Comments By Mark C.

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  • Mark C.
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  • 2 years, 1 month ago
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Posted:  1 year, 11 months ago

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Thinking About Going to Private School Instead

I'll await my turn. You???

That's fantastic Ann - You must be proud.

Well, where we live a masters in internet marketing really wasn't much help, my wife's experience in the office got her the financial director gig so I stayed home and did freelance while homeschooling (before it was cool) the kids. Once middle school was done, the two younger opted to go to HS.

But, as kids become adults (or so they tell me) they only get more expensive, so since they don't need me to supervise, i'm free to take some of the load off the wife. Guess you could say it's my turn, though she's still working, to pick up more of the load.

I'm gonna miss being here making her lunches and morning tea, but once my contract is paid I'll look for local or dedicated that brings me back regular.

Posted:  1 year, 11 months ago

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Thinking About Going to Private School Instead

when my youngest ages out of the house, haha!

That actually happens?? When?? rofl-1.gif

Actually, my youngest will be the first out, heading for the Air Force. I'll have to build an apartment for the youtube star downstairs though.

Posted:  1 year, 11 months ago

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Thinking About Going to Private School Instead

(continued...)

This isn’t me hating on paid school. I think it’s great and creates opportunity for a lot of people who otherwise could never become a driver. It’s about understanding what’s best for the individual and their individual circumstances. And its about pushing back on some really bad stereotyping of me. If you want to know where I’m coming from, just ask. If you want to use me as a straw man to increase your own authority, then I’m going to push back.

I’m all grown up and don’t require a cheering section, but be careful with that tough love, it easily becomes a discouraging word. Tough love doesn’t drive people into a corner, it gives them a clean path to choose right. And that path is never groveling to your side in shame, or it’s just tough without love.

If I sound insulted, I reckon I am a bit, but more disappointed. I joined this community for honest insight into the trucking world, I expect opinions and even disagreements. I don’t think disagreements should be cause for ad hominem attacks. Old School, you’re a respected member here and I expect for very good reason. I think you may have fallen victim to your own press though. If maligning dissenters is the rule of the day, this forum will never be more than a choir all singing the same tune, incapable of introspection.

So to the Girl & her Dog, just remember it’s you who must live with your choice. You know your circumstances, how much time you have, and what your options are. It’s not about which is the “right” choice, rather which is right for you.

Posted:  1 year, 11 months ago

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Thinking About Going to Private School Instead

Old School, I’m a little disappointed.

I don’t mind “tough love”, I’m a father to three young adults and dole it out often enough. But I do make it a point to understand what I’m talking about.

I’m not unhappy with my choice to work for PAM. I would do it again with a privately acquired cdl. It was in my power to do it privately but I chose the paid option, and that’s the only part I would change. Again, I watched several people wash out at school, and that doesn’t mean they don’t have to pay. They are now on the hook for twice as much as the private school, with no cdl. How is that better off than Zach?

It’s about making the right choice for your circumstances. Things like how much training do you need? Or do you need to stay working while going to school? This forum influenced my choice to go the paid cdl path, but I got information from many sources and take full responsibility for the it.

Being a “free agent” may not increase the pool of available employers, but it doesn’t shrink it either. There are also better schools than the one I went to which offered me an average less than 1:10 ratio of seat time to hours in the yard. There’s a state tech college near me that offers a 320 hour course for half the price of the sponsored school, and it’s a superior learning experience (since it couldn’t be otherwise) and my first choice company would have hired me from there. Community colleges even have student aid.

I didn’t have that kind of time, personal choices based on personal circumstances.

It’s a common mistake when we’ve lived long enough, and encountered enough people, to pigeonhole them into categories. You took one line from a comment and extrapolated my career potential. In case it isn’t clear at this point, this isn’t the first thing I’ve been new at. If you want to know why I’m changing career at 53, just ask, but don’t assume I can’t know anything about starting a challenging career. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is that I’m responsible for my career, not some recruiter or dispatcher. I have to make it work by working with people, not looking for excuses. But that doesn’t mean forum members should be afraid to vent a little, or share difficult times. If every challenge is met with another dose of “tough love”, the love part gets lost.

“posting like newbies”.. I’m not afraid of posting problems or complaints, but if you’ve read my posts you’ll also see I post confidence in solutions with patience and endurance. I came into this eyes open, though you can’t seem to believe anyone can know anything at the start.

