail. I don’t wanna do that. Their study aide for the air brakes is ALSAPS, which identifies the six tests we must perform: Air Leakage Test; Low-Pressure Warning Test; Spring Brake Test; Air Gauge Test (then, after you remove the wheel chock); Parking Brake Test; and finally, Service Brake Test. ALSAPS. Knowing the six tests is my first task, and memorizing the verbiage will come second.

I feel less worried today about my ability to master what I’m learning in time to test early next week. We have three days to practice what we’ve learned. I believe I will be ready in time.

Posted:  1 day, 22 hours ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Monday 3 October 2022

This is our final week of class and I’m starting to feel the pressure.

My pre-trip inspection went OK this morning. I missed some things, but my instructor April looked at my sheet of what I covered and what I missed and said I likely would not fail had that been an actual test. So as long as I do a little better every time for the next few tries, I should be OK when I test early next week.

The backing maneuvers went well for the most part. I am pretty solid on the straight back, since April does not have me practice that anymore. Offset went well two out of three times today. For the one that went badly, I completely lost track of the steps I needed to follow. I was turning the wheel the wrong way, so it was obvious I did not know where I was in the process. April had me get out of the truck. She asked me to tell her the steps for offset backing, no looking at my cheat sheet. For the life of me I don’t know how I got it right earlier in the day. I spent several very uncomfortable minutes trying to remember the steps. I could not get them all, and I could not get them in order. After that she let me go get my paper and study the steps. I was embarrassed but I learned a lesson. I can always be more prepared for what’s ahead of me.

This morning before class, I met up with Eric, a Swift mentor who I first encountered here on Trucking Truth. He is from Virginia and drives for Swift’s flatbed division. He had just delivered a load from Chicago to Nogales, then scooted up to Phoenix so he and his student could reset their clocks someplace nicer than a drop lot. We met up again for lunch at the driver lounge, where Eric introduced me to another flatbed driver who was his mentor! It was great to sit with them for a while and hear their stories of mentoring. They gave me good advice on how to approach the mentor/mentee relationship. I’m glad I have Eric’s info in my phone if I ever need to call him. We were supposed to get a selfie for Anne and post it here, but I had to hurry back to class. Next time!

Near the end of the day, we had a dust storm blow through the terminal/academy grounds. We were out on the pad, and anyone not in a truck ran to one and hopped in to get out of the blowing grit. The trucks and trailers rocked back and forth, all the cones on the range were knocked over, and even the porta potties toppled and went for a wind-blown ride across the lot. What a crazy thing to see! Everyone was safe and we made it back to the academy building to clock out and go home.

Posted:  4 days, 18 hours ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Friday 30 September 2022 We started the day by firing up the trucks and connecting them to trailers. Today was Erika’s turn to do the pre-trip inspection while I followed along. She got a lot further than I did yesterday before our instructor, April, stopped us and handed Erika’s cheat sheet back and told her she could read the rest. I would not have gotten as far as Erika did had it been my turn to perform the inspection. I am reading the cheat sheet, I am listening to my voice recording of it on my commute to and from school (about 45 minutes each way). It’s just taking a while to come together for me. I will get there.

Today was spent almost entirely outside the wire. I’ll note here that just getting to the wire takes a lot of time. The speed limit on the pad where we couple/uncouple the trucks and practice our backing maneuvers is 2 miles per hour. The speed limit on the loop around the pad where we practice throttle and brake control is 5 miles per hour. The speed limit in the gigantic parking lot that leads to the exit of the Swift terminal property is 8.5 miles per hour (‘because 8 is too slow, and 9 is too fast!”). Depending on how deep we are into the pad, it can take 10 minutes for us to clear the pad, clear the loop, clear the lot and arrive at the Swift exit gate on West Durango Street near South 75th Avenue.

Left turns were the curriculum today, and we made many, many, many left turns, with a right turn thrown in here and there to make sure we could still do them. While Wednesday’s right-turn drive on city streets started out stressful, it quickly became more comfortable, and by the end of my drive time, I felt confident I could safely execute a right turn. Today’s left-turn driving experience was not as pleasant.

I drove for two hours and 15 minutes. Only during the final 15 minutes did I feel like I had a grasp on what I was doing. During those first two hours, I took a lot of deep breaths. I constantly reminded myself to remain calm. My level of discomfort proved I was in territory that was all new. In my experience, discomfort is what learning feels like.

It didn’t help that it was a Friday afternoon, and traffic was a lot busier than it had been on Wednesday’s right-turn drive. Also, some of today’s left turns started in a far left lane, but some were from the right lane of two left turn lanes. Another detail to note, there were sometimes one, sometimes two, and sometimes three lanes to land in, and I never felt completely sure where I was supposed to aim.

