Houston Community College CDL School

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Yuuyo Y.'s Comment
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This month I have registered for trucking at HCC; I'm 21 years old and I begin my school in the middle of May and have my DOT physical scheduled on the 1st. Ever since February, I've been going through the High Road program casually, reading the state CDL manual casually, and reading this forum/watching a bunch of trucking youtubers. The first one I watched was Junior Honduras, and when I found him I ended up watching most of his videos the same day. I found vloggers like Vasiliy, Trucker Brown, and J Canell while trying to find out everything I could about this industry.

Right now I have, according to all the online practice tests I've been taking, just about enough knowledge to get my permit with a tanker endorsement. I hope to do that before class after my exam. Until I get my physical I'm going to finish up combination vehicles on the high road program, study for the doubles and triples endorsement (which I don't plan to drive but who knows), and then review general knowledge on high road and study for the hazmat endorsement. Hopefully by the time I get my CDL I will only have an "A" restriction on my license and every endorsement I can get that doesn't involve bus driving.

When I had gone to the building to register, I had a conversation with about two people who were testing for their CDL that same day, and they gave me generally favourable reviews about the school that essentially boil down to "It's what you put into it." When the lady at the desk asked when I was available to take my physical I told her that I could do it the same day if they would let me. Of course, that would be too early. I don't have much to say about schooling for about the next month, so I'm just going to write down the experiences I've had with driving over about the last year in a four wheeler that I think have been positive experiences prior to wanting to become a truck driver.

Right now, I really like driving. It's easy to do and relaxing. I see other people get stressed over driving, and these must be the same people that try to fight with everyone else over space on the road and weave in and out of traffic trying to get to their destination just a bit faster. I'm not like that; I let other people do what they want and just get behind them if I want to change lanes. I let people in who shouldn't be let in, and when other people drive badly I don't "notice" it per se. By that I mean I don't care what they're doing, it's not stressing me out worrying about them as long as my vehicle is safe.

I first started really driving about a year ago when I went to visit my friend in League City for the first time. I didn't know any highway or interstate numbers, so I had to go to Google Maps in order to plan my route. I went around 610 until I-45, saw which exit numbers I had to take, and then which exit I had to get off of to get near NASA Space Centre. I remembered the numbers and headed out. When I was going somewhere new on the highway for the first time, I paid attention to the signs above and the markings on the road to know what lane I had to be in; I've never done this before, just memorised the route to go to school/work and back. I made it there and planned my route back just fine.

Around November of 2016, after having gone down to League City a few times, I was going out to meet my other friend. He lived in Pearl Mississippi. This was my actual first time driving a long ways in one session. I went to Google maps and memorised I-10 to Baton Rouge, then I-12 to I-55 in Hammond, then up to Jackson and take I-20 to Pearl. My car gets around 30-35 miles per gallon with a 10 gallon tank, so I calculated that I needed fuel in Lafayette, then I could get to Pearl no problem. When I stopped in Lafayette off the interstate to get gas, I went into the store to use the bathroom, but something was wrong. A car didn't have front license plates. I thought to myself that some criminal is up to something here, and was a little freaked out. Then I noticed more cars didn't have front license plates; I didn't know that all states didn't require them at the time. About the time I got to Baton Rouge there was a traffic jam before the bridge into the city. It took ages to get into the city, and when I had come to the bridge there was nothing - no crash, just cars speeding up. Events were uneventful as I got to Pearl. I don't need GPS to get from city to city, but I sure to need it to navigate within the city. The roads there in Mississippi near Jackson are just awful; they're all brown and full of cracks and holes. People complain about Houston having bad roads, but this is something else.

I left for Pearl at 05:00 out of the house and arrived there around 13:00. I stayed until 18:00 or so, and I was going to head back to Houston. This was a mistake, and easily the worst driving experience I've had. As I got back onto I-55 south of Jackson (Which had a ton of claustrophobic construction barriers), I was getting sleepy. The pastors and preachers on the local radio couldn't keep my eyes open. This really shouldn't happen, and I should have stayed back in Mississippi for the night, but I powered through. About the time I had gotten back on I-12 in Hammond, I noticed a blue light on my dash that I never saw before. Didn't know what that was.

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.

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

Combination Vehicle:

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

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.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

Doubles:

Refers to pulling two trailers at the same time, otherwise known as "pups" or "pup trailers" because they're only about 28 feet long. However there are some states that allow doubles that are each 48 feet in length.

Yuuyo Y.'s Comment
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The worst part of the journey was on the I-10 bridge. There was a fresh crash that had barely moved onto the shoulder. I slowed the hell down when I noticed it to about 20 mph as I passed ontop of the debris and possibly glass that I thought was going to give me a flat tire. There was a car to my left, so I could not have moved over. Being sleepy at night with this happening is just disaterous. When I had gotten back to Lafayette I used my phone to look up what the blue light was. I was driving with my high beams on, which I have never used before, for a few hundred miles. Apologies to all the drivers I had been blinding along the way. As I approached Texas I was dead tired. 90 miles to Buccees, which is in Baytown, a sign said. Great. Nothing happened besides me getting home and instantly falling to sleep. I would not drive 14 hours like that again.

