I Need Some Advice, Please!

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Colin K.'s Comment
member avatar

Greetings!

I am humbly coming before you to ask for some advice and/or recommendations. Here is the reason that I need your advice:

As has been stated here many times, backing up a trailer is not easy. I was doing okay at the Swift Training Academy with everything else but that.

At Swift, you need to pass the basics. After that, they send you to orientation. You then return, are tested and find out if you are good enough to go out with a trainer. If you fail, you have to wait a year before you can come back to their Academy.

I couldn't get even the basics of backing up a trailer in a straight line. As my instructor said to me, I was misdiagnosing the problem and over thinking things. I believe he is 100% correct. Also, I'd over correct and then try to over correct the correction.

I used my free time on the practice range yesterday to try to improve my basic backing skills. While I got better, I was nowhere close to where I needed to be to be able to try alley docking, parallel parking, etc.

I spoke to one of the administrators and explained that I needed one-on-one tutoring if I was going to be good enough to pass even the most basic of their tests. She replied, “Unfortunately, we do not do that here.” I understood that and was polite and professional.

I didn't want to fail but I also want to work for Swift. After some discussion, it was decided that I could leave the program early, get some help with my backing skills, and then come back to the program. I would have to start over, but that is only fair.

Can anybody please offer me some advice on where I could go to learn basic backing skills and maybe even some basic driving skills? I could also use some help with clutching and shifting. Ideally, I'd love to learn that on a simulator. I know that I will have to pay for this and am willing to do so.

I'd also like to emphasize that I am NOT blaming Swift for any of this. They have been great through all of this.

It takes me longer to learn certain skills but, once I get it, I get it.

Thank you in advance for any advice that you have. Please be as honest and direct as you can.

Best Regards, Colin

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.
Big Scott (CFI Driver and's Comment
member avatar

You could probably pay any local CDL school to give you what you want.

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.
Shelby P.'s Comment
member avatar

To bad your not in Arkansas. I'd have you ready to go in1 day. Try to remember, you don't have get it all the first shot. You're just trying to get into position, and over driving. A little bit on the steering wheel is a whole lot at the end of that trailer.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Colin, I remember you once stating how you really liked Prime's training program. Is there any chance they would take you on? All their training is one on one.

Your options are:

1) Pay the price of a private truck driving school, get your CDL that way and then go back to Swift as a truck driving school graduate.

2) Find an owner operator willing to take you on as a student who just wants to learn to go backwards.

Both are going to cost you money, and that second option is highly unlikely since the owner operator is giving up about 1,200 dollars in revenue per day to try and help you.

I would see if you can get Prime to bring you on board, and then pray to God for a helpful patient trainer! smile.gif

By the way... Oversteering when backing is the most common rookie mistake I've ever seen. I'm not sure if you can take comfort in that, but it's something most rookie drivers have a lot of trouble with. You can always recognize the beginners at the truck stops - they are sawing away at the wheel. They turn it one way, and then the other, until their poor truck looks like a messed up pretzel.

There are plenty of us here who would be willing to help you, but we can't just offer our company truck up like that. It would be a great way for us to lose our job.

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.

Owner Operator:

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

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

What you learned about Swift (hard to get one-on-one time) is true. There are usually two instructors for each class, and they move around the range helping "everybody".

They can help one student complete an exercise, like one 90 degree dock, but they need to keep tabs on others.

The 90 is the "level boss" for your Academy course. It can be done, the main thing is to watch the back left corner of the trailer, and judge how fast it's heading towards the key cone.

This is the basic plan I use with students: First, one turn right on the steering wheel to start a bend. Once the back corner of the trailer starts moving toward the key cone, turn your wheel to straight, so you almost stick the trailer wheels to be in front of the box entrance with more than 45° to the entrance.

Once that's done, jack the wheel hard right to twist the trailer to almost line up to the box. Warning: too much of the hard right can hurt you, so turn the wheel back left some as needed. Finally turn the steering mostly left again to come around in front of the trailer, maybe use a pull-up to get everything right, then slip it in.

I've seen many students wig out over this maneuver, but just treat each "failure" as a learning experience. Just focus on the job you have to do each time you look out that driver's window.

Patrick C.'s Comment
member avatar

Colin, as everyone stated oversteering is common. A simple thing that may help with straightline is keep your elbows tucked in to your sides. Only steer as much as your arm movement allows without removing your elbows from your sides. Remember you turn "towards the problem". As far as offset and 90 degree backs. Stop by a truck stop and buy a 'toy' truck and trailer. Use it to "practice" backing. It will help you visualize how much movement the tractor has to make to get the trailer where you want to go. I hope this helps.

Dave Reid's Comment
member avatar

Colin, Errol gave you one method for the 90.

Old School and Big Scott gave you ways to get more training.

For your straight line backing issue here is help for that: as you slowly back, pan your eyes back and forth between the two large mirrors, looking for trailer tires. If the trailer tires start coming out, turn slightly toward them, then back to center. So, simply look for, and turn toward, the trailer tires. That will keep you backing in a straight line without difficulty.