Do I feel the pinch? I have a mortgage, two car payments, three grown kids who still depend on me, and an amazing wife whose shoulders have born too much already. So YES, I feel the pinch every day. How about you? Will the stress of trucking break me, or will the action of creating solutions to my other stresses actually relieve some? I’ve run businesses, I’ve been successful and struggled. I’m as prepared for the unknown as one can be.

As for “skin in the game”, well there’s also something called “sunk cost”. Any manager will tell you that it’s better to abandon an investment than continue in a bad one. Not saying Zach or anyone else is a bad investment, I’m challenging the notion that a company paying for school does anything for job security. Your story is anecdotal, and it’s from an earlier time. The big companies of today are even bigger, and the corporate mentality, I’ll wager, has only increased over that time. The contract for that “paid cdl school” says that if you don’t pass your test, never mind meet your contracted employment duration, you are liable for the entire cost. Kids with zero experience with a clutch or trailer were expected to learn enough to pass their test in just 3 weeks or get stuck with a $7k bill. Seems to me they got that skin covered either way. Not everyone is cut out for that kind of stress, and its foolish to think otherwise.

(continued....)

Posted:  1 year, 11 months ago

View Topic:

Thinking About Going to Private School Instead

I know I go against the grain here but if I'd to do over, I'd have gone private. Most starter companies will reimburse for the cost and the time offered to pull back is too short to get a real feel for the school. Going private would have cost half as much also, should I not finish my full year for some reason.

I watched several people fail and the only thought in my head was that they would be billed that $7K for the school and not even have their cdl. If you can't get the $$ up front, sponsored school makes sense, but if you can swing it (and look for grants) you're a free agent going private.

I should see my PAM mentor mon or tue next week, then it's PAM for a year whether I like them or not, else I have to buy out the tuition at full (inflated) price.

In the end, you make the choice that puts peace in your soul then stop looking over fences. Grass is always greener from a distance.

Posted:  1 year, 11 months ago

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What to Wear - Meet my mentor in about a week(ish?)

Thanks ya'll. I sprung for a sleeping bag liner. I generally sleep warm and a small travel blanket would be all i need as long as the cab doesn't get below the 60's. Mostly just trying to make sharing a bunk as easy as possible. I don't want to share my bedding so don't expect anyone else to either. Teaming should mean the truck is mostly running so I expect some climate control most of the time.

Been looking at a couple jackets at Rural King. A Carhartt and another that's fluorescent yellow. Don't care much about fashion, but the Carhartt has a hood and the other is a bomber, which I generally like, and plenty visible. Son has my car, I'll find out later which feels better.

I'm not a gamer so my only entertainment needs will be my Surface tablet and my phone's hot spot. small enough.

Posted:  1 year, 11 months ago

View Topic:

What to Wear - Meet my mentor in about a week(ish?)

plan on picking up grub along the way until you've got your own truck

Hopefully my trainer is a little more understanding. "Grub along the way" is both unhealthy and expensive in most cases (and jerky is $$$ too). I reckon this is an individual thing so I'll wait to speak with the trainer before worrying about it.

I will look into getting a new multi-tool though. Haven't needed one in years.

Posted:  1 year, 11 months ago

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What to Wear - Meet my mentor in about a week(ish?)

Something Old,

Hey, that's me!

Something New,

That'd be the new plan to retirement

Something Borrowed,

Time.... we're all on borrowed time, no?

Something Blue

A vision of blue skies will be with me. Somewhere ahead there will always be blue skies.

So all that and extra underwear... Thanks.

Posted:  1 year, 11 months ago

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What to Wear - Meet my mentor in about a week(ish?)

Flip flops ...

got some water shoes from key West....

Posted:  1 year, 11 months ago

View Topic:

What to Wear - Meet my mentor in about a week(ish?)

It'll be Feb and possibly into March while I'm teamed up with a mentor and I've nothing to wear. Oh, that should have been the title...

I know it'll be cold in most places, I used to live up there. Alas, FL stores don't carry much for cold weather even in the fall, so I'm looking at ordering in. Keeping those Amazon trucks rolling!

Seriously, I know I'm invading another man's home so-to-speak and don't want to overpack. can't know how much room I'll have for my own stuff or even what that should be. I have uninsulated work boots, a couple hoodies and some flannels for cold weather. I'm thinking I'd like some kind of bed roll since PAM trains as a team and I'll be sharing the bunk. Should I order in some insulated bibs and a nice forescent coat? Perhaps a foot locker? Ok, never mind the locker, but those battery powered socks are staying on the list. Florida blood here.

