Comments By Michael B.

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  • Michael B.
  • Joined:
  • 3 years, 11 months ago
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Posted:  1 month, 4 weeks ago

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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:  1 month, 4 weeks 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 month, 4 weeks 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:  2 months 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:  2 months 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:  2 months 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:  2 months 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:  2 months 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:  2 months 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:  2 months 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 months, 1 week 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 months, 1 week 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 months, 1 week 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 months, 1 week 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

Posted:  2 months, 1 week ago

View Topic:

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

HI Youngun, thanks for commenting. The luxury of staying local and sleeping in my own bed during driving school is what kept me here in Phoenix for my training. Ultimately I'd like to leave Phoenix, as it (for me) is uninhabitable for several months of the year. Too darn hot! I've had my eye on Colorado and West Texas as places I'd like to live in the future, but for the next year or two, I imagine the Phoenix terminal of Swift (company headquarters) will be my home base. I want to learn to excel at long haul, over-the-road trucking. With that as my goal, I won't be "home"in Phoenix very often, and I am OK with that.

Best of luck to you! I will watch for your posts.

I was originally going to go with SWIFT. However, after being told that I can do the training in my home state of Oklahoma and stay at my house, I found out that I would still have to pay back the cost of a hotel room as well as the training that will becoming out of my check weekly for the first year.

I decided to join CFI, and I am currently in Neosho, MO about to take my skills test in 2 days.

Good luck!

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23 August 2022

Posted:  2 months, 1 week ago

View Topic:

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

Sandman, that computerized voice was not helpful! Thanks for the heads up, I was warned by you!

Michael, here's my observation from recently going through the permit testing. I like what Charles has taught you, read each question twice, think about what questions have to be wrong. I'm in Illinois so your experience could be different, but at the computer, I had to have headphones on and a robot voice read each of the questions. This threw me off at first because I was trying to read at a pace normal to me but which was not in line with the voice. So I waited for her to finish her script, then I read the question myself and pretty much did what Charles told you to do. I think that helped me a lot.

Swift is high on my list so I'm eagerly following your journey. Anyway, if you happen to see this before your test, hope it might help. Good luck!

Posted:  2 months, 1 week ago

View Topic:

A Day In The Life of a Walmart Dedicated Driver

This is the kind of trucking story I want to read hundreds more of! It helps me imagine what life as a driver will be like once I graduate from the Swift Academy here in Phoenix in October.

Posted:  2 months, 1 week ago

View Topic:

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

Friday 16 September 2022 Day Five at Swift Driver Academy

Today our instructor Charles told us our schedule for the next three weeks and three days. September 19 through 23 (Monday to Friday) we will attend what Swift calls its Entry Level Driver Training in the academy’s other classroom. September 26 through 30 (Monday through Friday) we will be outside on the pad to learn what we will need to know to pass our eventual pre-trip inspection, basic vehicle control and road tests. October 3 through 7 (Monday through Friday) we will be outside to practice the learned skills to pass those three tests. The next week, we will take our CDL tests on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, which are October 10, 11 and 12.

Charles had some suggestions about how to study for and pass the pre-trip inspection test. He emphasized it is an oral exam, then said this: “If you don’t hear your voice when you read that pre-trip inspection, you’re gonna have problems.” He meant two things. First, he wants us to read it out loud – actually hear our voices – when we study the material. Second, it’s gotta sound like WE are the ones who came up with the narrative. It needs to really be OUR story we are telling to the test proctor.

During our breaks from class, we often sit outside and watch students who are ahead of us in this process practice and or test on basic maneuvers. That’s basically backing, be it straight backing, offset backing or parallel parking. Those are the only skills on that part of the test. Today we watched a student who was struggling to parallel park. Charles gave commentary while we watched. “The agreed upon process does not change,” he said. “Things go wrong when we insert ourselves into the agreed upon process. Follow the process. See how that works out for you.”

The academy teaches backing in a specific way. The student was not following the process. Their resulting failure was predictable.

Inserting myself into an agreed-upon process is a habit I’ve been working to break since I met Charles on Monday. My opinions, my experiences, my emotions, and even my curiosity, have absolutely no bearing on what Charles needed to teach me this week so I could pass my permit tests. On day one, we agreed to a process for our first week at the academy. The process was we would be taught and discuss nothing more and nothing less than what was required to achieve that goal. I kinda laughed when in our first hour together Charles told us, “I’m not here to tell you trucking stories. I’m only here to give you correct information so you can pass your test.” He absolutely stuck to that. And we students learned not to ask questions about anything but the material in the manual. The agreed-upon process produced the result we all wanted. We all passed. Imagine the instructional time we might have lost if Charles had not strictly observed our agreed-upon process. Hearing trucker stories can wait. He knows that much better than we do. Smart man.

By the end of the day, the circus tent was halfway down, and the driver appreciation week party was done. I felt pampered, spoiled and appreciated during my first week in the Swift family. I look forward to more agreed-upon processes so I can learn the things Swift wants me to know so I will pass my CDL tests in October.

