TMC CDL Program

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Ithel's Comment
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Dec. 22nd and 23rd: The 22nd nearly finished me. The morning began great. I got to go out on the road again, this time one-on-one with a retired driver with 2.9 million safe miles under his belt. TMC has 4 or 5 people who ride out with learner's, rotating enough I'll probably have all of them at least once. This time my trailor had a load of concrete barriers. Unlike the previous day I wore sneakers instead of work boots and had a much better feel for the pedals. He asked what I wanted to work on and I said down-shifting. So he had me drive along a straight street with lots of intersections about 7 miles. Then we took some small country roads with rolling hills (hard to come by near Des Moines), followed by about 90 minutes of highway driving. I was out with him 3.5 hours before we returned for 11a.m. lunch.

The afternoon was hands-on load securement, and I very nearly walked out. The guy teaching this is exceptionally knowledgeable about the subject and I was glad to get going on this. Unfortunately, his pedagogy crosses well over the line from merely colorful to domineering and abusive. It is one thing to be foulin an attempt to establish rapport--it is another thing altogether to respond to a students' question on some particular with "Holy ship, batman! You didn't listen, you mother trucking sock pucker, get the sand out of your plussy, stop standing on your drick" etc etc.... while angrily showing how that thing is done. This was not just one out burst but quite literally the entire four hours we were with him. The set-up was actually very helpful: 4 trailors with 7 typical loads on them which we rotated through in groups of 4 untileveryone had taken down and resecured all 7 loads. But his demeanor was so extreme very few questions were raised after the first hour. This rubbed off on students, too, with some verbally berating others in their group. Many students were demoralized by this experience, myself included. I don't know how I managed to keep calm and focused on trying to learn this extremely critical material.

At supper that night I expressed doubt to a couple guys in my class about whether I was cut-out for this job, since I'd made so many mistakes that day. They were very encouraging, and we met together that night for a 2-hour study session.

Saturday morning we were back to finish they load stations we'd not completed the previous day. Hotel breakfast on Saturday isn't served until 6, and our bus left at 6--so no breakfast. We didn't finish the stations until 1:30--a long hard morning of physically challenging work with ears burning and stomachs growling. After a light lunch of packaged subs, we took the 77 question load securement test on computers. I missed one question because of a misclick. The instructor took us to the airport for rental cars, and I drove all night, arriving at home this morning at 5a.m. My family has been beautifully encouraging, and we will have a genuinely sweet Christmas together tomorrow. The day after I'll be driving back to Des Moines. I hope to have pre-trip memorized before I get there.

Happy Christmas all-stay safe out there.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

G-Town's Comment
member avatar
I don't know how I managed to keep calm and focused on trying to learn this extremely critical material.

Do you think his behavior is calculated or random? TMC has been training flatbed drivers for a long time and they are very good at it.

Here is what I think; your patience and tolerance were both being tested. You may not believe that to be true, but I'm quite sure the approach was deliverately designed to test your ability to stay focused and maintain composure in a stressful situation. It obviously worked considering you answered all but one securement question correctly.

If by chance you ask the same instructor for some one-on-one time to clarify specific securement topics, his demeanor might be very different. Part of an instructors job is to "thin the herd" so to speak, so that only the strong survive.

I think you handled the situation exactly how a professional truck should, focused on performing our jobs regardless of the distractions thrown at us.

Merry Christmas! 🎄

Ithel's Comment
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I'm going to have to defer to your experienced assessment on this. All I know is, purposeful or not, I am determined to see this thing through. I can't express how much this site and your perspective are helping me stay on my feet right now. So.... thank you very much, yet again.

G-Town's Comment
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I'm going to have to defer to your experienced assessment on this. All I know is, purposeful or not, I am determined to see this thing through. I can't express how much this site and your perspective are helping me stay on my feet right now. So.... thank you very much, yet again.

Say no more,...I believe you get it and will prevail.

Rob T.'s Comment
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Hey Ithel, how're you guys coping with the brutal cold we have? Are they atleast limiting the amount of time you guys spend outside doing pretrip and watching other students back?

Ithel's Comment
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Dec. 27th: Hi Rob, yes we were outside for backing exercises this morning, bitter cold. At our first break at 9am, the instructor showed us where to find winter coveralls--and I took him up on it. They did a Walmart run tonight and I bought some fleece underclothes and face hood for tomorrow. We're somewhat under pressure because of the double holiday weekend. My CDL class has only 3 days of road practice (Thrs, Fri, and next Tues) before the DOT test next Wednesday.

So about today-- much progress. I spent the first hour indoors doing pre-trip. We will do this every morning now. I've been working hard on this so each morning is a great review. TMC has a pre trip video specific to their Peterbilt 579's that everyone must memorize for the test. The gentleman teaching this made the video. I don't believe it is publically accessible unfortunately.

After this, half the class went out on the road (all one-on-one) and half had the initial backing lesson. The instruction was so good and the technique so well explained that I did all three backs successfully the first time with only one pull-up. I was very slow however so much room for improvement.