In December I was going to visit North Dakota with one of my cousins. We went from I-45 to US75, took the Indian Nation Turnpike to Sapulpa and stayed there for a bit because that's where he lived. Then we followed US75 out of Tulsa through Kansas all the way to Topeka. I liked the small towns that we went through; traveling like this is just great to me. We did get lost in independece but it wasn't too hard to follow the signs. It was dark by the time we were in Topeka, and I had been driving the entire time. Still we continued, on and I drove a bit tired (once again sadly), until we got to Omaha Nebraska. We ended up sleeping in Council Bluffs after following some wrong turns on the interstate. From there it was I-29 all the way through South Dakota. Sioux Falls has some of the worst traffic I have seen, even though I live in Houston. That West 41st street is something else. There was nothing going on all the way to Fargo; it was getting sunset by the time we were in Fargo and I continued on to Grand Forks through some fog. He drove on the way back. I-29 to Kansas City MO (Which has a confusing as hell highway layout), then 49 to Joplin, and 44 to Sapulpa. I didn't know I-44 in Tulsa was a turnpike. It cost me $4.50 to go through there and the sign said $18 for 18 wheelers. Oklahoma tolls are a scam. I went the same way back to Dallas on US75, and that was the end of my first trip.

My next long distance driving trip was when I needed to clear my head in February. I drove from Houston To Atlanta in one day. I left at 05:00 again. There was no traffic through Baton Rouge again, but there was a shopping cart in the middle of the interstate that I noticed and avoided. I have no clue how those things get there, but someone running right on top of that would have a very bad day. I passed through Mississippi and stopped and my pre-planned stop in Mobile Alabama. I knew which exit I was taking and where I was going. At I-85 in George, I stopped at the rest centre. The welcome centre said that they were closed at 17:00, but that can't be right. That's 30 minutes away. (Little did I remember that I was in a new timezone, so it was actually closed half an hour ago!) I had a nice conversation with the lady who worked there and another old woman traveller, but it was getting dark. When I checked my phone there, Atlanta already had several accidents on 285 and 75. That's just great. When I got to 285 going north, there was hardly any traffic but something about these drivers seemed off. I appreciated the LED illuminated signs telling me when exits are coming in 6 minutes and the speed limits. I didn't get onto 75, but instead stopped to take the side roads around highway 41 to get to Kennesaw.

Let me just say that Atlanta is terrible for driving. Within my first 30 minutes of getting there I had three major issues. One was with a one way highway split in both sides. There was traffic blocking underneath I75 and the light had turned green for left turn. People blocked the intersection for those heading to the right and I heard so much honking. Then, when I was going off of a curved exit, I came up a hill. I had a green light and someone just decided to turn left on red. I really could've crashed into them if I wasn't paying attention. Then after that I turned right wanting to turn left next. There was a curb blocking the dedicated left turn lane I hadn't seen because of the confusing road layout. The three cars infront of me all then did an illegal U-turn at a straight only light. However, I made it to my destination at around 19:00 or so. When I left the next morning to return to Houston, I decided to take I-20 back. There's a lot of hills around there that I didn't know existed. I went through Birmingham Alabama and to Pearl where I stayed the night this time. At the Texas border I took US59 all the way back home.

The final adventure I've had driving a 4 wheeler was mid March. I started in Dallas and was going to stay in North Dakota for at least a week this time. I planned my trip to take US69 through Oklahoma this time and Kansas until I got to Kansas City Kansas (Really Overland Park). I had new sights that I liked, but nothing major happened until I tried to get onto 435. I already wanted to become a truck driver by this point, and as I was trying to get onto a cloverleaf, a truck behind me was yielding to me by an extreme amount. It turns out that my exit was coming really suddenly and it gave almost no room to get over into it. He knew I was from out of state and let me through that. If I was driving a truck, there's no way I would've made that.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

APU:

Auxiliary Power Unit

On tractor trailers, and APU is a small diesel engine that powers a heat and air conditioning unit while charging the truck's main batteries at the same time. This allows the driver to remain comfortable in the cab and have access to electric power without running the main truck engine.

Having an APU helps save money in fuel costs and saves wear and tear on the main engine, though they tend to be expensive to install and maintain. Therefore only a very small percentage of the trucks on the road today come equipped with an APU.

Yuuyo Y.'s Comment
member avatar

I stopped in Council Bluffs again at the same TA I had done in December when I met a truck driver. He was an Owner Operator that I talked to for about half an hour about the business, and he gave me some encouraging words. When I got to Sioux Falls Iowa, it was already dark blue in the sky. There was snow on the road. I hit snow country just south of Sioux Falls, and as I stopped to fuel, I noticed on the SDDOT website that there was Ice on I-29 to the border (Funnily enough NDDOT reported green for that same border on I-29). I shouldn't have chanced it but I did. The speed limit is 80 mph. I spent a good 2 and a half hours going between 40 to 50. There was a fresh snowstorm blocking the view of the lanes on the road, so I had to follow the tire tracks infront of me. After that storm had died down a bit, there was a lot of ice on the road. I used my GPS to tell me when a slight curve was coming so I knew when I should let off of the accelerator beforehand. After the ice had dissapered for the most part, there was an hour of really dense fog where I could see nothing all the way past watertown.

