Knight CDL School Diary

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PPGER's Comment
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Well, day 1 of Knight CDL school is in the books. We watched some videos and then out to the pad to get in the trucks. There are only five of us in our class. There are a couple of other students around but they are in their second week of CDL school. Anyway, out on the pad we divided up into two groups (2 & 3).

We first went through some pre-trip inspection training. Pretty intense -- about 90 items to memorize.

One group practiced straight line backing and the other group (my group) drove the truck around the yard and practiced double-clutch shifting. That went better than I thought it would. I missed a couple down shifts but overall I thought it went well.

After that we went back to the pad and switched off groups. I then practiced straight line backing. That was harder than I anticipated. I only got four repetitions in so I figure it has to get better!

After lunch we headed back to the pad and practiced off-set backing. I never got a chance to practice that but that is supposed to be first on my list in the morning.

Then it was back to the classroom for a little training on filling out log books and a video on backing.

The big surprise for the day was when I was informed that I am assigned to dry van and not reefer. And another guy who thought he was dry van was told he was reefer. It is not a real big deal to me, but it was surprising. When I first talked to the recruiter over a month ago, she asked if I wanted dry or reefer and I told her reefer because I wanted longer runs. And then last week in orientation I told them I was reefer and that seemed to be the case. But, the computer has me in the dry van division so I guess that is where I will be. They said that after 90 day of being on my own that I could always transfer to reefer if I still prefered that division. But like I told them, I was not dead set on reefer over dry. I told them I be happy in whichever division they wanted me in -- that I just wanted to drive! Plus, looking at the bring side, I'm thinking that not having to worry about the extra responsibilities of a reefer as a rookie will be a good thing.

So far in training we have been using a Volvo and an International ProStar. I have to say that so far I like the Volvo better. I asked one of the instructors about how the ProStar hops around at low speed clutch engagement and how it was so different from the Volvo. He said that was because the Volvo had a hydraulic clutch whereas the ProStar had a mechanical one.

I am hoping the backing gets easier! But for now, I'm just jazzed that I actually got to drive one of these things!

It is a concentrated course, with long days -- 6 a.m. to 4 p.m... No time for slacking.

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

Tyler Durden's Comment
member avatar

Good luck David and keep us posted

Scott O.'s Comment
member avatar

Dry van has a lot more drop and hooks which I like better lol... Good luck and it does get easier

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.

Drop And Hook:

Drop and hook means the driver will drop one trailer and hook to another one.

In order to speed up the pickup and delivery process a driver may be instructed to drop their empty trailer and hook to one that is already loaded, or drop their loaded trailer and hook to one that is already empty. That way the driver will not have to wait for a trailer to be loaded or unloaded.

Keith A.'s Comment
member avatar

I'll be working with you pretty soon man. What terminal are you working out of when you're done training?

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

PPGER's Comment
member avatar

Keith A: I'll be working out of the Phoenix terminal.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

PPGER's Comment
member avatar

Day 2:

Day 2 consisted of more pre-trip inspections and backing. The pre-trip is going well -- I can pretty much get through it without refering to the printed list -- but backing....

Well, that is kicking my butt. Came home feeling pretty discouraged. My brain feels like mush.

One instructor insists that we ride the clutch in reverse so we go slower.... that is really working out my leg. I think my left leg is going to be bigger than my right after 2 weeks! LOL.

One instructor insists that we alternate between right and left mirrors when straight line backing... one says to just use the drivers's since the passenger one throws you off. One says to look at the tandems when backing to see if you're slewing off line; another one says to look at the drives in relation to the trailer edge over them. Then instructor A sees you doing it instructor B's way and corrects you to do it his way.....

Our class is down to 4 people I think. The person who was late yesterday did not show up today. Supposedly he had a sick kid or something. I guess we will see tomorrow if they kick him out, allow him to continue after missing a whole day, or have him just start over in the next CDL class next week.

Tomorrow is another day!

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Keith A.'s Comment
member avatar

And I thought I got conflicting information from my instructors o.O

Tyler Durden's Comment
member avatar

Day 2:

Day 2 consisted of more pre-trip inspections and backing. The pre-trip is going well -- I can pretty much get through it without refering to the printed list -- but backing....

Well, that is kicking my butt. Came home feeling pretty discouraged. My brain feels like mush.

One instructor insists that we ride the clutch in reverse so we go slower.... that is really working out my leg. I think my left leg is going to be bigger than my right after 2 weeks! LOL.

One instructor insists that we alternate between right and left mirrors when straight line backing... one says to just use the drivers's since the passenger one throws you off. One says to look at the tandems when backing to see if you're slewing off line; another one says to look at the drives in relation to the trailer edge over them. Then instructor A sees you doing it instructor B's way and corrects you to do it his way.....