I knew where to begin my turn (when my left shoulder got to the double yellow line of the lanes I’m turning toward), but how much deeper I needed to go and how sharply I needed to turn the steering wheel seemed a constant mystery. I just wasn’t getting it.

For some reason, it took a long time to register in my mind that after my trailer tandem wheels cleared the apex of the turn, I needed to quickly get into the far left lane. I’d forgotten the message of “close the door,” or block the lane I’m ending up in so other drivers would not sneak in behind me. On Wednesday, I was efficiently blocking them from sneaking in on my right. Today, I was taking way too long to block them from sneaking in on my left. With about 15 minutes of driving remaining, I finally figured that out. Hooray!

I’m happy it’s Friday. I’m ready for a couple of days away from the academy to recharge mentally and emotionally. Three weeks in and I never really felt stressed until today. I can count myself lucky!

Next week will be five days of practice for our pre-trip inspections, our three backing maneuvers and our road test. I will continue to do as I’m told and to trust the process.

Posted:  6 days, 7 hours ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Hi Grinch, I sent a text, watch for a 623 area code! It will be great to meet you on Monday!

Micheal, I will be there in Pheonix all day Monday doing a reset. Let’s get together with you and your buddy. I put my number in my bio. Shoot me a text when you see this so we can connect up.

Posted:  6 days, 7 hours ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Anne thanks for following and commenting. I look forward to hearing from you! The Grinch and I are working on getting together on Monday in Phoneix. Maybe we can post a selfie!

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While Erika took her turn, I sat in the back of the truck and had time to reflect on the day's experience behind the wheel, I was so happy. I can’t even describe it. I felt elated. I felt relieved. I felt hopeful. I felt content in a way I’ve never felt. I will remember this day for the rest of my life. I think today is the day I fell in love with the notion of being a truck driver.

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Excellent update, Michael; and not JUST this last paragraph; this one just POPPED. Nice wrap of an excellent entry; hold that thought/feeling!

REALLY hope you take Grinch up on a meet & greet. It will have such an amazing effect on you; can't have too many pals, allies, and compadres in this industry. Especially, fellow TT'ers. (I'm getting ready to call two of'em momentarily, myself!)

Keep on, good sir.

~ Anne ~

Posted:  6 days, 7 hours ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Thursday 29 September 2022 Day four on the pad/range. No driving outside the wire today, it’s all maneuver practice, all the time. But first, the pre-trip inspection!

True to her warning, April asked for my pre-trip inspection cheat sheet today so I had to work from memory. With no script to consult, I dove right in. I did well on the Approach section but ran into some knowledge blind spots at Engine Compartment Passenger Side, and Engine Compartment Driver Side. A little flustered but wanting to continue, I forged ahead. I closed the hood and tried to get into the cab for the next part of the inspection, but April stopped me. She told me to open the hood again.

We walked to the passenger side of the engine compartment and she asked me how many pre-trip inspection elements are on the passenger side of the engine compartment. A little embarrassed, I told her I did not know. She told me to hold up four fingers. I did. She asked me to tell her the elements I knew, and to put one finger down as I named them. Hoses and electrical, one finger down. Alternator, two fingers down. Frame, three fingers down. Then nothing. She asked me, what else do you see? I looked at everything I could see but drew a blank. Look to the front, she said. I did. Still nothing. Look farther to the front, she said. Looking. Nothing there but the hood. Oh! Fender mirrors! They’re on the hood! Four fingers down! A similar process happened on the driver side of the engine compartment. Nine fingers up. And eventually, nine fingers down. Did I feel like a dipstick when I realized I’d forgotten Check Oil Level? Yes I did. Thankfully, for the rest of my pre-trip inspection, April let me have my cheat sheet back. I read out loud and pointed at the items being described and it went very well.

After inspections, we moved on to maneuvers. We are all getting more experience with the three required to pass the CDL test. Straight backing is happening several times a day for each of us. Offset backing, both to the left and to the right, is happening a few times a day for each of us. And parallel parking is entering the mix, as we’ve all done it two or three times now. My straight backing was much better today. With my side mirrors adjusted to show only a sliver of the trailer on each side, it became easy to see when my trailer drifted, and what a discovery to see how an eighth of a turn toward my trouble resolved the issue in seconds. A great confidence boost! Adjust your mirrors!

We still have really great energy and positive attitudes in our class. The half a dozen or so instructors we’ve worked with keep telling us how pleasant we are. They like our spirit. It’s nice to hear that feedback. We are appreciated and we are making a great impression!

