Witte Bros. Exchange/Witte Driving School

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Mathiasinthe573's Comment
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Day 0:

Arrived in Troy Sunday evening - checked in and received access card and room key from Shop located behind the main building. Driver's lounge has living area with couches, satellite tv, computer area, lending library, kitchen (with full size fridge, microwave, and sink), sleeping rooms (3 bed/room), laundry facilities ($1 wash/$1 dry), and bathrooms with showers. Nothing fancy, but well maintained. Walmart, Aldi, and Kroger all within 4 minute drive for groceries. A very welcoming and friendly atmosphere.

Mathiasinthe573's Comment
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Day 1:

Began at 7:30am with setting the expectations for the coming weeks, rules while attending class, and operating the equipment.

Class has 10 people, very diverse backgrounds, kind of neat to see this variety. School has four 2007 Freightliner Columbias with Mercedes engines, coupled to 48' dry vans for training. Only three 3-4 students per tractor and two instructors. Only three tractors run on the driving range at a given time.

We did our first of two preemployment drug tests. We filled out paperwork and signed our contracts (12 months solo to forgive $3000 tuition). About 10:00am when we out to the training lot to review the pretrip inspection. We received a 5 page packet that sectioned out the pretrip with the exact wording, components, and order the examiners at the skill testing facility in Hannibal are looking for. Lead instructor thoroughly explained each bullet point and component for us to understand importance, but reminded to stick the script for the exam. Did this until 12pm and took an hour lunch.

After lunch we began on our first backing maneuver that we would have to learn for our skills test. The lot is set up to mimic the skills test site as closely as possible. Their philosophy is that they are training us to pass the skills test and get our license, then we will learn the reality of driving for a living on the road with a trainer. The straight back (for those who don't know) consists of a 100ft long by 12ft wide corridor that you pull the tractor trailer through, clearing the lead cone and then back down the length as straight as possible clearing the rear cone. Simple maneuver that helps teach the basic dynamics of steering a trailer.

We practiced this maneuver the rest of the afternoon, rotating through drivers. Instructors remained fairly hands off during this point - wanted to allow us to learn for ourselves without too much interference and I'm sure they were assessing everyone's skill level and abilities.

I personally struggled a little at first, not having ever backed a trailer. I started getting the hang of it a little better by 3:30pm when class let out for the day.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Mathiasinthe573's Comment
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Day 2:

First two hours of the day were spent practicing pretrip on the range in groups. At 9:30 we resumed backing maneuvers. We all warmed up with straight backing for a bit. After a couple rotations, my group was the first chosen to advance to the offset back. This consists of being off to one side or the other of the corridor and having to maneuver, with limited space, the tractor and trailer over into the corridor and backing straight down it without pulling up more than twice (or at all). The lead instructor performed the first one, showing us the correct setup and each step in the maneuver. Then we took turns and he guided each of us through our first one from the outside. The instructors teach/utilize very specific and simple maneuvers that if done correctly will allow you to perform the maneuver flawlessly.

We did it first from the blind side and then switched to the driver side. It was during this maneuver that steering the trailer 'clicked' for me and I greatly improved. Another group advanced to the offset back during this afternoon session. Near the end of the day my group was advanced to the parallel parking maneuver. Lead instructor did the same as before - showing us how to do it with step by step instruction. Then guiding us through our first maneuver. Once all of us had gone, class was over for the day.

Day 3:

Similar to day 2 - first two hours were spent in our groups doing pretrip without supervision.

We started maneuvers about 9:30, again. Started with the offset back to warm up and switching sides after each rotation. Instructors started to give a few more pointers when they saw things they didn't like or we struggled to correct something. After a few rotations we resumed the parallel parking maneuver and did these until lunch. We our hour lunch at noon. After lunch we resumed parallel parking. The second group was still on offset backing, and a third group was still working on the straight back. The instructors don't move folks on until they feel they're ready. They are very patient and understanding fellows, thus far, and give plenty of attention when it's needed. But they will also leave you alone if they see that you're consistently improving and grasping the concepts on your own.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Mathiasinthe573's Comment
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Day 4:

First two hours was pretrip in our groups.

