XPO/Conway Training Via Crowder College

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Buster's Buddy's Comment
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Got to Joplin MO Thursday afternoon after a 26 hour bus ride. While Greyhounds are much nicer than they were in the 80s, I think 10 hours is my comfort time limit these days. Checked into the La Quinta and was told I would have a roommate when anyone else on the list showed up. Spent some time in the hot tub, which was great after the bus ride. 

Friday morning 12 of us went in for urine and hair follicle tests. Since I already had my CLP and my DOT Medical card I didn't need a physical. Got back to the La Quinta and was informed no one else showed,so they were moving me to a King room. I picked up a cold on the bus so it was really nice to have my own room and soak in the tub. 

The hotel provided breakfast Friday and XPO fed us lunch, but we were on our own for dinner Friday night which I wasn't expecting. 

On Saturday morning they bused us down to Crowder College to attend their Truck Driver Training Program. Con-way established a special 4 week training program with the school. Their normal school is 5 weeks. It is an intense program, but I believe one of the best available. There are 10 of us in the XPO program. We are staying in a very nice 2 bedroom apartment, 2 to a room. There is also a much older dorm. 2 of our group are in one of those rooms. Not as nice, but they each have their own room and bathroom. 

XPO isn't paying us while we are in school, but theoretically they are covering all room and board expenses. I say theoretically because we found out upon arrival that the cafeteria is only open for lunch and dinner on weekends and holidays. We brings me to the fact that Monday is a holiday. Now our already intensive program just got more intense our first week. We did get our books and a 4 chapter homework assignment on Saturday, so that helps. 3 of us made a $24 cab ride run to Walmart for breakfast food and items people forgot. Not too bad a price except our recruiters and instructors keep insisting it's a $6 cab ride. So ther than the expectations everything is going well. 

Tuesday we spent time on the simulator learning the shift pattern and double shifting. I've been driving a very wide variety of standard transmissions for 4 decades, and I had more trouble than I thought I would. Up shifting was easy, but down shifting took some learning. We have great instructors who had me running great in no time. I'm glad to have started on the simulator where I didn't have anything else to worry about. 

Our second day was more simulator and then had us in the trucks doing straight line backing. It felt so good to get behind the wheel of the beast. We did lose 2 of our class when the drug tests came back, so we are now at 8 students and 2 instructors, Skyler and Tim. 

Thursday we drove around the back lot. It's 3 blocks long and 2 blocks wide and we drive a figure 8 that's about 1 mile total. Learning button hook turns and straight turns with lots of up shifting and down shifting. Again, I didn't do as well as I expected but both instructors assured all of us we weren't doing as bad as we thought. My very first turn was a right hand button hook that I accidentally took in 5th gear (I was aiming for 3rd). Way too fast but I didn't panic and I didn't hit anything. The guys in the back weren't near as scared as I was. The trucks have the beds and cabinets removed and 3 or 4 passenger seats with seat belts installed. Tim gave a demo drive and showed me exactly what I was doing wrong with my double clutching. Next time I got behind the wheel was smooth as silk (most of the time). A big part of that was just slowing everything down. 

One of my roommates was diagnosed with pneumonia so he will be dropping back a week, so we are now down to 7 students. 

Friday was our straight line backing test. I aced it, although the official verdict was that if the trailer had one more coat of paint I would have been out of bounds. Hey, no contact, no foul. I've really learned to appreciate going slow, and the necessity for Get Out And Look in the real world. 

In between the time behind the wheel we have had some class time and lots of time learning the PreTrip. We have a hand out, a dvd, and access to the trucks after hours and weekends. The cab is locked, so we can't do the In Cab portion, but we can pop the hood and do all the rest of the inspection. Next Friday is our mid-term, which includes the CDL Test PreTrip. 

I am really impressed with this program, and glad I ended up with XPO/Con-way. The school has great staff, and a nice variety of new and fairly new equipment. 

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.

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

CLP:

Commercial Learner's Permit

Before getting their CDL, commercial drivers will receive their commercial learner's permit (CLP) upon passing the written portion of the CDL exam. They will not have to retake the written exam to get their CDL.

Buster's Buddy's Comment
member avatar

WEEK 2

Our 2nd week flew by. I was still sick and I didn't take any notes. We spent hours out on the pad every day practicing backing and learning new techniques. Every time I'd start feeling better several hours in the biting windy cold would change that. 

Monday was a rough day. Bad test scores, issues that made me feel old and worn out. Life improved once I got on the road. 

We learned parallel parking (from both sides) as well as offset backing. I heard a lot of folks *****ing about learning parallel parking when there is little or no real world call for it. To me the whole purpose of this exercise is to learn how to get the tractor trailer rig to go where you want it to backwards. I may never have a call to parallel park but I'm certain there will be days when I realize my whole rig needs to move 2 feet to the left. 