Posted:  1 week ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Wednesday 28 September 2022 Day three on the pad and we started by coupling four trucks to trailers. It’s almost unbelievable what we do in the morning, fire up the tractors, connect trailers, raise the landing gear and be ready to roll. None of us had any idea how to do those things two days ago. Now it is our responsibility to do them and to do them correctly so we can drive the rigs. Pretrip inspection is how every day will start from now on. Today I was paired with Erika, the lovely classmate who brought me lunch for several days last week. Because I did the pretrip yesterday, Erika did it today and I followed along. She did the narrative, basically saying out loud everything she would check and pointing to it if visible, or in the general direction if not. When I did my inspection yesterday I could not seem to find the torque rod on the tandem suspension. Is it really there? I bet it is. I just don’t know where it is. I will ask tomorrow.

After pre-trip inspections, instructor Rob took us to a different part of the range to “practice 45s.” Not an audio recording on a small vinyl disc, but a backing maneuver. Rob got us all “into the box” a couple of times, then we got additional help from Mr. E, the lead instructor of the academy, so we could get a few more 45s in before lunch. Mr. E is really good at helping students feel capable of doing the maneuvers. He’s entertaining and playful, so he puts you at ease. But he’s also the one who takes many students out for their final CDL exam, so the level of respect and seriousness is always there. Mr. E emphasized the use of the convex mirrors on the fenders/hood of the truck when backing, and it’s starting to click for me a little more after working with him. Once you know what you are looking for, you can really see a lot!

I’m a little stressed out about memorizing the pre-trip inspection, but I am doing what I can to study it. Week one instructor said the way to study it is to read it out loud so you are used to hearing your own voice when you do the inspection. Week two instructor said the way to study it is to record yourself reading it and to make that the only “music” we listen to until our CDL exam day. This morning I got up a couple of hours early so I could do both. The recording sounds odd to me because I’m not used to hearing my own voice. But I’m gonna keep using it as directed, even reading along like I did this morning, or speaking along on my drive home like I did this evening. I will get this script firmly planted in my head.

Rewind a bit. After lunch, we got our first taste of the open road! Erika and I were assigned an instructor we’ve seen around but not worked with much before. His name is Bryan. His even-keeled and playful personality made for a really enjoyable first ride outside the wire. His focus for us was keeping the truck and trailer in our lane, keeping our speed at least five miles below the posted speed limit, slowing down in time to make a gentle stop, and how to make a right turn without running over a curb.

It was amazing.

Two highlights from my time behind the wheel: First, on about my third right turn in traffic, I watched the tandems (trailer axles) clear the apex of the turn and immediately “closed the door,” or put the tractor in the right lane so no cars could sneak in behind me on my right. I watched the trailer track into the right lane and I was like, “Wow! I just did that!” Second, during a right turn off of Buckeye Road onto southbound West 75th Avenue, I had to put the tractor kinda close to drivers in a busy left lane headed north on West 75th. As I was turning, I came face-to-face with a CRST driver whose eyes were as wide as saucers. He was frantically pantomiming a hard-right,hand-over-hand turn maneuver because all he saw was a Swift STUDENT DRIVER truck coming right at his driver-side window! I safely completed the turn as guided by Bryan. It was identical to all the others I’d done earlier. This one just had a touch of comedy!

While Erika took her turn, I sat in the back of the truck and had time to reflect on the day's experience behind the wheel, I was so happy. I can’t even describe it. I felt elated. I felt relieved. I felt hopeful. I felt content in a way I’ve never felt. I will remember this day for the rest of my life. I think today is the day I fell in love with the notion of being a truck driver.

Posted:  1 week, 1 day ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Tuesday 27 September 2022 Day two on the training pad at Swift Academy in Phoenix went pretty well. We each got to move trucks to set them up for maneuvers, which means we got to drive a loop around the track each time to get the truck to the correct lane. I loved that. My first solo runs! Yes, I was limited to five miles per hour, but that’s probably for the best at the moment. I was alone in the truck, chugging along on the loop, making wide right turns, and stopping well before (not at, not beyond) the mid-loop stop sign. I was able to learn the delay of the accelerator, and the abruptness of the service brakes. Actually rolling allowed me to learn to better control speed and stopping. I could not wipe the smile from my face during those loops! I drove a big dang truck and trailer! And it was fun!

I experienced some serious left-right confusion during the first of today’s three offset backing maneuvers. Yesterday, I was taught to do a left-side offset maneuver. That is how the handout from the school describes the procedure, complete with side-specific turning instructions and illustrative photos. So when April told me this morning to do the offset right instead of left, she added, “Just do the opposite” of what our handout says. Sounded simple enough. Tee hee hee! Too many words to tell the story here (what’s my limit? 5,500?). Suffice it to say I had more than a dozen instances of telling myself, “No! Your OTHER left!” It was ugly, but true to her word, April taught me how to "fix it!" The Health Summary on my iPhone thinks I climbed four flights of stairs today. Nope. There are no stairs at the academy. I just “Got Out And Looked.” A lot.