After lunch, the groups switched and it was my turn on the road for about 3 and a half hours. I had a different instructor today and she really helped me with my shifting. I've been pushing the clutch too far. She had me pull my seat back a bit to force me to use my toes instead of the balls of my feet. She also had me identify my gears as I shifted. These two things alone vastly improved my shifting and down-shifting. Hopefully I continue to progress.

Sorry for no wise advice for anyone. My brain is full of tight and secured not cracked broken or leaking.

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.

Ithel's Comment
member avatar

Dec. 28-- Very rough day. All 7 of us are struggling with aspects of backing, to the extent that two fellows were sent home. I spent about 6 hours outside either backing or waiting my turn. The morning backing train or is impatient and demeaning.. I really thought I would be dismissed today, too. The evening trainors, though, were very patient and approachable, and I made considerable improvement. I did myoffset without a pull-up and my 45 with just one. I hope tomorrow to get some perfect ones in. Lots of people in foul mood because of snow. My bus left the hotel at 6 this morning and we got back to it at 9pm tonight.

I also drove 4.5 hours with an older trainorwho also was very encouraging. I did two backs at truck stops with him without a problem. I sent a pic of the first one to my girls.

Hopefully can keep this up a while. Very very tired. I feel real bad fo the two guys sent home. Real decent men, both of them.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Ithel...the grim reality; trucking is highly competitive. As you can see, it starts in school and never lets up.

Your two fellow classmates likely weren't progressing and demonstrating improvement like you did with the evening trainers. I know how you feel. There was a couple of students in my class that made it to the very end, but just could not get the backing down. They were failed and sent home.

It's difficult but your entire focus needs to be on your personal progression and performance. Nothing else really matters...

Keep your eye on the prize. Good luck!

Turbo617's Comment
member avatar

double-quotes-start.png

I don't know how I managed to keep calm and focused on trying to learn this extremely critical material.

double-quotes-end.png

Do you think his behavior is calculated or random? TMC has been training flatbed drivers for a long time and they are very good at it.

Here is what I think; your patience and tolerance were both being tested. You may not believe that to be true, but I'm quite sure the approach was deliverately designed to test your ability to stay focused and maintain composure in a stressful situation. It obviously worked considering you answered all but one securement question correctly.

If by chance you ask the same instructor for some one-on-one time to clarify specific securement topics, his demeanor might be very different. Part of an instructors job is to "thin the herd" so to speak, so that only the strong survive.

I think you handled the situation exactly how a professional truck should, focused on performing our jobs regardless of the distractions thrown at us.

Merry Christmas! 🎄

I know who the instructor is..

Yeah he is very aggressive however when approached he will explain it a bit easier. But if you still aren’t getting it, he will snap at you. Instructions are quite clear. Some people think it’s a game, load securement is no joke. Lives are at risk the moment your truck is loaded.

But seeing as how he practically aced his load securement test, he indeed was taught well

Ithel's Comment
member avatar

Dec. 29: Today was much better. I spent the morning with a different trainer working on backing, and I've gained some confidence. Before every back, I thought of my girls and how much is riding on this. That cone there is a threat to our families dreams. This cone here wants to derail us. That encroachment is the enemy. Basically just taking a deep breath, reminding myself of the big picture, then focusing on this one piece, then the next, then the next. I didn't have any mishaps except on resetonthe 45 degree back. I had apparently set up a few feet to the right of the correct spot. Well I made sure not to repeat that. The other student with me hit 9 cones today. Sad to say, but I learned quite a lot just from watching him.

We'll spend the entire day tomorrow on backing (brrr........ high of zero expected) and half the day Sunday. Monday we have off. We take the CDL test Wednesday. My plan is to really hone my pretrip Monday. I have it memorized, but a couple parts don't flow well. Sometimes little tricks can help. I told one trainer I kept forgetting what the thing on the slack adjuster is called .....he pushed my shoulder, and now I'll never forget what a push rod is. A patient teacher like that can do wonders.

The afternoon I spent on the road just as the snow rolled in. The first bit I was on narrow, crowded streets in downtown Des Moines, learning button-hook turns. The roads were pretty slick when we finally got back to the training yard. Today's and yesterday's trainers both told me I was ready for the test. I sincerely hope they're right. I am glad some poor trainer was willing to come stand in the cold all day tomorrow on a holiday weekend so we can practice backing, because I can see that is where I need the most practice.

And just to reiterate, future readers, take all I've said with a grain of salt. This is a stressful experience, I am a quiet, golden-rule kind of person, and I am more likely to smile than scowl. The fellows with me have made comments along lines I've mentioned in this thread, but I don't think it's hit them quite as hard. If you come from a military background you'll probably feel at home here. One guy told me today this was a lot like bootcamp. So your mileage may vary depending on your background. For me, the tough part hasn't been the driving or the tests or the long hours or the cold or the physical labor--I've done well on all that, backing excepted (for now)--it's been the atmosphere. And being honest in this thread about it has helped me deal even with that. If I manage to get through this successfully, I think my wife and daughter will have something to be proud of in addition to money in the bank.

Anyway, lots of words from a wet-behind-the-ears 47 yr. old beginner. Let the reader beware.

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.
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