We spent more time driving on real roads. I don't think I'll ever forget that moment driving down the highway when it hit me "This is what it feels like to be a trucker."  I've done well on my drives but there is still room for improvement. My biggest problem is shifting, but it m getting better. 

We had our midterms on Friday, and will have our finals this Friday. Other than the times I way overthought the problems I did very well. This weekend I just stayed in bed and ate pizza. I'm feeling hale and hearty now and look forward to an intense week. 

ChickieMonster's Comment
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WEEK 2

< I don't think I'll ever forget that moment driving down the highway when it hit me "This is what it feels like to be a trucker."

I remember my first drive on the open road just a few weeks ago. I was grinning from ear to ear and couldn't stop!! It's an absolutely awesome feeling! Hold on to the way that felt and remember it because there will be plenty of days you are cursing the decision to do this. When the backing exercises are kicking my butt or downshifting, I just remember the excitement I felt and it all falls back into place. Keep doin' what you're doin' and you will be just fine! Good luck out there and see on the roads soon! (I take DOT test on the 7th)

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.

Buster's Buddy's Comment
member avatar

WEEK 3

Another unusual week at school and I did not keep a daily diary. I'm so focused on testing Tuesday the details of last week are a little vague and we went way off syllabus. My roommate and I are finally healthy, but now our instructors are both sick. This is a 5 week program that has been condensed to 4 weeks. Our first week was 4 days instead of 5 thanks to Presidents Day. We have only had 1 instructor each day, although the 2 instructors traded off being out sick. 

We spent most of this week practicing backing. One of my roommates insists they should change the name from "Truck Drving School" to "Truck Backing School". There was already quite a bit of backing scheduled for this week, and with only one instructor half the class was always out on the pad backing while the other half was driving. We have only been on 6 of the 9 scheduled drives, and of course the only aspect I am having trouble with is high speed shifting, which can only be practiced out on the road. 

In addition to practicing Straight Line-, Offset-, and Parallel Backing, this week we learned 90 Degree Alley Backing. Of course we've been studying the PreTrip. We also had our final written tests. This course is an accredited College course and after our final exams we lost 2 more students because of their GPAs. By Friday we were down to 5 students from our original 10. One of those fellows has already enrolled in another trucking school which has no written component in a state with an easier CDL exam so he will still be driving, just not for XPO/Conway. 

Our instructor Tim came in on Saturday and spent one-on-one time with each of us, that was extremely helpful. 

As I said at this point I am more focused on next week than last week. Monday we will hopefully be getting in another drive, and will hopefully have 2 healthy instructors. Monday is also our chance to practice everything one more time. Myself and 2 students are scheduled to test for our CDL license on Tuesday and the remaining 2 on Wednesday. 

The test is in 3 parts: PreTrip Inpection, Backing Maneuvers, and Road Test. You must pass each section to move on to the next. The PreTrip breaks the vehicle down into sections: Engine Compartment, Tractor, Trailor, and In Cab. Everyone tests on the In Cab portion plus one or more other sections. We won't know until the test begins which section(s) we will draw. The Backing Test consists of Straight Line and Off Set Backing, plus either Parallel or Alley. Then the Road Test. 

Theoretically we have as many chances as we need to pass the first 2 sections. Missouri State law only allows 3 attempts at the Road Test, then you must wait one year to apply to retest. The word is that Missouri has the strictest tests. In reality we will have Thursday and Friday to retest. There are exceptions but generally XPO/Conway feels if you can't pass by then they don't want to hire you. 

Once we've passed our test we will have some teaching that is specific to XPO/Conway. On Friday afternoon they will ship us back to Joplin for the next week's Orientation. On our way to the  La Quinta we will be stopping at DMV to get our CDL. 

I'm still a big fan of Crowder College Transportation School. They offer a 5 week course for getting your CDL. Conway has used them for years and they have a special 4 week course just for XPO/Conway. One of our instructors worked for Conway for years as a driver and in their Safety Department. The other instructor drove for 18 years, as an O/O and for a number of companies. 

Overall I am doing very well. I just have clipboard syndrome. I'm start driving and I'm nice and smooth and all is well, until I grind a gear. Then I get frustrated and tense and the grinding gets louder and more frequent, until we hit a nice straight stretch and I take a deep breath and relax and everything gets nice and smooth. Until I grind a gear and... My instructor said I really need to find something that will calm my nerves before I take the test. I told him a shot of whiskey usually does that for me. 

I keep reminding myself that if I get a 99 or a 71 I still get the same CDL and the same paycheck. I have confidence that come Tuesday I'll be Good Enough. 