Our hot Phoenix weather continues to be a real challenge. It was 105 degrees in the shade yesterday, and 103 in the shade today. In the open sun, on the asphalt of the pad, it’s a whole lot hotter than that. Ever stand on ground so hot it burns your feet through your shoes? That happens when you are out there for hours at a time like we are. We take precautions, like wearing long sleeve shirts, pants, closed-toe shoes and big floppy hats. The academy vigilantly reminds us to stay hydrated. It also supplies sunscreen, a cooler full of ice, bottled water and electrolyte drinks that we keep with us at all times. We even have shade structures and picnic tables. But there’s really no way to do the learning without being in the sun. Keep that in mind if you intend to train in Phoenix any time from May to October. One hundred degrees is as cool as the days are gonna get. One hundred ten is more likely in June, July and August. Lucky for us, the temperatures are expected to be about 10 degrees cooler by the time we test two weeks from now. Woo hoo, only 92!

At the end of each day on the pad, we get to “break down” the trucks. That means we disconnect the trailer from the tractor. Lowering the landing gear all the way down from the all-the-way up position doesn’t happen fast. I just about smacked myself in the jaw a few times while turning the crank because I was tired and wanted to get it over with. Eventually, I slowed down. In the morning, I’ll get to raise the landing gear up again after we reconnect the trailer. I’ll likely crank the handle more slowly. Not a good look if you knock yourself out first thing in the morning!

Posted:  1 week, 1 day ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Hi Grinch, keep me posted on your Phoenix plans. We are in class Monday through Friday from 8 am to 5 pm with an hour-long break for lunch at noon. I can meet up on the lunch break, or before or after class as I live locally (Mesa, Arizona). There is one student in my class who intends to do flatbed. It would be great if he could meet you! I agree that building and maintaining relationships can make or break a driver's success. I intend to make my driver manager and planners happy to hear from me, not annoyed to hear from me. I hope to see you soon!

Micheal great thread. You have gotten some great advice from everyone in here so far. I may bump in to you early next week as I’ll probably be dropping into Pheonix for a load, groceries and a shower. I’m a swift flatbed mentor. Keep your spirits up focus on each step of the processes and don’t overthink things too much, before you know it we wil be running down the road together. Swift is a great company overall with a lot of great people working hard for the drivers in the background supporting us. One of the keys is building relationships with those you work with. For example I communicate well with my planners and driver leaders they know how I like to run, and I know what they expect. As you develop the relationships it makes it easier for you. If I can help or answer a question feel free to reach out.

Posted:  1 week, 1 day ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Hi George, thanks for following along. I'm glad you like my training diary. I'm excited to someday soon have my own truck, even though I will indeed be scared at first and praying my favorite trainer was in my passenger seat. Your "hammer down" comment reminds me of what my current trainer says when I need to turn the steering wheel all the way to the left or all the way to the right during a backing maneuver: "NO MERCY!!!" She means I gotta turn the wheel ALL THE WAY in whichever direction it needs to go. Sometimes after I get rolling, there is even more play in the "all the way" that I need to steer toward. My RAV4 never does that, so it takes some getting used to!

Great diary. It once again proves Swift runs an excellent training program. You definitely heeded the advice as to not join the negative naysayers. Best of luck before you know it you will be in your own truck scared $)&less at first praying your trainer/instructor was still there w you. Hammer down!

Posted:  1 week, 1 day ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Anne, that Paul Simon song has been living rent-free in my brain since childhood, along w another favorite from the man, Kodachrome. "I got a Niiiiiiikon camera, I love to take the phooooooootograph..." Planner don't taaaaake my dry van load awaaaaaaaaay....

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Monday 19 September 2022 Day six of 20 at Swift Driver Academy in Phoenix, Arizona.

The academy here in Phoenix is four weeks long, and today was day one of our second week. This morning we took a complete tour of the Swift compound. It included a stop at an on-campus medical office, where we all had a urine drug test. There was no advance warning, and it seemed odd to me the company would pay for another one of these after doing one a couple of weeks ago at my DOT physical. They must have their reasons. Maybe some students think since they cleared the initial drug test, another could not soon follow. Surprise!

Part of our tour was spent at the Driver Center or driver lounge. Inside is a semi truck set up as a coffee stand. I asked one of the drivers seated there if he likes to spend time at Swift terminals across the country. He was pretty blunt with his "not really." He likes the Phoenix terminal, and that's about it. Other drivers chimed in with high marks for Lancaster (near Dallas, Texas) and West Valley City (Near Salt Lake City, Utah). The ones they were especially critical of I will see for myself soon enough. No need to spread negativity about things I've not yet experienced. Suffice it to say for now, in the Swift universe, it may be hard to beat Phoenix for driver amenities.

