Knight CDL School Diary

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PPGER's Comment
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Sounds good, thanks.

I forgot to mention my most panicked moment at school: I was parked in one of the backing lanes. A truck next to me started moving forward. I glanced up from my paperwork and thought I was rolling backwards! I quickly push on the brake in a panic, thinking that maybe I forgot to set the parking brake, only to realize that the other truck was moving forward... and I was indeed parked with my brake on...

And another strange effect. When I get ready to drive home from school the last few days, I've caught myself starting to beep my car horn before I back up... LOL. That, and trying to push in a clutch that isn't there... :)

Robert B. (The Dragon) ye's Comment
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The rolling feeling happens all the time. I know I've had a few times where I was in the bunk watching tv or posting on here when someone was backing in next to me. I'd get up just to make sure I wasn't about to get hit and would think I was moving.

PPGER's Comment
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Day 6

Well, today was pretty easy. We were supposed to get in 10 more new students, but ended up only getting in 6 or 7. The three from the week before us test out tomorrow.

Two from our group went for another road trip. The other three of us will go back out tomorrow. So, spent the day doing a pre-trip inspections -- one at the beginning of the day and one at the end. The rest of the day was rotating in and out of the offset and parallel backing lanes.

Offset is going well. Two out of three times I can do it without any get out and looks or pull ups. Then one out of three times I need to do a pull up before backing into the lane. On one of them that I did without getting out or pulling up, I was off to the driver's side -- I had about twice the space on the passenger side than the driver's side. I was not over the lines or anything, but the instructor said I should have done a pull up and gotten more even into the lanes. I thought, I suppose so. I get two pull ups and to get out and looks so may as well use them.

Blind side parallel parking is about 60/40. The last two times I tried it I was just over the box on the driver's side. I think I am making my triangle too small when I first begin backing into the spot. I was doing better on parallel on Friday than I am today -- maybe something leaked out over the weekend. LOL.

Anyway, a lot less stressful than last week. It is starting to feel like it's coming together. I am confident on the pre-trip, straight backing, and offset backing. I just need to get more consistent on the parallel.

Downshifting in the yard is better, but we will see how it goes in the real world on the road tomorrow.

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.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

Chris H.'s Comment
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Thanks for your daily updates, good stuff.

PPGER's Comment
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Day 7

A good day. The three students from the prior class all passed their CDL exam. A couple from the Phoenix area already got their trainers. One I spoke to is headed out at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning to Flagstaff and Sacramento. The other guy has to go back to his home terminal near Denver to hook up with his trainer.

After pre-trips, I and two others went back out for another drive. It's kind of funny how you have good drive one day and not the next and vice versa. One guy who nailed it last time couldn't catch a downshift right today to save his life. My down shifting is getting a lot better. My one problem today was when I lost track of what gear I was in and when it came time to downshift, I went to neutral and then couldn't remember fast enough which gear I was going for. But the road driving is feeling a lot better.

Then after lunch we did a little backing. I did a couple offsets and only got to do one parallel. Yesterday I was cutting it in too shallow (too small of a triangle) and today on the one parallel I got to try, I made it too big and came in too sharp. After that we were told to help the new students with their backing so I didn't get to practice any more myself. One instructor was out sick today so we only had two instructors for all of us.

I am feeling 100% on the pre-trip inspection , straight-line and offset backing. I need some more reps in on parallel before I start feeling confident with that. I am feeling better too about the road driving too. Today, our route took us to a place where we had to make a right turn into a single lane construction zone. One guy rode the curb a bit, but the instructor didn't seem upset because it was very tight. When my turn came at that same intersection, from the driver's seat, my first impression was "There's no way this big truck can make this turn!" It momentarily freaked me out. But I pulled up, cut it hard right, hugged the cones with my left front bumper and made it around without riding up on or rubbing the curb. I pleasantly surprised myself.