At 9:30 lead instructor chose me and one other person from my group to go out on the road. We took the fourth tractor trailer. I let the other guy go first to allow my nerves the chance to calm down, he had some driving experience back in the 80's, so I figured he'd handle it just fine (which, he did). Started with the instructor laying down the ground rules. Ultimately, if he says to do something we are to do it immediately without hesitation. Control our speed and watch our mirrors. We drove through town (small town) to a state highway (two lane, divided). We drove about 30 miles away to a truck stop. We switched and it was my turn. I got us back on the highway and drove back to Troy. I got to pass a Prime tractor and a O/O running Flatbed - that was exciting. I maintained speed and lane position very well, despite it being pretty windy. It was nice to go forward for a change and I loved it. Did well navigating back through town with my turns, had one tight one where I'm glad there wasn't a car at a stop sign as I watched my trailer axles come around - little closer than I'd like - because I snaked it back in a little too soon. Got back right in time for lunch. After lunch we resumed parallel parking and the assistant instructor took two other students out on the road. The other groups had both advanced to their next maneuvers.

Day 5:

Pretrip in our groups for the first two hours. Then we resumed parallel parking until noon. Same format as yesterday with instructors taking two students on the road in the morning and two in the afternoon.

All morning my group was dropping that tractor trailer in the box within 90 seconds after getting set up. At this point everyone in our group had figured out how to correct any mistakes we make in setting up or we encounter as we're putting it into the box. We're gaining confidence and understanding. Still plenty to learn and practice. We're not professionals, yet.

With this company, all of their loads run through the warehouse weekly and Friday is a very busy day. So we are finished around lunch time on Friday as the traffic increases. We finished at noon and we're off until Monday.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Mathiasinthe573's Comment
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Week 1 Summary:

Week one in the books. Instructors said they will amp up the pressure next week. They want to make sure that everyone is putting in the effort on learning their pretrip and that they're progressing on their maneuvers with the rest of the group. I've got 75% of the pretrip committed to memory (I also work on it 2-3 hours outside of class hours - we have access to the tractors after hours, as long as we don't move them, to practice pretrip). We are told that week 2 will focus on the everything we've already learned and perfecting it. Week 3 will introduce the alley dock maneuvers.

It's a been good week, a few people are struggling, but the instructors everyone the attention they seem to need. The entire company has been very welcoming and pleasant to deal with, including every driver I've been in contact with - which I wasn't expecting.

Home for the weekend (I only live 90 miles away) to see the family and I'll go back Sunday evening. Looking forward to getting back at it. I'm having a blast.

Mathiasinthe573's Comment
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Week 2:

Week 2 looked very similar to week 1. We began everyday at 07:30 and worked on our pretrip in groups until approximately 09:30. At this point I've nearly got it memorized verbatim and many in the class are getting more comfortable working through it from memory.

At 09:30 we continue to work on our maneuvers - primarily parallel parking to begin the week. By Wednesday most of the class was progressed to the 90 degree alley dock. This maneuver is the most complex and takes the most practice to achieve efficiently. The system they are teaching us, get us close to in the box. But it the dynamics of maneuvering the trailer that we've learned that will get us in.

We perform maneuvers until 12:00 and take lunch until 13:00. Then back to maneuvers until 15:30. The instructors take turns taking pairs of students on the road driving in AM and PM most days of the week. They vary the routes a little - they're getting a little longer and more complex each time we go out.

The other instructor stays behind on the lot to observe and coach us in our maneuvers.

Got out about 14:15 this Friday as the trailers started filling lot for the weekend.