As we made our way through the Driver Center, we encountered a couple of other drivers who recognized our trainer. He asked them how things were going, and the responses were not good. “There have been several times I’ve just about left the truck on the side of the road,” one said. Hmm… Not what I would say in front of a group of people I know are academy students. Another obviously had similar concerns but would not voice them in front of students. He told the trainer he’d just switched assignments at Swift, and will reach out to the trainer in a week or two to let him know how things are going. While I was surprised by the answers from those two drivers, I’m also kinda proud of them. Some days are diamonds, some days are coal. But they are still here, gutting it out for the diamond days. That will be me very soon. I’m glad they are hanging on. So many others just quit.

We spent much of the day learning about daily logs and how to fill them out, just in case our digital logs ever betray us. We were shown several examples of logs drivers tried to fudge. Not really smart considering all the ways the company has to track your movements. The takeaway here, is don’t try to cheat the systems that are in place. They are more consistently reliable that your subterfuge.

Toward the end of the day, we talked a little about the mentor matching process. That’s for the trainer truck we will be on for four to six weeks after graduation. We were told we get to specify whether we prefer a male or female trainer and whether that person is a smoker or a non-smoker. I don’t really have preferences based on gender or tobacco usage. I want a mentor who is the right blend of patient and pushy. Patient enough not to jump all over me for minor mistakes, but pushy enough to show me what running as hard as I can legally and safely looks like so I actually know it is possible. At least that’s what I THINK I want. We’ll see how much that changes if I actually get one!

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For what my 3pence is worth; I think your outlook in the last paragraph above, speaks volumes. When Tom was in your shoes, his needs / requests were simple...just like yours. Basic, yet thorough. Not too chatty. Pushy, but not 'showy...' tolerable. He'd called it 'aggressively assertive.' Sure did pay off, too! Your approach to ALL above, sounds awesome.

Sounds like a plan, Stan! Ya won't have to Hop on the bus, Gus ! Ya don't even need to .. Discuss Much, NOR drop off the Key, ya see?!? (If anyone gets that ... I'm showing my hand, my age, my .... wits! (Yeah, that's it!) HAHA!)

Whether or not you've read these; or if you'll have time at this stage, maybe sneak in a minute. Excellent blogs on JUST THAT subject here for ya:

Trucking Blogs: Types of Trainers, and How To Deal with Them ! Epic Training Blogs, etc!

Best from us, good sir;

~ Anne & Tom ~

ps: All the accolades, kudos, and encouragement you're receiving... is solid.

Posted:  1 week, 1 day ago

View Topic:

Florida State College at Jacksonville (FSCJ) - Commercial Vehicle Driving

Hey Seatack, my first day in a truck driver's seat was yesterday at the Swift Academy in Phoenix (day one of week three of a four-week program). I'm excited to learn the ways of backing. Little by little, I will get there. I enjoy your diary and am following along!

Day 21 (9/20/22)

Bad start to the day. I overslept. Class starts at 8am, I didn’t arrive to campus until 8:30. To my disappointment my group had already left with the truck. I texted my instructor and he said he would come back and pick me up when they had time.

I decided to use my waiting time to work on my pre-Trip inspection. I went over to a tractor that wasn’t being used, popped the hood and started with the engine components. I finished the engine compartment and began on the suspension and brake system components. I received a text from my instructor around 9:30 that they were on their way back to campus to pick me up. They arrived around 9:45 and to my surprise they were pulling a trailer this time! No more bob tailing. All of our trailers are 53 footers, some dry van, some moving van (equipped with mattress storage compartments, and a few flat bed trailers.

I jumped in the truck, sincerely apologized to everyone for my tardiness and assured them it wouldn’t happen again. We were pulling a dry van trailer. I had missed our instructor’s demonstration on how to drive while pulling a trailer. Yesterday we only had a trailer on the pad during backing practice. He gave me a verbal crash course, and I got about 45 minutes behind the wheel due to my tardiness. We drove the same local route we did the previous day, with speeds up to 45 mph. Turning with a trailer is definitely something I’m gonna have to get used to, but I think I did pretty well. I didn't run over any curbs and I believe my trailer was only in the grass once during a turn. A couple times he did have to tell me to go out further before turning though. I got about 15 miles in after the other 2 students drove and we returned to campus for lunch.

Len told us we would be hitting I-10 tomorrow at speeds up to 70 mph! I asked “will our trucks go that fast?” and he told me none of the 2018 or newer Peterbilts are governed. I was a little nervous but excited nonetheless. He told us we would each have at least 1000 miles behind the wheel before the completion of the program.

We came back from lunch for our afternoon session on the pad. In the afternoon we have to couple the trailers to the tractor as part of our practice. Today was my turn to do it. I remembered my checklist from the class and the things the student did the day before and got it done.

We each rotated about 5 times on the straight back maneuver and then moved into offset. I felt a lot more comfortable doing the offsets today, I even managed to do it 2 or 3 times with no pull ups on either side. Len said we were doing so well he wanted to introduce us to the alley dock. He took me first and left the other 2 to do offsets.