A good private CDL school may be the ticket for you, but they will not give you one on one unless you make arrangements to pay for extra help on the off day.

Greetings!

I am humbly coming before you to ask for some advice and/or recommendations. Here is the reason that I need your advice:

As has been stated here many times, backing up a trailer is not easy. I was doing okay at the Swift Training Academy with everything else but that.

At Swift, you need to pass the basics. After that, they send you to orientation. You then return, are tested and find out if you are good enough to go out with a trainer. If you fail, you have to wait a year before you can come back to their Academy.

I couldn't get even the basics of backing up a trailer in a straight line. As my instructor said to me, I was misdiagnosing the problem and over thinking things. I believe he is 100% correct. Also, I'd over correct and then try to over correct the correction.

I used my free time on the practice range yesterday to try to improve my basic backing skills. While I got better, I was nowhere close to where I needed to be to be able to try alley docking, parallel parking, etc.

I spoke to one of the administrators and explained that I needed one-on-one tutoring if I was going to be good enough to pass even the most basic of their tests. She replied, “Unfortunately, we do not do that here.” I understood that and was polite and professional.

I didn't want to fail but I also want to work for Swift. After some discussion, it was decided that I could leave the program early, get some help with my backing skills, and then come back to the program. I would have to start over, but that is only fair.

Can anybody please offer me some advice on where I could go to learn basic backing skills and maybe even some basic driving skills? I could also use some help with clutching and shifting. Ideally, I'd love to learn that on a simulator. I know that I will have to pay for this and am willing to do so.

I'd also like to emphasize that I am NOT blaming Swift for any of this. They have been great through all of this.

It takes me longer to learn certain skills but, once I get it, I get it.

Thank you in advance for any advice that you have. Please be as honest and direct as you can.

Best Regards, Colin

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.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.
Feanor K.'s Comment
member avatar

It sounds to me like you think/learn a lot like me. I personally went with a Private CDL School, partly for the reason that they do one-on-one instruction. It cost about $4500 up front, but there are companies out there that will reimburse you for your tuition. As far as the backing itself, we can all give you tips until the end of time, but just doing it is really the only solution. It is just muscle memory and repetition is key.

That said, what I did about a month before CDL school was went and bought American Truck Simulator and a decent steering wheel. That is a really great game, and though I could never find a backing range exercise, you can make your own by finding a parking space somewhere in the game and just use the lines. This REALLY helps with getting that muscle memory and making the trailer do what you want without the stress of a bunch of people and distractions.

The shifting I didn't find very helpful tbh, even though I got a steering wheel with the H-pattern shifter and clutch, they just can't simulate all the feel and nuances in shifting a real truck.

So yeah, nothing will sub for hands on practice, but ATS can go a long way if you get a decent wheel (really helps to have 900 degree rotation).

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.
Colin K.'s Comment
member avatar

Thank you for all of the great replies and suggestions. I'll try to answer the questions that were asked:

Old School: I was originally planning on going with Prime. They stopped returning my calls after I faxed them my transcripts from 1985. I didn't have straight A's but I did graduate. I tried to find out why the calls stopped coming and left some messages but they weren't returned. It seemed like they broke up with me. :(

Errol: You gave me a nice, detailed description of what to do. It was easy for me to understand and was broken down step-by-step. That's how I learn best.

Patrick: I got two different answers to this question and am still confused. Let's say I'm straight backing. I see the right side has the most space between my rear axle and the cones on the drivers' side and the least amount of space on the rear axle of the passenger side. Which side is the problem? Do I steer into the side with the most space or the least space? I know it is a very naive question but I'm still confused on this.

Feanor K.: I hate to sound so ignorant but what kind of game is the American Truck Simulator? Is it for the PS4? I know nothing about video games or gaming systems. I'll try and look into it though. It sounds like going to a private school and paying for one-on-one time is the best option. I guess I'd have to test out at the DMV if I did that though. I'd have to rent a truck to use probably. Swift said the wait times at the DMV are quite long in So. Cal right now - something like two to three months out.

Finally, can anyone recommend a good private school in So. Cal? I don't want a fly by night operation. By the time I graduate, I want to feel comfortable with my driving, shifting and backing. I know I won't be great, but I do want to have the basics down pat so I can go from there with my mentor.

Thanks again for all of the words of encouragement and advice. Tomorrow I'll go out and get a toy truck.

Best Regards, Colin

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

DMV:

Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

The state agency that handles everything related to your driver's licences, including testing, issuance, transfers, and revocation.

Feanor K.'s Comment
member avatar

ATS is only for PC as far as I know. It doesn't require anything fancy though, and isn't more than $20 or $30. The wheel would be a bigger concern, that ran me around $300 for a good one. Cheap ones are $100-$150.

You would not need to rent a truck to test out. And private school should pay for your test and likely have the inspector come out to their school. In mine the tester would come out every saturday and test all the students who were ready. We had a 99% success rate, and they would even let you stay past your completion date free as long as you needed to pass (within reason).

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