Houston Community College CDL School

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Yuuyo Y.'s Comment
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Today was THE DAY.

My power went out last night at around 22:00 as I was trying to sleep. I don't know how I had woken up when it went out, but it did. I don't know when I went to bed, but I was in and out until 05:30 when I left for the school; nothing to do here. I got there at 6:15.

At 07:10, we began for real. Pablo told us to go out and pre-trip the truck, so we did according to the way we would an examiner. But then he came out about ten minutes later asking us if we needed oil. So we checked the oil for real (Even though before we just mentioned this is where we would check it.) It needed about a gallon.

After that was done, we got in the truck. It was me and two Cubans. Pablo speaks Spanish, so he pretty much has to train those two. The start of driving was about as good as you'd expect. A lot of gear grinding, and then missing a gear and not being able to find anything so stopping and starting over in first. And a really bumpy ride (I love the seatbelt). We went through six gears, stopped, then started again in first around the track. We all got about an hour. On the first student's go around, the trailer brakes locked. The trailer was dragging, and an air leak was found near one of the bolts for the hoses nearer the tractor.

With me, my first major mistakes were coming off the clutch too fast, and then not getting into gear fast enough to go from fifth to sixth. I'm 5'5 and 115 lbs, so being on the clutch feels like I'm standing up, and not sitting down. After all three of us had gone around with Pablo, he left the truck for us to go around on our own while he helped other students. And we did. It was even scarier; there's no one in there to guide us. We did half loops three at a time, parking nose first every time then coming out again. Man, I couldn't even hardly get that straight doing that. Pablo came to tell me, on my last go around, to go up to get it straight then back. I accidentally let off that clutch and headed the truck straight for him once. Scary as hell when that truck moves and I don't want it to that way. Another problem I had was when I was alone and upshifting, the gear would go in without grinding, but the truck would jerk back and forth slightly until I got into speed. I think I heard that has something to do with my clutch work.

After lunch, I traded instructors for the one I wanted. Mostly because when she's talking to other students about what to do, I want to hear English. I mean, I heard Pablo shout things like "faster" in spanish and "No sabes tu nada" etc, but anything complicated wasn't of use to me. This instructor had people going and practicing downshifting since they had their upshifting in check. I noticed one of the gauges for fuel said empty, so she took us to the Love's truck stop and fueled the truck. I got my hands dirty putting the gas cap back on, and cleaned the window.

When we got back, it was my turn. By this time, my upshifting from 1 to 7 was as good as you could get for the first day. It's nowhere near perfect, but it wasn't the struggle like it was in the morning. Then she had me downshift. Now that is hard. There's so much to pay attention to, that my eyes aren't even on the track half the time. I did get it a few times after about twenty minutes, but I still have one major problem. This is where "grind it until you find it" comes into play. I cannot shift from 4th to 3rd gear. I don't know why I can't find that gear when I can find 2 to 3 just fine. 6 to 5, 5 to 4, 3 to 2 I can do about 2/3 of the time after that instruction. But 4th to 3rd I think I only got right about twice. She's a good instructor though. You think she's going to be mean like a sassy black mama at first, but she's real nice.

I'm not worried though. We were out there all day long, and the day ended just like that. By tomorrow, we're going to have it down even better. And even more the day after that. This heat though is killer. Two of the trucks don't have working ac, so some of these guys are really suffering.

Also my legs are sore now.

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.
Army (not yet retired)'s Comment
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Hello

Sounds you are in the same position many have been just starting. Glad it is going well.

Be Safe Chris

Yuuyo Y.'s Comment
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Today at 7 like usual. Pre-trip. Then after that one person drove around the range a few times, and then a second person but because the second was talking very confident like, the instructor said we're going out on the street. He thought she was joking, but she was serious and had him do that. He did some things right and some things wrong as he got frustrated from messing up. The instructor scared the hell out of me when she told him to stop and me to get in the seat. I hadn't practiced downshifting enough yet, so I said no way I'm not doing it today.

They drove back to the range, and my downshifting was even better than yesterday. After lunch, just two of us were in the truck. The other person was going out on the street to drive. We did that for an hour and then headed back to the range. (She's making fun of me now because when I was all jumpy and surprised the first time I was told to drive I said "I need to go back to The Oval.") When it was my turn to drive, she left us two alone to go inside. I was practicing downshifting from 7 to 5, 6 to 4, and 5 to 3. (As well as 7 to 6 to 5 to 4 to 3) Most of the time I was in 6/7 gear I was already at the correct mph to downshift, but the other student wanted me to speed up so that I have to hit the breaks to get to the right speed, THEN downshift. I did that well too. I'm even finding third gear really easily now compared to yesterday.