Most of the newer tractors were in use either on the pad or on the road with the other groups. We used an old international tractor and 53 ft moving van trailer. He ran thru the maneuver twice with me sitting in the passenger seat, explaining how and when to turn, and what to look for, then we switched seats. (Deep exhale) I could see this was not going to come to me as fast as the other two backing maneuvers. I struggled, like severely! We stayed at it for a little over an hour and I think I made it into the boundary once on my own. (I competed it twice with him in the passenger seat telling when and how much to turn). My confidence took a big hit. Len gave me a pep talk and told me it was just the first day doing this not to worry, I would have plenty of time to get it down in the next 3 weeks. Tomorrow the other two students would get their turn on the alley dock and he would leave me to do offsets and straight backs all afternoon.

We filled out our driver logs and went home for the day.

Posted:  1 week, 1 day ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Thursday 22 September 2022 Today we completed all the chapters and quizzes for Entry Level Driver Training. One was about trip planning, which I think is interesting. Route selection can sometimes offer many options, but other times, one. Our trainer told us about a resource I wasn’t really aware of, the 511 website of each state department of transportation. I used the Oregon site when I lived there so I could see when snow was hitting Mount Hood. Oregon’s road cam at Government Camp was an instant resource. Turns out, every state has a similar offering of live or nearly live cameras! In class, we took some time and looked at the 511 cameras in Wyoming. Man, that’s some wide-open country where I-90 meets I-25 in Buffalo, Wyoming!

Friday 23 September 2022 We started our last day in the classroom by leaving it, taking a van to a nearby health clinic for our pre-employment drug test. Three drug tests in three weeks seems a little excessive, but it makes sense for what Swift needs to do to keep drug users out of their academy and off their payroll. We spent the rest of the day doing Swift new hire orientation. It’s a lot of information to digest. After hearing about the compensation and benefits, I’m still confident I’ve made a good choice for me by going with Swift.

Monday 26 September 2022 Our first day on the pad! We’ve been reading the pretrip inspection for a couple of weeks, but what a difference seeing a truck and trailer up close makes! There are real leaf springs and U-bolts under there, not just words on a page!

We took turns pulling forward and straight backing. Throttle control takes some getting used to. The speed limit on the pad is two miles per hour. Most of us went faster than that because we weren’t yet familiar with the throttle, but it will come with time. Braking was choppy at first but we figured out how to smooth that out pretty quickly. We also got to try offset backing. Our instructor, April, told us one of her goals on the pad is to teach us how to fix whatever trouble we experience in backing so when we are out there on our own in a couple of months, we’re going to know what to do. We’re going to know how to fix it.

For offset backing, once we get the trailer close to being parallel with the parking spot, all we have to do is a straight back. Sounds simple but it’s gonna take practice, which I’m sure we’ll get a lot of. We also got to drive around the track. The track has a slightly higher speed limit of five miles per hour. I got reminded several times during my loop around to maintain five miles per hour, and it wasn’t because I was going too slow. I’m still learning the throttle. There’s a delay there and it’s taking me some time to get the feel for it.

There was lots of new learning today. More than ever, I can see myself doing this job, and having the confidence to “fix it” when things need fixing. It was a great day.

Posted:  1 week, 6 days ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Tuesday 20 September 2022 I was wrong about there being no more tests until we take our final CDL exams. Between now and Friday, we will receive Entry Level Driver Training as required by the US Department of Transportation. We must earn at least 80% on each chapter quiz to pass, and it looks like there are about 30 chapters. We covered the first 10 chapters today (everyone passed!), and the plan is to do 10 more tomorrow, and 11 more on Thursday. Most of the content sounds familiar. It’s actually good for me to hear the consistency of language because it will be central to my professional life very soon.

It’s interesting to see the change in the demeanor of the students who were in our shoes last week. They are far more serious now that they are on the pad, learning the specifics of the pre-trip inspection, the backing maneuvers, and the road test. It’s not that they no longer laugh and kid around, because they do. There’s just a lot less of it. Their focus is noticeably specific.

Watching students practice parallel parking is something I get to do a few times a day. It’s nice to have Charles, our week one instructor, out there giving commentary. He says students get caught up thinking they have to do every maneuver perfectly when in reality, all they have to do is put the truck in the designated spot. Good enough is good enough. If it’s in, it’s in. It does not have to be perfect.

Wednesday 21 September 2022 We got badges today! Now instead of clocking in and out using the bar code on the back of our state-issued driver's licenses, we can clock in and out using our Swift Academy badges.

It rained on and off most of the day. What a welcome change from sunny and hot. Even in September, daytime highs of 100 degrees are common in Phoenix, and it’s nice to have a break from that.