Our class is down to 4 people I think. The person who was late yesterday did not show up today. Supposedly he had a sick kid or something. I guess we will see tomorrow if they kick him out, allow him to continue after missing a whole day, or have him just start over in the next CDL class next week.

Tomorrow is another day!

Personally I used both mirrors for straight line backing. Also, i really didn't use the brake or clutch much when straight line backing.

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

PPGER's Comment
member avatar

Day 3

Well, day 3 was a LOT better! I got home last night and took a nice long bath and just relaxed. Then I calmly thought through the backing ordeal. Today I nailed over half a dozen straight back ups. Feeling good about that. I didn't get a chance to do offset or parallel today.

We have been reviewing pre-trip inspection a fair amount. I read the four page printout from Knight a couple of times and it pretty much coincided with what I've read on this site so it wasn't too new. Yesterday morning I did a pre-trip inspection with another student while he watched. I guess some others noticed that I wasn't using my written instructions on it and made it through it. Then they started asking me to coach them through it. The schedule showed we were supposed to be evaluated on the pre-trip inspection on Thursday (tomorrow). Well, anyway, an instructor asked me this morning if I was ready for my pre-trip inspection. He seemed surprised when I told him that I was. So he told me to go get my student folder and meet him at the truck.

I went through my pre-trip inspection evaluation and asked him how I did. He said that I only missed two items -- I failed to mention that the fuel cap was secure and not leaking and, for some reason, I failed to mention the brake drum/shoe on one axle. DUH! Anyway, it felt good getting that out of the way. After the instructor said that I only missed those two items, I asked what my score was and he said it was 88 (out of 90?). I asked, "Is that good?" He said, "That's exceptional." That made my day getting that out of the way.

After lunch another student and I went out with two instructors to actually drive on real roads!! OMG! The other student drove first and then I drove. While I did really well with shifting on the pad and around the yard, it all fell apart when I was actually driving at speed on a real road. All of a sudden I could not down shift properly to save my life! The first student was driving pretty much out in the country on backroads. I was lucky enough to get to drive all the way back into Phoenix and to the terminal. Oh joy. Except for the repeatedly botched downshifting, it went okay. I didn't jump any curbs and hit anything so it went well over all I guess (plus I couldn't stop thinking: WOW, I'M ACTUALLY DRIVING A SEMI!!).

Anyway, when we got back to the pad, the senior instructor came up to the front of the cab and asked me if I knew that the clutch did not work when it was pushed all the way in and that it did not work like the clutch in my car. I told him that I was not aware of that. And that would explain why I was having such a hard time down shifting. I was clutching in, going to neutral, hitting the gas, then depressing the clutch and trying to grab the lower gear with the clutch to the floor. Instead, I should have been putting the selector in neutral, gas it hard and then go to the next lower gear WHILE DEPRESSING the clutch. Now I am anxious to go back out there and try it again.

So, today I came home feeling much better about all of this -- despite my embarassing shifting performance.

Oh, and BTW, after my bad day yesterday, I came home and read Brett's article about how backing is the Clown Circus. That really helped my mood!

And one other thing, the student who I thought was out of the program was back again today -- late to class again, but there.

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
PPGER's Comment
member avatar

Day 4:

My day started with a reward for almost acing my pre-trip -- train other students. :) No problem.

Then the rest of the day was backing. Straight line is going very well now. I got in a couple of more reps in off set and parallel. They are going better but still need some work -- still trying to get some consistent reference points.

I am still biting my tongue with one instructor... When students misinterpret his hand signals, yelling and insults ensue. Then instead of assuming that we are merely confused or not understanding what he wants, he commences to tell us to stop trying to read his mind, to stop thinking we are the instructor, etc. Hmm, well, if ALL students are having the same problems following his hand signals, the problem likely is in his hand signals, don't ya think?

So, toward the end of the day, I'm leaning out of the driver's window, looking back at my drive axles to see how far back I'm going on my parallel parking. He yells, "You're not a professional driver!! Stop hanging out of the window and use your mirrors!" Okay, if you don't want me to "hang out the window" and "use my mirrors" instead, just tell me to not lean out of the window and to use my mirrors instead. But, don't assume that I think I'm a professional driver just because I put my head out the window.

I have a master's degree in education and this is no way to treat students. If he directs one more condescending or insulting comment my way, I don't know if I can continue to bite my tongue.

Or maybe I should just pull him aside and explain to him that his comments are inappropriate, etc; or mention my concerns to the head instructor; OR just not say anything until the end of the course.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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