FFE Training Academy....My Journey Continues

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Tim L.'s Comment
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Hi, folks. Well, the big day is finally here. I leave for Fort Worth in a couple of hours to check in to a motel room that FFE (Frozen Foods Express) has reserved for me, and tomorrow morning I start The FFE Driver Academy. I decided to start a new thread at this point, since the old one already had reached 50 posts. Anyone wishing to read about my preparations for my new career should look at the thread My Journey to a New Life As An OTR Trucker Begins. I will now be dependent on the availability of wifi service at the motel and that provided by the training academy to keep you updated. Hopefully I won't run into any problems in that regard so I can continue to keep anyone with an interest up to date.

I have put most all of my belongings into storage, and I have tied as many loose ends of my old life up that I could think of. All that furniture moving , and generally running around like a headless chicken the past few days has my 58 year old bones a little stiff and sore, but I am too excited to feel 'em much.

My first big hurdle will be passing the DOT physical again tomorrow. I had already taken one to prepare for Swift and received a two year card, but FFE says I must retake it. I am not very worried as my BP has been normal lately with all the exercise and a better diet, and my hearing aids should again get me past the hearing test. Tomorrow, I will post my first day experience at the FFE academy.

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.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Peter M.'s Comment
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That's great to hear....You're living my dream.

Brett Aquila's Comment
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Hey that's great news Tim! Looking forward to following along with ya!

Oh, and about having to take the DOT physical again - that's a Federal law. Anytime you change jobs you have to retake the physical regardless of how long it's been since the last one. So FFE didn't have a choice there.

Best of luck to ya!!! Can't wait to hear how it goes smile.gif

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Tim L.'s Comment
member avatar

Hey folks. I finally hit the road about 1pm 8/25, about three or four hours later than I had wanted because of being behind getting everything moved into storage. I then made the trip up I35 between San Antonio and Fort Worth. It was white knuckle time on the drive because I35 was basically being rebuilt from just north of Austin all the way to the north of Waco, with the traffic heavy and mostly bumper to bumper. After the stress filled day, I was unable to sleep a wink in the motel room.

The first day of class on Monday the students staying in the motel were ferried to the academy in the motel shuttle, which was also traumatic since i am so tall. I had to climb and squeeze my 6'6" frame to the very rear of the van over a bunch of classmates and was wedged in like a sardine. So after all the stress, and lack of sleep, I faced the physical. It turned out to be an easy physical, but I failed the blood pressure test, and there was no doubt why considering the previous two days. I was told I could recheck the next day, which was today, and fortunately, after a good nights sleep, and relaxation techniques applied, I passed the recheck with flying colors. WHEW!!!! The weight off my shoulders was immense. I'm still in the game. Several of the others were not so lucky. Out of about 18 that started, by day two's end we were down to 11.

Before taking the physical, we were introduced to the staff, then we all went to work on studying for the Texas CDL permit exams. The entire day all the way up to going to bed was cramming for the exams, both Monday and today. A "final" practice test was given today to see where everyone was at regarding preparedness for the CDL exams to be taken tomorrow at the Texas DPS. Thanks to Brett and his High Road CDL Training Program, I was at the top of my class scoring a 98.1 average on the test. I believe I am ready for the exams tomorrow without worry.

As for the Academy complex itself, it is adequate with good classrooms, and what appear to be a good driving range in back, with many 2009 Freightliners lined up in a row. Thursday we will begin learning how to back the behemoths. I cannot wait. The instructors are all very experienced and very professional. Today we were moved into the dorm rooms as a previous class graduated and rooms became available. They are spartan, but clean.

So far, so good. More to come of course.

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.
Tim L.'s Comment
member avatar

Day three at the Fort Worth FFE Training Academy. The trainees that arrived on Monday without CDL permits including myself all just got back from the Texas DPS office where we took the exams. Ten of us went, and we all took General Knowledge, Combination Vehicles, Pre-trip, Air Brakes, and Special Requirements for Texas Commercial Motor Vehicles exams. Everyone in the class but one passed all five exams. The fellow that failed got 3 of 5, but will have to go back to retest on the two he failed tomorrow. Our FFE classroom instructor said our class passed with the highest percentage in FFE history. The High Road Training really helped out a lot. I was just shy of acing four of the five tests, but scored 88 on General Knowledge mainly because the DPS threw a few curves at us that we had not seen in study materials. Anyway, another hurdle has been cleared. We got the afternoon off for our efforts. Unfortunately, we lost two more today that were not allowed to test due to skeletons from their closets appearing from DPS computer databases, such as old tickets that did not get taken care of,and they were sent home.