As planned, we covered 10 more Entry Level Driver Training chapters and chapter quizzes today. We all did well. Again, the content is familiar, and again, I am grateful. Even though it’s all book learning so far – not driving learning – it’s good to know there is guidance about how to do the job of a professional truck driver.

A few times during class today we heard air horns out on the pad. Another student just passed their tests and earned their CDL!

Yesterday I had forgotten my lunch at home, so bought a sandwich from the break room vending machine. One of my classmates saw that and felt bad for me. This morning, she told me she brought me lunch. A sandwich, a small bag of chips and a donut. What a nice surprise! She is so kind, and I thanked her. It’s nice to know people still look out for each other. I’ll find a way to repay the favor.

Posted:  2 weeks, 1 day ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Hi PackRat, the array of terminals is one of the reasons I steered toward Swift for training and post-training employment. It's comforting to think I have 30 "homes" across the country if need be. Parking, or lack thereof, in the great wide open, is one of the reasons I'd like to get to know some of the Swift terminals. Unless parking at Swift is also a problem? Some of them may be pretty small. I'd never thought of that! The access to Knight terminals will come in handy in places where Swift has no terminal. Idaho Falls, Idaho, comes to mind. That is where I grew up and where my parents still live.

Thanks for following along.

Terminals are a good, safe bet for many of the major cities. Swift has a bunch of terminals scattered around these tough-to-find-parking locales. You should be able to utilize Knight terminals, too.

Posted:  2 weeks, 1 day ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Hi G-Town, any reality checks from you are encouraged and welcome. I will remind myself terminals are mostly for service or times I can not find parking.

I've done well tuning out the negativity of drivers, but I include it in the diary so new readers can see it's kinda prevalent and it can for the most part be dismissed. I'm happy you believe I have a shell of positivity. I believe it too!

We are practicing logs daily now, and getting in the habit of only logging what we've actually done. No "pre-logging" allowed. We log midnight to 8 am as off duty. Eight am to noon as on duty. Noon to 1 pm as off duty. One pm to 5 pm as on duty. And 5 pm to midnight as off duty. There are three flags during our day. The first is Phoenix, AZ/Classroom. The second is Phoenix, AZ/Lunch and the third is Phoenix, AZ/Off duty. We are also learning to keep our eight days rolling total, etc. It's all good practice I'm sure. Better to know what to do when called upon than not.

Yesterday's random drug test on a Monday morning has a few of us kinda freaked out. None of us did any drugs, but we did have beers, not together, but at our homes in and around Phoenix. Those beers were consumed over the weekend, including on an off-duty Sunday night. We found out today that even though the DOT limit for alcohol is 0.04, the Swift limit is ZERO. Apparently, the five-panel drug test does not specify alcohol testing, but if Swift does do that, and such tests really goes back 80 hours (into the weekend) as the internet seems to indicate, several of us will show alcohol-in-the-pee from the weekend. I really hope that does not mean any of us are dismissed. No one ever told us we could not drink when off duty. We've only received the guidance of not consuming alcohol "four hours before" reporting for duty. In real life, ignorance of a rule generally won't mean you dodge the consequence. I will be crushed if this results in anyone being ineligible to continue with training. Especially me. I have a whole new life ahead of me.

I'm happy you enjoy my diary, G-Town. I enjoy your candid posts and responses throughout the forum. You and others have built a valuable resource here. I appreciate you all.

Reality check…

Once you are solo, unless there is a pressing need to enter a terminal, like for service, don’t.

Don’t believe everything you hear; truth almost always sits in the middle of two stories, and you only heard one side. Truckers are notorious complainers. Tune it out! Don’t let any negativity penetrate your shell of positivity.

E-logs will go-down, as do GPS (Navigo), count on it. I’ve run paper at least once per year during my time with Swift. There was a huge outage a few years ago, we were running dark for over a week. Had to call-in macros (how most company drivers communicate with the mothership). Always be prepared to run paper.

Drug tests can be ordered randomly, any time, even for students. Weekend partying…etc. You are now in the world of zero tolerance for alcohol and drugs.

Enjoying your diary.

Posted:  2 weeks, 2 days ago

View Topic:

I've applied to attend driver training at Swift Academy Phoenix

Monday 19 September 2022 Day six of 20 at Swift Driver Academy in Phoenix, Arizona.

The academy here in Phoenix is four weeks long, and today was day one of our second week. This morning we took a complete tour of the Swift compound. It included a stop at an on-campus medical office, where we all had a urine drug test. There was no advance warning, and it seemed odd to me the company would pay for another one of these after doing one a couple of weeks ago at my DOT physical. They must have their reasons. Maybe some students think since they cleared the initial drug test, another could not soon follow. Surprise!