My teeth had never been clenched for so long in my life. I saw one car with a South Dakotan plate in a ditch up to there. When I stopped at the first rest stop past the Casino in North Dakota, there was only two trucks there and it was midnight. I had been driving for about 20 hours at this point. I wasn't sleepy until just past Sioux Falls (Which means I really shouldn't have been driving), but the stress woke me up and I continued one more hour to Fargo. It was DST that night, so the motel I was to stay at didn't change over their next day checkout until 03:00. I only had to wait outside in the cold (I love the cold), until 02:00 where it became 03:00. I got two nights for one. While I say I wasn't sleepy while I was waiting, the next day I slept the entire day. I woke up at 10:00, went to arby's, ate, and then proceded to sleep until the next morning.

I visited Grand Forks, Pembina, and Bismarck during that time, always checking NDDOT to see the road conditions. When I was driving back, I took the gps route all the way through the middle of South and North Dakota in order to get a more scenic view. I would only get on an interstate in Salina Kansas. The snow country there is beautiful, and it didn't start dissapearing until around Fort Thompson South Dakota. There are also some really huge mountains there. Where Iona is on the map south of the interstate, I encountered the largest and steepest grade I had experienced until that point. I don't know what grade it was, but I would estimate for about half a mile it would have been 20% or more. I didn't ride my breaks down, since that's foolish, but had slowed down and coasted at around 40 miles per hour or so until I reached the bottom. Besides that, I had no other troubles getting back to Dallas besides a huge rainstorm from McAlster To McKinney.

I appreciate my winter driving experience. I can tell when that ice takes a hold of my car because it feels the same as hydroplaning. It feels as if someone has grabbed my steering wheel. But I know to not hit my brakes, and it only has happened to me when driving straight. I'm also at around 40 mph at that point. I've seen lots of random things like bysicles blocking a lane on the interstates, things like shopping carts, and other hazards. One time on the west side of 610 northbound just after the 290 interchange, there was a lady stopped at the exit just above it. She had missed her exit and was about to back up with cars going 70 miles per hour (or more since this is Texas) behind her. If I hadn't noticed she was stopped, a half second later I would have dinged her. A second later I would have rear-ended her at about 20 mph. I should have hit my horn, because the guy behind me was just as likely to hit me. But I was only thinking about stopping in those few seconds. When it was over I was thinking, "Did that just happen?"

Long story short, I love driving. I love seeing new places, and being on my own. It felt weird being alone in Fargo 1400 miles away, but it also felt good. I'm ready to start getting paid to do what I already pay money to do! I want to drive, be on my own, run as many miles as someone will give me, find new challenges, meet new people, and finally have my own career. I can't really say yet that I'm the perfect fit for this job or that it'll all be easy or that I'll love every bit of it, but I'm giving it a shot. Everything I've been reading on TruckingTruth has been super helpful and stressed the importance of a positive mindset in this field, or else ending up becoming a Terminal Rat.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Owner Operator:

An owner-operator is a driver who either owns or leases the truck they are driving. A self-employed driver.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

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.

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

This morning at 9:30 I went to get my DOT medical exam. I was there until noon and the only issue was some earwax to be cleaned out of my right ear for $5.

This afternoon I got my CLP with tanker endorsement. They won't let me do doubles/triples before I get my license. The only test I was scared of was the Texas Commerical Rules exam. After I barely passed that, I had a huge amount of relief. Actually, during my first time testing it, the questions were all unfamiliar and I got a sudden "test cancelled" error. As an act of god, on the 2nd time trying to test all the first questions were real easy.

Now I start schooling in 16 days! I don't even need the permit yet.

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.

Doubles:

Refers to pulling two trailers at the same time, otherwise known as "pups" or "pup trailers" because they're only about 28 feet long. However there are some states that allow doubles that are each 48 feet in length.

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.

Army 's Comment
member avatar

Congrats on the CLP. I look forward reading ur diary while at school.

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.

PackRat's Comment
member avatar

Congratulations on getting those tests passed successfully to earn your CLP.dancing-dog.gifdancing-dog.gifdancing-dog.gifgood-luck.gif

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

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.

Yuuyo Y.'s Comment
member avatar

Today I called the school and asked if they needed my medical examener's envelope before I attended classes, so I went there and turned it in. Then when I got home, look what shows up in the mail.

Yuuyo Y.'s Comment
member avatar

Oops, didn't upload it right the first time.

0391320001525972996.jpg

Army 's Comment
member avatar

Congrats!!

Jeremy C.'s Comment
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Congratulations! You are getting far ahead, brother. Can't wait to see this diary loading up training stories! dancing-banana.gif

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