Instead of grinding hard and not getting into gear, my only problem is having it grind just a little as it goes in gear, but that's going away now too.

Tomorrow I know she's going to have me driving out on those busy streets with all the construction and 18 wheelers hanging around here.

I can't believe it's already been ten hours.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Today was harrowing, to say the least. I was out there driving two times today. I didn't go first. One of the other students did pretty badly, constantly missing and grinding gears. I don't mind the grinding, but whenever we're stuck in neutral and coasting for a while while we're struggling to get the vehicle in gear is very painful to feel. Whenever we stop somewhere and roll back for a second, it's painful.

My first time driving I hardly remember right now except that I was nervous enough the third time around the block that my right foot started twitching up and down on the gas. The next time going out, the other student was practicing left turns. On the way back to the college, the instructor didn't know about a closed lane on Old Highway 90, and we ended up going far away up and around to a gas station/small truck stop on the beltway and Old 90 - 8 miles from the college. Then she had me drive all the way back. She asked me if I'm ready, and I said "No, but I have to do it anyways."

I was driving about 10 miles under the speed limit, even in 9th gear, and with Houston drivers they were all too willing to pass me where they shouldn't. When the lane merged into one a car was trying to pass me and make it before the lane ended. She told me to give it gas, but I didn't because I knew the trailer would come right into that car. My shifting was mostly fine, but everytime there was a mistake and I'm stuck in neutral, everything goes to hell trying to find the right gear in time.

And while I'm doing that she's yelling at me to stay in my lane because everytime I focus too much on the shifting, I keep heading into the right. She mentioned to the other instructor though, that when we start getting close to the college, I'm driving and shifting perfectly. But when I get way out anywhere I start messing up everything. But I made it those eight miles. I didn't hit anyone, anything, nor did I damage the trailer so that's what counts at least.

Driving a truck is no joke. I didn't think it would be hard before I started driving, but I didn't think it would be as challenging as it is right now. Even though I knew it would be hard, it was even harder than that. I think Houston is a pretty hard city to learn to drive in. I can't think of many others that would be harder. Atlanta GA and NYC are the only things that come to mind. Or maybe Houston is considered easy, but I can't fathom that.

My CDL test date is in three weeks exactly and I have I think 12 days of practice left. That doesn't seem like enough and it makes me worried, but if we keep improving at the same rate each and every day, we should have no problems. I'm thinking of coming to the college on Friday mornings to practice pre-trip because I really don't want to do it out here in the (According to the news "feels like" 106 F) heat.

Tomorrow we start practicing backing.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Old School's Comment
member avatar
My CDL test date is in three weeks exactly and I have I think 12 days of practice left. That doesn't seem like enough and it makes me worried

Yuuyo, we all felt that same doubt in our gut. Somehow we made it and got our license without really knowing what we were doing. As long as you can demonstrate control of the vehicle you can pass. I have developed as a driver over the years, and still continue to learn and improve.

One step at a time. Don't doubt yourself, and stay focused. You're gonna get there.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Jeremy C.'s Comment
member avatar

Yuuyo, if they let me out to learn how to drive then anyone can do it. Especially you!

You may be the most determined person in that class, so I seriously doubt you're not going to be the best driver in that class. That's nothing to worry over.

Scary as hell when that truck moves and I don't want it to that way.

Now that, on the other hand, is priceless! rofl-1.gif

Not a feeling you ever forget, eh?

Keep after it, you're doing great. I don't get to post as much as I used to, but I love reading your diary!

Yuuyo Y.'s Comment
member avatar

I'd be loving to have one of your automatics right about now. Yesterday, when one of the students driving on the street was messing up his shifting real bad he even mentioned, "Can I test in an automatic? I can rent one right now."

So today all we did was straight line back. That's all we did all day. We have different instructors telling us how to do things different ways. I prefer my instructors way of telling me how to do it. We only look at the left mirror (Is that weird?) and we try to see the lights at the very end of the trailer. When they dissapear, turn a little bit to the right. When we see them again, go straight. If our trailer is moving left, turn left.)