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.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

DMV:

Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

The state agency that handles everything related to your driver's licences, including testing, issuance, transfers, and revocation.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Good luck out there and see on the roads soon! (I take DOT test on the 7th)

Best of luck on your test tomorrow. See you out on the road. good-luck.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.

Buster's Buddy's Comment
member avatar

Our final week of school has been mighty hectic. Our class started at 10 students and finished with 5. Due to illness for the past 2 weeks we have only had 1 instructor per day, and there has been a rash of accidents (a 4 wheeler turned too wide and struck a truck) and mechanical-issues. Making sure we had a truck and an instructor at all times has been challenging. The school has hired a batch of new instructors and purchased several new trucks so this shouldn't be an issue in the future. But that doesn't help my class. In spite of these problems we have had very little non productive time this week thanks mostly to Tim, our instructor. 

3 of us were scheduled to test on Tuesday and 2 on Wednesday. Monday was final polishing for the Tuesday testers, Tuesday the same for the Wednesday testers. 

I passed PreTrip but failed Backing Tuesday (stupid mistake on the 90 degree backing). The examiner told my instructor he was surprised I failed since I was handling the vehicle competently and right until the end I was doing fine. He said there was nothing for me to work on before my retest. 

Tried again Thursday morning. Even worse case of test anxiety than first time. Since I now new the point system I made sure all my stupid backing mistakes were low value ones, so I passed Backing with no problem. Road test was rough. The first time I drove a big rig in the rain was during my road test. My previous 7 scored drives were all in the 86-95 range. Although significantly easier than any previous drive I scored 73 on the road test. You need a 70 to pass. Whew. Still, I get the same license as my classmates who all scored higher. So very relieved that part is over.

Thursday was more paperwork and finishing the Joplin Road Test and 45 degree backing test, both of which are specifically for XPO/Conway. A final written exam (which I thought we had already taken) and then some time on the simulators experiencing virtual ice and low visibility runs. I'm sure it was helpful, but I'm still bummed Skid Pad won't be fixed until next week. XPO supposedly will make arrangements for me to spend time on it if I can make that happen sometime in the future. 

Friday morning we went in for Graduation and to get our packets and discovered that during the instructors alternating sick days period we managed to miss an exam. Oops. Ripped that out real quick and now we are just waiting for the XPO bus to come down from Joplin to pick us up. It should be here around 1:00 and the first stop we be DMV to get our license. Then it's the hotel and waiting until Monday morning Orientation. Actually apparently Missouri uses 3rd party License Offices and has no DMV. We will get a paper CDL and the plastic one will be mailed to my residence in Sedona. I have 90 days to get it transferred to AZ. 

All in all this has been a great experience. I highly recommend Crowder Tranportation Training at Crowder College in Neosho, MO. My class is part of the 4 week XPO/Conway program where XPO is paying for everything except breakfast on the weekends. There is also a 5 week program open to all. I know there is a couple here with a team pre hire from Schneider, but I don't know who is paying for what. Great instructors, late model equipment, nice apartment, decent cafeteria food, glad I came. 

Next week: Orientation Monday - Thursday. With a little luck I'll be on the road with my finisher on Friday. Or maybe Monday. We shall see...

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.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

DMV:

Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

The state agency that handles everything related to your driver's licences, including testing, issuance, transfers, and revocation.

Pre Hire:

What Exactly Is A Pre-Hire Letter?

Pre-hire letters are acceptance letters from trucking companies to students, or even potential students, to verify placement. The trucking companies are saying in writing that the student, or potential student, appears to meet the company's minimum hiring requirements and is welcome to attend their orientation at the company’s expense once he or she graduates from truck driving school and has their CDL in hand.

We have an excellent article that will help you Understand The Pre-Hire Process.

A Pre-Hire Letter Is Not A Guarantee Of Employment

The people that receive a pre-hire letter are people who meet the company's minimum hiring requirements, but it is not an employment contract. It is an invitation to orientation, and the orientation itself is a prerequisite to employment.

During the orientation you will get a physical, drug screen, and background check done. These and other qualifications must be met before someone in orientation is officially hired.

Bryant S.'s Comment
member avatar

Amazing diary man! I've been looking to get into the industry for over a year now (had to get my health and finances in order). And XPO has been my top choice for awhile. But for whatever reason there's very little first-hand information online about Conway/XPO. So your account of going through XPO's CDL program at Crowder college is very much appreciated thank-you-2.gif It's definitely given me a lot of information to take into consideration. Oh and congrats on getting that CDL! Keep it up man and good luck on the road smile.gif

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.
Buster's Buddy's Comment
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Since training is done and I'm now driving Solo I created a topic in the General Forum:

Training and 2 months solo Topic

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