I just know I need to get this done quickly or it'll arrive after I leave.

So my questions are: What to get? What are the best bedroll ideas? Should I pack groceries (without ever seeing the inside of the truck)? I reckon that last can be done after talking to the mentor guy.

Ideas would help, and if you've trained please give me your "don't do it" list. I hate being on that list.

Posted:  1 year, 12 months ago

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Drivers Solutions Week One: It Ain’t Boot Camp.

Week Three and Passed. This final week was a much better experience for me. Previous classes moved on and some who had struggled for a long time were let go. They also got more organized in the class portion of training. This meant a much better ratio of students to trucks which meant more seat time for each of us.

It almost went sour when I was passed over for scheduling my test. Since I was the first in my class to complete all required evaluations, I was a bit put out. Once more I became a (politely) squeaking wheel, and after some tense glances in the office over who dropped the ball I was scheduled for Friday. I’m not usually very good at squeaking so I’m blaming/crediting my NY wife for the skill. Besides, she’s not here to object which is my number one rule for passing the buck. If you had siblings or multiple kids, you understand.

Meetings this week were more professional, and dare I say, mature. Seat time in a truck went from 20 min in a 10 hr day to easily over an hour. The final hour of the day would offer opportunity for those scheduled to test to practice in the test truck on the actual test course. That meant just three or four students to a truck which was an excellent preparation. Such a contrast to previous weeks.

The test was a bit nerve wracking as the gears I’d mastered in training hid from me. Getting distracted even had me trying to shift in a turn, like a dummy. But I hit no curbs, ran no lights, and held the truck under control in traffic, so I passed and now await further instruction from PAM.

I could never recommend this school. Anyone who is already familiar with driving larger vehicles and backing trailers will likely enjoy success like myself, but those without such experience should consider a larger school. If you do try it and too far to commute, bring a bedroll and clean towels... and roach spray. I’m a little stoked to be one of only two to test out in week three, it really pays to own your training. I wish I could have done more to help a few others but it’s time to turn my focus ahead. Since the “Grad Line” went to voicemail late Friday, I’ll start that focus on Monday.

God Bless, see you on the road.

Posted:  2 years ago

View Topic:

Drivers Solutions Week One: It Ain’t Boot Camp.

Excellent post, Mark ~!!

I neglected to thank you. I try to turn off the computer time during the week to squeeze in more wife time before I start out, thus the weekly update. In reality it's me falling asleep on the couch at 9 to make the commute.

So Thanks for the response. My next post may include a testing result, time will tell.

Posted:  2 years ago

View Topic:

Drivers Solutions Week One: It Ain’t Boot Camp.

Mark, you picked up a bad school. .

Hehe, that seems to be the general consensus in the yard. The guys who paid out of pocket are pretty vocal. I really feel bad for the people who needed more one on one time to learn, the ratio is simply too large for individual attention. But on a positive note, I'm still in FL where a cold morning is 42 deg. Roehl wasn't hiring in FL and lets face it, WI is a bit chilly this time of year. They were my first choice though.

I almost backed out during my rescission window, but I was confident enough in my own ability to do this even with the obvious issues. I also have a schedule to meet for an income and picking another rout would cost a few weeks. If I fail a test it will be the result of my own laziness, not the school. I do need a little more seat time for shifting and getting the "feel" of it, but that shouldn't be a problem. Where I get agitated is knowing the people who fail out will be on the hook for $6k to Driver's Solutions and they never got near that in value.

Three decades later and I'm still pulling lessons from my military experience, a crappy commander shouldn't be allowed to color your career choices. If I had known that then who knows where I'd be today.

My future is what I make of what God gives me, and it won't be excuses.

Posted:  2 years ago

View Topic:

Drivers Solutions Week One: It Ain’t Boot Camp.

Week Two in Retrospect

I now commute to class. The day after I retrieved the rest of my stuff, the room was flooded by a toilet overflow from the 4th floor. Divine providence? I believe.

It really helps to have some experience with trailers. I see no shame in testing in an automatic if a stick is totally new, but if you must translate the wheel to the trailer each time, the increased stress and any distraction can interrupt that resulting in confusion, and lots of pull ups. Having a bit of muscle memory helps focus attention on the “when” and “how much” rather than “which way”. Fortunately for me, I’ve backed trailers of many sizes. My ‘turn’ on the course usually lasts just a few minutes while the less experienced have taken as much as 40 min on a single alley dock.