The trucks they have us in backing are old, beat up machines. The first one I went into had all this wood grain on it, looking like it was from the 80's. The shifter was missing the rubber at the bottom, so you could see through the floor to the sidewalk. It takes effort to get it in 1 or reverse, and on top of that, it only has 15,000 miles on it! Or at least that's the lies the analogue odometre is telling me. I know it has 1,015,000 miles on it. I had some trouble getting going with that one, but I did it okay. (Why would a truck not even have a millions place?) I'm sure glad we're not testing backing in these things because every so often it would just be a struggle to get it in reverse.

Then after lunch another student and I went to the daycab backing truck. It's also old and beatup. This one was super hard for me to get right - I kept running over the cones OR getting way to close to the very edge of the line. After a lot of trouble, I finally backed it perfectly. And you know what I had to do to back it perfectly after pulling up? Nothing. I didn't have to move that wheel one bit any way, and it got in there. AND THEN when we pulled forward once it was slow. We tried to reverse, and the truck jerked. What was going on? The tractor brakes weren't released; I had forgotten. You could see the skid marks all along the way we pulled up. The instructors didn't get out of their ac-cooled truck observation to yell at us thankfully - just let us figure it out on our own. I know part of the air-breaks test is the tug test. When the tractor break is released but the trailer still on, we shouldn't be able to go forward, but we were.

The third truck had a constant nonstop squeak to it. Going forward you would hear it squeak and whirl from inside the engine like nails on a chalkboard. It was easier to back. The instructors really aren't instructing us much of anything today. We get outside and we do whatever. We can pre-trip it, back the truck, or hell even go around the range and practice shifting. This is our time.

Two of the guys took the first beat up truck on the range, and nearer the end of the day I got in it to practice shifting some more. It's something to get used to. When I give it gas, I have to keep a steady pressure on the accelerator in order to not have it constantly lug like it's dying, and that puts me at about 1400 rpms. The other students with me though, they're shifting real well all over the place. 4, 5, 6, 7, 5, 4, 5, 6, 4 all in a row real fast down one section of that track.

I did it okay as well, but one of the mistakes I made was being in 7th gear, I was going to go to 5, but I changed my mind and tried to go into 6. BIG GRIND. I was trying to put it into 1. At least the AC works in all of those trucks. I practiced pre-trip with someone about two times today. One in the morning after the Schneider recruiter, and one right when lunch started.

I remember one of the instructors telling us that everyone who took the backing test yesterday failed. "Why is that?" he would ask us. His answer? They're not applying themselves. He even pointed it out in the beginning of the day. He pointed towards the door and asked us in the truck "What are they doing? Nothing."

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
G-Town's Comment
member avatar
We only look at the left mirror (Is that weird?) and we try to see the lights at the very end of the trailer.

Weird? Maybe.

Wrong? Very.

In the real world you are likely backing between a trailer on one side of you and a wall on the other. Or between two trailers. You should always use both mirrors, alternating one to the other. Not even an option, it's a must. Sorry for being so blunt, but they are teaching you a bad habit.

Yuuyo Y.'s Comment
member avatar

I'd agree with that; it didn't feel right at all not to do.

Junkyard Dog's Comment
member avatar

double-quotes-start.png

We only look at the left mirror (Is that weird?) and we try to see the lights at the very end of the trailer.

double-quotes-end.png

Weird? Maybe.

Wrong? Very.

In the real world you are likely backing between a trailer on one side of you and a wall on the other. Or between two trailers. You should always use both mirrors, alternating one to the other. Not even an option, it's a must. Sorry for being so blunt, but they are teaching you a bad habit.

When I graduated from Community College Driving School they gave us a form to critique the curriculum. My biggest complaint was we didn't spend enough time on backing. I was in a 240 hour course, they were short on trainers because of health issues and we lost half of The Concourse because it is a state-run school and the DOT also uses that Concourse for their training. I can't remember how many different backing maneuvers they taught us but there were days we only got three chances to get it right... Sorry but that is insane and I let the Community College know that. For some people it came easy, but I literally didn't figure it out until my last day. I had a fellow student show me with the toy truck how he did things and it clicked. As easy as the offset backing is I just didn't get it, also with the 90 degree back. It was my second day to pass the DOT CDL test.... Failed the backing miserably the first day. And without even having an opportunity to do what he taught me in a truck... I nailed both the offset and the 90 degree back. Seriously they should make that guy an instructor.

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.

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