Part of our tour was spent at the Driver Center or driver lounge. Inside is a semi truck set up as a coffee stand. I asked one of the drivers seated there if he likes to spend time at Swift terminals across the country. He was pretty blunt with his "not really." He likes the Phoenix terminal, and that's about it. Other drivers chimed in with high marks for Lancaster (near Dallas, Texas) and West Valley City (Near Salt Lake City, Utah). The ones they were especially critical of I will see for myself soon enough. No need to spread negativity about things I've not yet experienced. Suffice it to say for now, in the Swift universe, it may be hard to beat Phoenix for driver amenities.

As we made our way through the Driver Center, we encountered a couple of other drivers who recognized our trainer. He asked them how things were going, and the responses were not good. “There have been several times I’ve just about left the truck on the side of the road,” one said. Hmm… Not what I would say in front of a group of people I know are academy students. Another obviously had similar concerns but would not voice them in front of students. He told the trainer he’d just switched assignments at Swift, and will reach out to the trainer in a week or two to let him know how things are going. While I was surprised by the answers from those two drivers, I’m also kinda proud of them. Some days are diamonds, some days are coal. But they are still here, gutting it out for the diamond days. That will be me very soon. I’m glad they are hanging on. So many others just quit.

We spent much of the day learning about daily logs and how to fill them out, just in case our digital logs ever betray us. We were shown several examples of logs drivers tried to fudge. Not really smart considering all the ways the company has to track your movements. The takeaway here, is don’t try to cheat the systems that are in place. They are more consistently reliable that your subterfuge.

Toward the end of the day, we talked a little about the mentor matching process. That’s for the trainer truck we will be on for four to six weeks after graduation. We were told we get to specify whether we prefer a male or female trainer and whether that person is a smoker or a non-smoker. I don’t really have preferences based on gender or tobacco usage. I want a mentor who is the right blend of patient and pushy. Patient enough not to jump all over me for minor mistakes, but pushy enough to show me what running as hard as I can legally and safely looks like so I actually know it is possible. At least that’s what I THINK I want. We’ll see how much that changes if I actually get one!

Posted:  2 weeks, 2 days ago

View Topic:

Aspiring Teacher? More Like Aspiring Driver! TMC CDL SCHOOL DIARIES

Welcome Meg! I start week two of my training today. So excited for you!

Never would I expect myself to sit here at my desk and start writing out this introductory diary post on a trucking form, yet here I am. Excited. Nervous. Ready for this next step in my life.

I’ll start by saying I’m a young woman, mid twenties. I grew up wanting so desperately to be a middle school English teacher. It was and still is my passion to write and read, and I wanted to share my fondness of the subject and the artistry behind the wonderful English language to young people. My oh my, did that change as plans oftentimes do. I had the fortunate experience of virtually graduating University (aka walking across my living room) that May of 2020. My degree was supposed to be a Bachelors and a Masters (an accelerated program offered for aspiring teachers who were teaching foundational subjects that required you to have the Bachelors in the subject you teach.) However, I was unable to complete the Masters due to the pandemic. They were not able to give us definite answers that we could complete required student teaching courses. I decided to make the wise decision to not get my masters, which meant not having the requirements and license to teach in my state.

This bittersweet moment started to tend to the trucking embers that slowly kindled into a burning desire to become a professional driver. It started with my uncle who has and still is a driver since the early 90s. He told me shortly after I graduated that it would be a great option because the industry has been in need of drivers, and with the pandemic at the rise I wouldn’t have to worry about job security. Still, fresh out of college I wanted to find a cushy desk job and try to get some use out of this degree that felt like a waste of money at this time. I ended up working for a real estate settlement agency until surprise surprise…. a lay off because I refused their new vaccination policy.

My uncle was right. So, I turned myself over to TMC to start my new career September 26.

After reading this form, some recommended articles, and Solo’s phenomenally detailed diary, I decided, while flatbed might be a physical challenge, that I’m ready to put in a hard days work. I also always fantasized driving heavy, oversized freight one day. Maybe it’s that Napoleon complex I have, being 5’1” and all… (ha ha)

I will be attending my 3 week orientation training in Columbia, SC. My recruiter, Kelly, has been a pleasure to communicate with. She has been nothing but honest with me. She is a relatively new recruiter, so some of the questions I had she didn’t know, but was prompt with getting me an answer as quickly as she could. I also spoke to Paul, a TMC trainer on YouTube, known as White Collar Trucker who has also been a great resource. He started as a career switcher, went through CDL school at TMC, and is now a trainer.

With a CDL A permit in hand, a motor carrier atlas in the other, and a big smile on my face I’m so eager to learn the industry, get my feet wet, and get rolling -LITERALLY!!

I will update at the end of each week with an account of my experience through this entire process. Thank you again to the moderators, writers, and administrators of this website. You all are helping so much and I greatly appreciate the resources on this site.

Talk to you soon!

-Megalodon >:D

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