We lost the pre-trip instructor this week and started with a new one. Last guy put me in the system as a fail so the new guy’s attempt to get me caught up brought my second eval quickly. The picture I took of my signed passing eval, plus the fortuitous opportunity to complete a second, meant I was done with pre-trip requirements ****il test day) earlier than expected. Then I was able to solicit the other instructors to use my practice time as the requisite evaluations for yard maneuvers. I’m happy to report I was able to start the actual driving part of my training by Wednesday of week two. A couple others in my class followed my example and got their first drive time on Friday with me on my second.

Having my permit in hand, and having had experience backing a trailer, combined with some proactive presence really paid off. I really want the extra time double clutching because… da##! I could blame it on the terrible condition of the trucks, but I’d be fooling myself. I know how to shift, but the muscle memory keeps getting in the way. And downshifting while approaching a row of stopped traffic instead of just hitting the brake isn’t what my brain wants. I want to be on that brake with stopping power at the ready, not fumbling with double clutching and revving the engine. My second time was much better than my first, though I’m still leaving my hand on the shifter, another muscle memory thing I do even in my automatic car.

I’ve made Napoleon my friend, he’s a good-hearted man with anger issues. He just gets over-heated when his instruction is ignored. If he blows that whistle any harder he may pop a blood vessel. On that same topic, I could no longer resist giving a little instruction to the office administrator. She had achieved a high level of resentment among the students (being in the yard with them made impossible not to notice). I’d like to take credit for the cessation of her condescending remarks in meetings, who knows… but the temp at meetings has come down.

I’ve met people just starting life, some who’s careers have been eliminated and others who’ve had to shut down life-long businesses over Covid. People from all walks of life are turning to trucking for a stable income. Trucking has long been a popular choice as a second or third career, though I don’t think there has ever been a time when so many are looking for that ‘next career’. Hopefully, I’ll be prepared to test next week so I can start my… 4th?

God Bless

Posted:  2 years ago

View Topic:

Drivers Solutions Week One: It Ain’t Boot Camp.

It’s been about 35 years since that Drill Instructor so politely invited me to exit the bus, I figured as long as that memory was alive there wouldn’t be anything that could disturb me. I was both right and wrong.

I encountered that belligerent instructor who confesses his own Napoleon complex, the office administrator with an over-inflated ego, and some extremely likable instructors who surround them. I can get along with all of them, the roach motel is another paragraph.

Problem is, I’m not 18. Not only do I have to keep my childish pride in check, but I’ve also got to hold back my lifetime of critical thinking and experience. I’ve trained plumbers, I’ve taught middle school math, and I’ve run my own businesses. There’s a part of me that hurts when I encounter extreme inefficiency, and week one was painful.

I was amazed at how many arrived without a permit. I reckon a lot of recruiters just look to get bodies in the school and don’t really prepare them, but it made week one unproductive for those who had them and sent those without into a high stress “catch up” mode. I was even more amazed at how unprepared the school was for our arrival. I had until Wednesday to withdraw. I thought long and hard on that. I could just pay for school. First step is pre-trip and the training was to watch youtube videos. For hours, no days, we watched the same videos. We eventually got a 50 min live pre-trip, and that was Wednesday, then left to our own devices again while they focused on those needing permits.

Some of us spent considerable hours watching the week 2 & 3 students on the yard maneuvers, and that kinda hurt too. There was one instructor, Napoleon, trying to teach offset and ally dock to about 20 students at once. No wonder his idea of a hand signal is to throw stuff on the ground, it reminded me of teaching a class of 28 7th graders. Most of those waiting for a turn spent their time on their phones, ugh, and those behind the wheel seemed to be more interested in how far they could jackknife the trailer when Napoleon wasn’t looking. Maybe they liked his hand signals…

By the end of the week, I had decided to stick to the plan and things were starting to come together. A few of us wrangled the pre-trip instructor into giving us evals Friday morning and just like that we could join the fun on the range. There was no one in line for the “straight back” so we got to start right away. It finally felt like progress. Then the truck died. Then the next truck died. That turned out to be good news because we were advanced to the offset range without delay. I had experience with trailers so the straight back lost its appeal after the first half dozen times, the offset was much more interesting. We each got in one attempt in the hours remaining, then home for the weekend, since I’m only an hour and a half from the school.

Looking forward being on the range in week 2. My only question at this point is whether to commute or not. I mentioned the hotel is its own paragraph and my story of week one wouldn’t be complete without it. I think it’s run by a thief because they must have stolen a star from somewhere to have two in their rating.