Posted:  2 months, 1 week ago

View Topic:

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

Thursday 15 September 2022 Day Four

I arrived early at Swift so I could stop by the driver appreciation week circus tent and get a soda as a pretend breakfast shake. Diet Pepsi has lots of protein and fiber and vitamin C, right? So refreshingly healthy at 7 am!

There are new trucks (tractors) parked outside the tent, and I was admiring a shiny new 2023 Kenworth when a woman walked up from behind the truck and said, “This thing is brand new! Never even had a trailer on it!” I wanted to know how she knew that, so I asked. She pointed out that the fifth wheel was greased but under that, clean as the day it was installed. And the catwalk was spotless. No grease, no grime, no rust. Perfect. That made sense. New truck! I asked if she was a driver and she said yes. I told her I was on day four of the academy. She said she was in my shoes back in June. So she’s really new!

I asked if she was getting the miles she hoped for and her energy changed completely. She said no. Then came a list of additional disappointments she’s experienced since getting off her mentor’s truck. It was a little depressing. Swift’s trucks don’t go fast enough (governed at 65 mph, but everybody already knows that). Academy tuition reimbursement doesn’t REALLY happen until the end of your second year (yep, I signed that contract!). Backing is still such a nightmare that when a yard dog offered to park her trailer for her yesterday, she gladly dropped it and left (That is a major fear for me, but I am trying to make that less major for now, since I’m not even driving yet). The electronic communications device used for dispatch in her new solo truck often does not work, and once when it did, she was sent the wrong address for a receiver (not that hard to double check on your own if you take the time to plan your trip). Her driver leader/manager apparently takes hours to return messages, and when they do, there is little to no empathy for what the driver is going through (Only you can manage you!). I felt her pain, but man, after five minutes of that, I excused myself and went to catch my shuttle bus to the academy. Doom and gloom first thing in the morning on the day I get to take my CDL learner’s permit tests? No thanks!

We got to class and Charles, our instructor, made us take out all the documents we needed to have at the DMV (Arizona calls its version the MVD). We all had what we needed, so we loaded up in a 15-passenger Ford Transit van and set out for testing. We tested West of the academy, in Goodyear, Arizona, at a MVD that only offers Commercial Driver Licenses. What a great idea! No appointments needed, just show up. Walk in, take a number, present your documents when called, pay your twenty-five bucks, and boom, you are testing.

While we waited for our numbers to be called, I figured I would click through a few practice tests just to keep the info fresh in my mind. But the lobby was noisy. Lots of loud ringtones, followed by shouted private conversations happening in a very public place. The one screen of practice questions I answered about air brakes, I failed. Now I was getting nervous about the real tests. I put my phone away. Stick to the plan, man. All you gotta do is read every question twice. Read all the answers twice. Eliminate the wrong answers and choose the best one from whatever’s left. Stick to the plan.

My number was called, I presented my documents, paid my fee and was assigned a testing station. It’s all digital these days, and I took a seat at Station 8 as directed. No mouse. No keyboard. And nobody told me the computer monitor was also a touch screen. So I sat there for a minute wondering what the heck I was supposed to do. Finally, I poked the monitor and it welcomed me with a list of names, only one of which was mine. I poked my name. Then it welcomed me by name and told me what was gonna happen. Did I want to take a practice test before the real thing began? Nope, let’s do this. And so we did.

Having spent three days listening to the CDL manual as presented by Charles, it was a shock to hear a robotic female voice saying things I’d only heard from the silky smooth baritone of my trainer. Completely devoid of emotion or expression, Electric Barbarella read the question and the three multiple-choice answers on offer, then expected me to answer. No eye contact. No empathy. She could not care less whether I passed or failed. I wanted Charles! Charles cares if I pass or fail! It took three or maybe even five questions before I just tuned out the robot and read the questions and answers myself. In the voice of Charles, of course.

I got through all three tests, only missing a couple of questions on each. Yay hooray! It made my day! In fact, just like I predicted last night, everyone in our class passed. What a great feeling!

I’ve accomplished one of my goals related to earning a CDL. I passed the written exams for the learner’s permit. I realize today is just one small milestone in a long journey, but it matters to me that I celebrate this.

At the end of the day on my way to my car, I stopped again at the circus tent to get some dinner to take home. And I saw that dreary driver I’d met first thing in the morning. She’d slept. She’d spoken with her driver manager, and she was about to head home to Tucson for some days off the road. She seemed 100 percent better, was smiling even. Just a reminder of how bad days don’t last forever.

Posted:  2 months, 1 week ago

View Topic:

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

Aww, thanks Old School! I'm reading a few of your posts about how drivers can be proactive instead of reactive w dispatch to get more miles. I'm appreciating your wisdom. Nice to meet ya!

I'm enjoying your diary Michael. It's really well done so far.

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