It is interesting to see the new students going through the same feelings and mistakes that we were making last week. I guess it's the same for everyone. The head instructor asked me and another guy to help a new student with the offset. After making the first two turns and straight line backing toward the off set lane, we are to get out and aim up the lane cone toward the right rear tandems to gauge how much more to come back. We were both telling him where to come and look, but he just sauntered down the passenger side of the trailer from the tractor and glanced down at the tandems from that angle. We told him again how to gauge his distance and he just told us, "No, I'm good.. I can see it from here."I threw up my hands and walked away "You're on your own.." Then he backed up a little more and finally came and gauged his distance from where he was supposed to.

Instead of getting 10 more new students, only six ever showed up, that that makes it better as far as having to wait around for a truck. With our class and them, it is only 11 students which isn't too bad, and they all seem pretty decent. One of the student's husband is already driving for Knight. She is training so she can team drive with him. That started a discussion bewtwen me and another guy from our class. We concluded that it would take a pretty strong relationship to survive team driving. I don't know if I could take being with my significant other 24/7 in such close quarters!

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.

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.

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
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Day 8

Wow. What a day. I am wondering if I am the same person from yesterday. Started out with a road trip. Yesterday I rarely missed a gear. Today it was back to the old me -- grind, miss, grind. Actually got on the interstate today. After we were done the instructor went over our evals. He told me that I was too slow getting on the interstate and too fast on the off ramp. Then he was shocked to find out that it was my first time on the interstate. He thought an instructor last week had me drive on the interstate. Nope. Today was my first. One of the other students drove like a seasoned pro -- a hard act to follow. So, I got dinged 1 point for each ground gear and missed shift, plus one point for missed traffic checks, and a couple others for something else for a total of 25 points. We are allowed thirty so he said I could pass with a 25. Still, I was not happy, especially since I did so well yesterday. The student who aced it said he was wanting to smack me (good naturedly) and say WTF since I was so unlike myself yesterday. At least the instructor didn't yell at me. I know what I was doing wrong, I just couldn't seem to correct it. Yesterday, I was grabbing the lower gear as I was clutching in. Today I was back to clutching first and then trying to grab the gear--that, and taking to long to get to the lower gear. A couple of times I braked, clutched to neutral, and then promptly forgot what gear I coming from and then it quickly became a cluster trying to figure out which gear I was supposed to be going into. At least I didn't go over any curbs (like two others did) or run a red light (like another one did) which were automatic fails.

Then after lunch, they finally evaluated us on parking. My luck from yesterday again failed to show up today. I nailed the straight backing (duh), but needed both of my pull-ups on the offset and touched the line for a 2 point penalty. I managed the parallel with no penalty points. Of course, YESTERDAY, I was doing offset backing without any pull-ups or any get out and looks. Ah, the ebb and flow of CDL school.

I think three guys out of five were told that they would have flunked the road test. One of the one who flunked the road eval also flunked the parking eval--he tanked on both the offset and parallel.

The third instructor was still out sick today so that also caused us to miss some training time.

But we should go back out on the road tomorrow and hopefully I will remember again how to downshift properly!! But there is so much to remember all at once. Constant traffic checks, mirror checks, coming up for a turn, signal, brake, downshift...and of course it's the tight right turn, at the light, at the busy and congested intersection when you miss your downshift!

Based on my evals I could have passed the road and skills portions, but I certainly want to get in more reps before the test next week. I told them that since one of the instructors has been gone for two days, that I would not mind pushing up my testing date one or two days next week so I can in more time behind the wheel before testing. We'll see what happens.

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.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

PPGER's Comment
member avatar

Day 9

A good day. This sure is an emotionally up and down experience. Before lunch our class had the pad to ourselves to work on offset and parallel. Hopefully, yesterday was a fluke, because I was back in the groove for both of them. Did offset with no get outs and one pull up. Did parallel with a couple get out and looks, but didn't need any pull ups.

After lunch two others and I went for a long road trip. I did MUCH better than yesterday. I think I only missed two shifts the whole time. Now if I can just keep my foot off the clutch between shifts! The only other thing I got dinged on was not being able to tell him how a particular sign read after I drove past it. When we were on the interstate , he told me to get off at a certain exit. Then he asked me how far it was to that particular exit. DOH. I wasn't really paying attention to the exit mileage so I didn't know. I said 3/4 of a mile... of course, it was 1.5 miles out. I guess that's my big thing to watch for tomorrow.

