Swift Training Academy - Corsicana, Texas

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ACO476's Comment
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I know there was a training diary completed by member bwr5000 about four months ago, but I recall reading somewhere on this website that there are never enough training diaries, so I thought I would add my own. I come from a family of professional truck drivers, but instead of jumping in head-first and following family into the biz, I decided to join the military (did nine years) and get a bachelors degree in business management. I separated from the military back in 2010 and for one reason or another, this journey into the transportation industry kept getting pushed to the side. Luckily, the stars and planets have aligned and I can finally work in a profession that I’ve really wanted to work in my entire life.

Today, 11/13/2016, I made it to the La Quinta Inn in Corsicana, Texas and start my official training tomorrow. There have been some minor changes to the process for being accepted, so I’ll go over those first.

First, the DOT physical. Before you can take the general knowledge and air brakes endorsement tests, you have to have your DOT physical, so do the physical first. It was fairly easy and for an ex military guy like myself, nothing that I hadn’t been through before. However, I got sidelined once with my blood pressure. It took me a year and a half to get that under control with my doctor, changes in diet, and medication. We unfortunately don’t know why my blood pressure is an issue as I am a young, healthy person who exercises, doesn’t smoke, rarely drinks alcohol and almost never drinks any caffeine. If you haven’t seen your PCM in a while, it’s probably a good idea to stop in and have a talk.

When you go to your local DPS office in Texas, you need to get your permit (which is 11 dollars), then you need to apply for the class A CDL (at which point you’ll pay another 49 dollars). This allows you to take the four required endorsement tests for the driving academy: Special Requirements for Texas Commercial Motor Vehicles (a.k.a. Chapter 14) and combination vehicles for your permit, then air brakes and general knowledge for your CDL application. Once you apply for the Texas CDL, you have 90 days to do the road test, so make sure you are committed and ready to go to class. These tests are fairly easy if you study!!! If you do not study, you probably will not pass. As always, the High Road Training Program on this website is a great way to learn the material, but it does not cover Special Requirements Chapter 14. You need to get a CDL manual and read/study that chapter. Manuals can be downloaded online or you can pick one up at your local DPS office. There used to be five total tests, but in October 2016, Texas did away with a written test on the pre-trip inspection. Swift wanted me to have a completed DOT physical before I came anyway, probably to save time since there is so much material packed into three short weeks.

I think that’s it for now. I’ll update as the days progress. If anyone has any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask. I will answer them as quickly as I can.

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.

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
  • 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.

    HOS:

    Hours Of Service

    HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

    OWI:

    Operating While Intoxicated

ACO476's Comment
member avatar

Day One -

Not really a busy day. Drove myself to the academy and got there about 0540. Most of the day was spent making sure everyone had their paperwork in order. Make sure when you come to your training academy, you bring both your long form DOT physical as well as your medical examiners certificate. There were some individuals that were required to take another DOT physical because they neglected to bring both the certificate and their long form physical. Everyone took a drug test and I’m assuming that went well as nobody was sent home today (although the results take one to two days). It’s still only a urine test, and if you question your recent past behavior, might as well stay home until you’re clean… Also, if you are utilizing Swift’s Veteran Scholarship, make sure you bring your DD-214 Member 4 copy. They need to be able to tell that your discharge was honorable.

Swift springs for pizza on your first day of class, but all other meals for the duration of the program are on you. After lunch, we started to learn logging as well as studying for tests on trip planning, hours of service, and shifting coming at the end of the week. We have a full day of class tomorrow before we start on the range beginning Wednesday.

Again, if anyone has questions, don’t hesitate to ask!

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.

's Comment
member avatar

Very thorough. I appreciate that. As for others doing the blood pressure thing, who are usually normal or below, ask to wait a minute before they strap that cuff on you. You're going thru some anxiety and need to calm it down . There are plenty of questions they will ask you to pass that time.

ACO476's Comment
member avatar

Day Two -

Another day full of paperwork - mostly filling out logs for the time you’re in the classroom and time sheets for classroom and labs. Classes today consisted of how to paper log, safe work methods (stretching, proper lifting, injuries, etc.), map reading and trip planning. The class took their logging test three days early and as far as I know, everyone passed. This academy is a PTDI academy, which requires an 80% average for all exams and labs. We also watched videos on hazardous materials and some interesting videos of traffic accidents involving commercial motor vehicles. It turned out to be quite a lot of note-taking, quizzes, and testing for one day.

Tomorrow is our first full range day and our first day on the trucks. This academy trains on all late model Volvo 670 and International ProStar tractors (from what I can tell during our classroom breaks). I can update more tomorrow after I actually get on a truck.

I was, for some unknown reason, expecting this to be a lot less organized than it is. So far I am completely amazed by how professional and courteous all of the staff has been, as well as with the organization of the classes, tests, and general paperwork.

I’ll comment again tomorrow and until then, as always, don’t hesitate to pick my brain if you have any questions!

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
ACO476's Comment
member avatar

Very thorough. I appreciate that. As for others doing the blood pressure thing, who are usually normal or below, ask to wait a minute before they strap that cuff on you. You're going thru some anxiety and need to calm it down . There are plenty of questions they will ask you to pass that time.

It's funny you should mention this. Even after I was able to get my blood pressure well under control, I still needed some time to calm down when I took my final DOT physical. First reading was 168/92. After I talked to the nurse for a few minutes, she took it again and it was 127/76 and I'm sure would have been even lower the longer we would have sat and talked. Most of the medical staff I've dealt with want you to pass and (for the most part) go out of their way to make sure you're calm and ready for the reading.

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.

ACO476's Comment
member avatar

Day 3 -

Straight line backing practice ALL DAY today. I don’t think we did anything else but straight line back and log our driving time. Our class size is nine, and they split us up between five trucks on the straight line range. Everyone was able to work out their inconsistencies rather quickly, although there were a few that took longer than others, which was okay since we have a small class. For those that struggled, they were able to receive one-on-one training with an instructor to assist in their understanding. By the end of the day, everyone had it down. Just remember to turn toward the problem and you’ll do fine. Tomorrow (Thursday, Day 4) we are going to be tested out on our straight line backing skills at 9 a.m. After, we will move on to the pre-trip inspection , which we will be practicing for the majority of the 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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Turn toward the problem. Got it.

's Comment
member avatar

Im gonna have sticky notes all over my dash ^..^

John L.'s Comment
member avatar

Im gonna have sticky notes all over my dash ^..^

Doing offset left and right maneuvers, I constantly forget if I'm moving to the right or left!

Today I brought a dry-ease marker and started drawing big arrows on my windshield, pointing in the direction that I wanted to go with the trailer.

It seemed to help, since I was finally able to avoid putting the rig right back into the slot that I pulled out of!

ACO476's Comment
member avatar

Turn toward the problem. Got it.

If your trailer is drifting toward your left mirror, turn your wheel left. Same goes for the right side. Those trailers move slow, so recognize your problem early and you'll only need to make small corrections. Anticipate early and correct quickly.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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