I had an entire platoon in one bay at boot camp, but it was clean. VERY clean.

I don’t smoke. At least I didn’t until last Sunday night when I checked in. The haze of stale smoke hung in the air throughout. My roommate didn’t show up so I cranked the AC down and opened the window, at least the few inches it would. I remarked to a classmate about the smell and noted how bad it was in the elevator. He objected, explaining the elevator odor, unlike the halls and rooms, was vomit and urine, not cigarettes. I stand corrected.

I made a trip to Walmart for some staples, I’d resolved to eat in, and I settled in. I can survive this. A couple days in and my door clunked against the chain lock as a manager tried to open it unannounced. I was relaxing on the bed at the time. When I answered the door I was told I had a roommate, but the look on my face must have screamed superlatives over an unannounced entry (attempt). That roommate never came back that evening. Got a call from Driver’s Solutions the next day asking why I objected to a roommate… he got an ear full and I got a roommate.

The roommate doesn’t bother me. The broken microwave, smoke, stink, and roaches bother me. I have one confirmed kill with the disposable paring knife I picked up at Walmart. I won’t hold a grudge against the manager, but that 80 mile commute isn’t looking so bad. Gas spiked $0.30 this week, thanks Biden, but at 30+ mpg I’m only looking at about $130 in fuel to finish out the next two weeks. (math teacher skills)

Why I chose this path is a whole other story, but I’m resolved to see it through. I wish I were writing about personal victories and uplifting stories of accomplishments, but sometimes life is about enduring unpleasantries. So far that is the best and most honest description of my first week, with just a smattering of small victories sprinkled in. Not one time did I tell them how to run their school. That is an accomplishment.

If asked what advice I would give it’s just this. Learning is a personal effort. Never think skills can be bestowed, they must be earned, so a good student will take responsibility for their own education. The students who arrived without ever taking a moment to prepare will likely not graduate.

Happy Trails...

Posted:  2 years, 1 month ago

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Thinking of going to CDL training at a local VoTech on weekends. Is this a good idea?

I wish I had the time and money to take the vo-tech course. There is a company near me offering better pay and time off that would train after schooling, but they only accept from a 320 hr course which is from a technical college. Problem was the classes don't start until March. My situation is such that I need to be making an income before that and I'd have to borrow the $3700. That company will be on my radar after my year of experience dues are up, but if I had another choice...

160 hrs on weekends could be done in 8 weeks with 10 hr days. That's a long time without a day off. Most training companies will reimburse your tuition so it's a way to not lose your income for a whole month. My income got the virus so I just don't have that kinda time.

Posted:  2 years, 1 month ago

View Topic:

Practice test vs online tuts: which is right?

I have to add, cleaning toilets paid better than driving that dump truck. Another example of the long term cost of short term gains.

Posted:  2 years, 1 month ago

View Topic:

Practice test vs online tuts: which is right?

Blip the throttle, slight pressure on the stick, when the speed is right it just drops in.

(older?) Cars and pickups work that way too, but the more I look the less likely it is that I'll even drive a stick. When I got my car the closest I could get was paddle shifters. Just not the same.

I had a FL chauffeurs lic back before DOT got involved, I got to drive a 10 ton dump with split gears for a day. 10 min road test and I was sent down I-4. It was fun, had to double clutch as I recall and learned which gears to skip, but got a better offer the next day and moved on.

Has it really been 30 yrs go since then? embarrassed.gif

Posted:  2 years, 1 month ago

View Topic:

Practice test vs online tuts: which is right?

IF you're placed in a manual transmission, which is very unlikely you'll learn to float the gears.

I used to float gears all the time in my old pick up. rarely used the clutch except to get started. I taught my wife to drive a stick and used the technique to explain how the gears were working in relation to speed and rpms. It helped her understand which gear at which speed to use.

I am curious how widespread automatic transmissions are. With companies touting trucks under 2 yrs old I suppose they would be getting more popular. Takes some of the fun out of it, but man those traffic jams can be tough on the clutch foot in a pickup, can imagine...

Posted:  2 years, 1 month ago

View Topic:

Practice test vs online tuts: which is right?

Thanks, reckon I should have just looked it up in the book. State says connect air lines before locking in the kingpin. Seems they want to ensure there is air to the brakes before pushing on it.

Funny that an instruction video, from a school, missed that. Perhaps it's a new rule that hasn't made its way through yet, or a FL thing.

Thanks again, I'll try not to be lazy in the future and just look things up first.

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