We also got our CDL test days assigned. Originally, I was assigned for 6 a.m. next Tuesday morning. But one of the guys originally scheduled for around 11 a.m. on Monday got his testing time changed because his son is having surgery next Wednesday so if he tested on Monday, he would still not be able to go out with a trainer until Thursday. Plus, they said that they already have a trainer lined up for me but need to find him a trainer who also smokes like he does. Anyway, they switched our testing times so now I am testing on Monday around 11 a.m. and he's testing at 6 a.m. on Tuesday. It doesn't really make any difference I supposed because I wouldn't really get in any more practice time if I tested at 6 a.m. on Tuesday as compared to 11 a.m. Monday. I am in no hurry. I told him that I would mind if they pushed it out to Wednesday so I have more training under my belt. But if my testing on Monday can go like today, I should have nothing to worry about.

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.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Carl A.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks for keeping us all informed, sounds like your doing great. The one thing that no matter how well you perform your off-sets or anything to do with backing I think that G-O-A-L is a very good habit to get into even though you are lined up perfectly. If the others ask you why are you getting out to look, you could respond, well how do I know if you or somebody else is lying down in the path of my trailer. Pretty sure your trainer would agree. Anyways sounds like your doing very well.

PPGER's Comment
member avatar

Thanks for keeping us all informed, sounds like your doing great. The one thing that no matter how well you perform your off-sets or anything to do with backing I think that G-O-A-L is a very good habit to get into even though you are lined up perfectly. If the others ask you why are you getting out to look, you could respond, well how do I know if you or somebody else is lying down in the path of my trailer. Pretty sure your trainer would agree. Anyways sounds like your doing very well.

I agree. The only reason I did the offset without a GOAL is because I know the area is free of obstructions and people since its the training backing pad. But yes, in the real world, I absolutely must GOAL every time.

PPGER's Comment
member avatar

Day 10

Well, today was just okay. My parking was okay and my road trip was okay -- not as good as yesterday, but okay. I missed a couple shifts out on the road. That normally would not be too bad, but by the time I drove the instructor was well out of patience. The first guy to drive in our group of three students was the same guy who was almost crying last week. He finally got off the shouder onto the road a couple days ago but he is not doing a whole lot better. He still waits for the instrutor to tell him everything to do. "Shift, signal, downshift, slow down, speed up, etc." And his shifting is terrible -- missing or grinding most every gear and jerking the tractor with every clutch release. He likes to talk loudly to himself (I guess to coach himself). "Okay, I'm shifting to third," "Come on now, get in there!" etc. The instructor told him numerous time to be quiet. He would be quiet for a few minutes but would start talking loudly to himself again within a few minutes. (If reminded me of that line from Shrek "You have the right to remain silent, what you lack is the ability.") Then he jumped a curb. Continued to grind gears and jerk us around (literally) in the tractor. Normally, the instructor we were with is pretty laid back and patient, but after that, he was exasperated and didn't have any patience left by the time I drove. I didn't do anything that would fail me so I did alright I guess. Except for the few missed shifts, I think it went well.

Anyway, after we finally got back to the terminal and were leaving for the day, he asked me and the other guy who was out with him how he did -- if he was better than last time. I told him that, well, you hit a curb, so that is an automatic fail. He said, yeah, okay, but how was my shifting? Was it better than last time? Then the other guy said that it wasn't, that we were being jerked around every time he shifted. He told him that he need to not pop the clutch and be smoother. Then he got mad that he was told that. Then the other guy said, well, if you didn't want to know you shouldn't have asked. He is doing much better at offset and parallel, but I don't see how he can pass his road test. He is scheduled to test Tuesday around 8:30 a.m. so we shall see what happens -- unless they decide he's not ready and reschedule him.

It's hard to believe that it's been two weeks already and that I'm testing Monday. Wow!

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.

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