I am looking forward to tomorrow. We will be introduced to our backing instructor, and will be taken out on the range to begin learning backing maneuvers. Also tomorrow we will be joined by the people that are coming in already with permits in their possession, or people that already have their CDL, but must take refresher training in order to drive for FFE. We were warned by our instructor that a few of these folks will come in with big egos and will stick their chests out at us newbies, but I took pleasure in the knowledge that our instructor also said they love to shoot down those types. More to come tomorrow.

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.

Combination Vehicle:

A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.

Commercial Motor Vehicle:

A commercial motor vehicle is any vehicle used in commerce to transport passengers or property with either:

  • A gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more
  • A gross combination weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more which includes a towed unit with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds
  • HOS:

    Hours Of Service

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

Day four. The day I have been waiting for. The first day actually behind the wheel. The temperature today hit 104 degrees in Fort Worth, but we survived it. The school was well equipped to help keep us as comfortable as possible, providing cold wet towels and misters. There was lots of cold water too. The instructors are firm, but really very good, and there are enough on the range where they don't miss much out there. Seems like every mistake I made did not go unnoticed, lol, and one was quickly at my door to correct me with coaching. I at first was surprised by the tightness of the clutch spring, but quickly gained the feel for it and was soon able to put the vehicle in motion smoothly. I struggled at first with keeping my backing line straight, but also began to get a feel for watching the tandems in the mirrors. I was really feeling good about it until my last back of the day, and I just totally lost my line and veered off. Fortunately, I did not hit a cone, but it was not pretty and deflated my ego a bit. Hopefully, tomorrow I will do better. We will continue with more straight line backing in the morning and then it is on to parallel parking.

I gotta tell ya. Anyone who believes he can back one of these trucks up because he/she is good backing a boat trailer or Uhaul behind a pickup or SUV better forget about that. It is just not the same. Although it was insufferably hot, and I made mistakes, I enjoyed the time behind the wheel. Of course, I will keep ya posted.

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".

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Hey, it sounds like things are going really well for ya. There's always hiccups along the way for everyone but that's no big deal.

Glad the High Road Training Program helped out so much! smile.gif

And some days are definitely going to be better than others. Sometimes you'll back and shift like a 20 year vet, other days you'll be so embarrassed and frustrated with your performance that you'll think someone must have drugged you in your sleep. Just expect it and roll with it. When you have a great day, enjoy it. When you have one of those lousy days, enjoy it. Just know that it's all temporary, it happens to everyone, and the instructors know this. Even after 15 years of driving I would have days I couldn't back that thing up to the broad side of a barn. It happens to everyone.

smile.gif

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Day 5 is in the books. Today we worked on straight line backing more, then progressed to parallel parking. For some reason, it all clicked today and I had no real problems with either maneuver. The parallel parking just needs to be taken very slowly, and just watch your marks, following a step by step process. My first attempt was right on the money, but I certainly don't mean to be ****y. I hope I can continue to do well at it, as parallel parking will be just about all we will be doing over the weekend. Labor day we will have the day off, and the staff is going to grill hamburgers and hotdogs for the students, which is thoughtful of them. I have little time to do much outside of school work. We put in about a twelve to fourteen hour day including homework, and once that is done the sack strongly beckons, lol.

We lost three more students today for a variety of reasons. One thing they do not tolerate is attitude. We lost one today for that reason, and another to a family emergency. Of the group I reported with, there is only seven of us left I think. It is certainly difficult here, and it takes a strong mindset to get through it. Military training has certainly benefited me in that regard, as it reminds me somewhat of military tech school. Anyway, more to come.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Tim L.'s Comment
member avatar

Day 6 we continued to work on parallel parking all day, and had a class on coupling and uncoupling. I think I am doing about average on the parallel parking maneuver, because I see others making the same mistakes I am, but the trainers don't seem to be that concerned. They just say it will continue to get better as we practice. Out on the range, it was way over 100 degrees on the asphalt, but hell nor high water will keep me from my goal. I am actually enjoying being in the truck, and having the challenges.

Tim L.'s Comment
member avatar

Day 7. Today we were given our evaluations for PVIM, straight line backing, and parallel parking. A couple of students excelled, but most everyone graded average (me included), and nobody failed.

It was incredibly hot today, with the temp in Fort Worth hitting 106 degrees, and I am sure it was much hotter on the asphalt range. Today was the first day the heat began to bother me some, but I made it through the day and felt better after a cool shower. Most of the day is spent spotting for your team of three per truck, so you spend a lot of time in the sun awaiting your turn.

Tomorrow we have the day off for the holiday, and FFE is throwing the students a barbecue. I thought that was thoughtful of them. The day off will give my aching left leg time to heal. Feathering a heavy spring clutch for three straight days will make it ache until you get used to it.

On Tuesday, we start learning how to shift using double clutching. We will be taken out of the road for the first time. I am really looking forward to the challenge.

Double Clutch:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

Double Clutching:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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