Mathiasinthe573's Comment
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Week 3:

Mostly the same format as previous two weeks. 07:30 to 09:30 we are working on pretrip. This week, though, the instructors are present for this portion and acting as examiners to assess our progress. Some of us have learned it well and are ready to roll on this portion of the test, some still need a little work but are on the right path, and a couple get directed to put in a little more effort and coaching on how to be successful. So - some tough love, but they want everyone of us to succeed. Witte isn't like many programs that I've heard of that are going to cut you because you don't learn as quickly or some frivolous cause. They invest in their students - I'm very impressed by how much they care about our success.

09:30 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 15:30 is all spent on the lot doing maneuvers same as before. This week though, we have each part of the lot setup for a different maneuver and we are rotating trucks. So we are practicing offset, parallel, and alley dock every day now.

This week - instead of taking AM and PM road trips, the instructors alternated taking groups of students to the testing facility in Hannibal, Missouri. From the street (not allowed on the lot) we were able to see the building we pull into to do our pretrip and the lot we do our maneuver on. This helped take away some anxiety about the test site. Afterwards, we all took turns able driving the exact road test route we will take on test day to familiarize ourselves with some of the quirks of Hannibal. A couple tight spots, so it was nice to see them before test day.

Ran into a lot of drivers this week coming through the lounge during the day and into the evening. Still waiting to meet someone that doesn't like working here. It is very reassuring.

Wrapped up the week at 12:00 on Friday.

Mathiasinthe573's Comment
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Also, forgot to mention. One day this week a few of us we're lucky enough to get to take a drive in a fleet tractor and trailer while one of the school vehicles was in the shop. It (Freightliner Cascadia) was a glorious ride. Smooth driving and shifting. Comfortable, clean, and well maintained. Definitely can see myself in one of these. But - I have to wait a while longer.

Mathiasinthe573's Comment
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Week 4:

Continued our routine of pretrip from 07:30 to 09:30 with the instructors continuing to assess our progress.

Maneuvers from 09:30 to 12:30 and 13:00 to 15:30 everyday. Rotating through offset, parallel, and alley dock. Instructors are becoming more strict with pull-ups, boundaries, and time limits to ensure we are more than proficient come test day. At this point, most of us have become proficient and competent enough to handle them all with ease. Of course, we make minor mistakes here and there, if we struggle to correct them - the instructors will jump in and coach to help us understand how to correct and how we got to the pickle we were in.

Road driving this week consisted mainly of tight corners and turns to ensure that we don't hit any curbs on our test. That appears to be the number one cause for failure of the road test in Hannibal, so they give us tons of practice in curb avoidance.

It's all becoming very repetitive at this point, but to our instructors credit, they're good at recognizing this and finding ways to break the tedium. One afternoon we had a tour of the warehouse, incredible facility. Another afternoon, they timed us on alley dock to spark some competition and reintroduce some fun to the mix. Then for a couple of us, they even took us on a special road route that will more challenging just because.

Because of Presidents' Day - Witte'a preferred test schedule of Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday wasn't possible - so we have to test Wed, Fri, and the following Monday because of appointment availability at Hannibal. Normally orientation would be the last Friday of school (week 5) but we had to do it a week early for our class due to the schedule.

Orientation lasted about 6 hours and consisted of lots of paperwork to knock out before we go on the road, expectation setting around paperwork, pay, bonus, hometime, safety etc... we were give our driver manuals (What to do/who to call for common issues), benefits enrollment packets, and other DOT required handouts.

The other neat thing - the President of the company came and spoke to us for about an hour. He seemed to be a very down to earth, approachable, guy that is genuinely interested in driver's success and happiness. He holds a class A and has been on the road and still goes out from time to time to ensure he can better relate to his drivers. He also does a Coffee with president one Saturday a month where he invites all drivers to come talk to him about anything they're facing. According to people I've talked to, this has actually led to tons of positive changes for the company and driver experience.

I know I probably sound like I've been brainwashed - but, I'm really pleased with my choice of company and look forward to driving with them. Now - to pass my test this week. I'm ready to have that CDL-A in hand and get out with a trainer.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Tim E.'s Comment
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Congrats, best of luck! Sounds like your doing great!

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