C.R. England Truck Driving School In Fontana, CA

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Colin K.'s Comment
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Here are my diary entries for Monday, June 4th and Tuesday, June 5th:

June 4th: Today was a productive day. We each had access to a trailer and tractor to practice our pre-trip test. We took turns testing each other.

In the afternoon, we watched our instructors demonstrate and explain straight backs, alley docks, parallel parking and offset backing. We didn't just learn WHAT to do, we learned WHY we should do it. That is such an important part of the way that I learn things best.

Each of us in the class got to get into the cab for the first time. We were shown the various gauges, how to read them, how to start the engine and put it in gear, etc. The instructors took their time showing us this information and made sure that we all understood it. Speaking as a newbie who has never driven a clutch, I like the fact that C.R. England has trucks with automatic transmissions.

Afterward, we each got the chance to do three straight backs. We also learned how to correct a problem if our trailer started going crooked. All three of my straight backs were actually good. This was HUGE for me.

I ended the day with much greater self-confidence, which I am sure will pay dividends tomorrow when we actually do our alley docks, parallel parking and offset backing.

June 5th: Today we took three quizzes on backing and safety. C.R. England continues to stress safety. For example, there are painted “crosswalks” in the yard. If a staff member sees you walking outside of those crosswalks, they will call you on it.

I also did my parallel parking and offset backing maneuvers!!! An instructor was with us every step of the way. He basically told you what to do, and when to do it. The goal was to get us to realize that we could do these maneuvers and also to start building confidence in us.

It will be on each of us to learn these maneuvers so that we can do them on our own, without anyone there to hold our hand. I am a little embarrassed to say this, but I actually had a tear in my eye when I finished today. I'm starting to believe that this dream isn't just possible, but probable! (That's assuming that I stay focused and continue studying like crazy, of course.)

I do my alley dock tomorrow. We might also get to get out on the road!!!

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I'll do my best to answer them.

Best Regards, Colin K.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Turtle's Comment
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Climbing behind the wheel of a big truck can be a thrilling, and humbling, experience. It's great to hear everything is going so well for you. You are well on your way!

Colin K.'s Comment
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Before I get to my updates, I need to add something that I forgot about. You don't need to be super fluent in English, but you do need to pass a basic reading test. You also need to be able to follow basic commands. This is to make sure that you can understand and take directions from your driving instructor. It isn't a hard test. 'm not sure why they waited until so late in the process to give it to us, but they did.

Wednesday, June 6th: Today we met our driving instructor. His name is Paul and he is very patient and very good at explaining things. There are five people in my group.

California law requires that you wait 14 days after getting your CDL permit before you can test for your official CDL license. Each of us already had out permits so we will be testing out earlier than the students who did not have their CDL permit before starting school. We were told that we will be able to test out this coming Tuesday! Gulp!

Some students who fail complain that they failed because the instructor didn't cover the subject(s) that they failed. Because of this, our group has to read the lesson plan out loud on camera for the next three days. That way, we can't use the, “Our instructor didn't cover that”excuse if we fail.

Paul went over the In-Cab Inspection test and the Air Brake tests with us as a group. He also told us what to expect in the next few days.

Two of us went out driving in the morning. Three of us stayed behind to work on our various backing skills. We got to pick which skills we worked on. It was kind of like waiting in line at Disneyland, except that we got to drive a big rig! They had several trucks, and instructors. I spent my morning working on the Off-Set backs. I had a hard time grasping all of the concepts. There are eight steps in all.

After lunch, my group went out driving. It was both exciting and nerve wracking, all at the same time. I was glad that we went on roads that had very little traffic. We practiced left and right turns, stopping, etc. C.R. England trucks all have automatic transmissions, so we didn't have to worry about shifting, clutching and watching our RPMs. That made it much easier.

Paul gave us directions and corrections as we drove. He is very patient. I am happy to report that I did well. I'm am still learning how to judge how far out into the lane to go before I start making a right turn, but Paul said that will come in time.

I was the last driver of the day so I got to drive us back into the yard. I had to laugh because Paul had me back the trailer into a spot next to a bunch of other trailers! (He didn't know about my previous backing issues.) He gave good directions and I was actually able to do it!

Afterward, we did three quizzes of ten questions each on basic turning and shifting. Our homework was to study the first two of the six Air-Brakes tests that we need to pass, as well as our In-Cab Inspection and Pre-Trip.

Thursday, June 7th: I was the only person on the team who showed up for the voluntary early morning Air-Brake Test practice. I got one-on-one instruction and practice!

We began our day as a group going over our first two Air Brake Tests. I was ahead of the game. We then read the lesson plan for the day out loud on camera again. Two of us then went out driving and three of us stayed behind to work on our backing skills.

I focused on learning Off-Set backing. We had an excellent instructor. He broke down the eight steps and was also there to tell us what we are doing wrong and how to correct it. I got lucky as there weren't many people waiting to do Off-Sets so I was able to do eight of them! I have the steps down mentally. Now, I just need to repeat them a few more times so I can pass the test.

After lunch, three of us went out driving. I was the first to drive today. Paul took me to the freeway right away! I had faith in myself, and him, but I was a little nervous. Merging was a bit hectic, but freeway driving is actually easier than driving city streets.

I also drove us over to the C.R. England terminal. We got our truck washed and I helped Paul wipe down the mirrors, windows and the grill. He was happy that our truck looked nice. Paul then gave us a tour of the terminal. It was very nice inside.

I should note that all of our student driving is recorded on camera. I'm sure this is partly for insurance reasons and to cover the, “We never covered...” excuse. I asked Paul if C.R. England has driver facing cameras in their regular driver trucks and he said no. I was glad of that.

Side note: There was a dog run at the terminal. I asked Paul if C.R. England allowed drivers to have a pet and he said yes! I'm so excited. I won't get one until after I have more experience, but I do want one eventually.

After we returned to our home base, we again practiced the first two Air Brake tests as a group and individually. Paul also added the third Air Brake test. We then took another group quiz, this one on freeway driving.

Our homework is to study our third Air Brake test, our Pre-Trip Inspection and our In-Cab inspection. I plan on doing that as soon as I'm done uploading this.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to ask. I'll do my best to answer them.

Best Regards,

Colin K.

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.

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.

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.

Han Solo Cup's Comment
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I think it shows great motivation and willingness to learn that you showed up for the optional study session. I'm curious... what time was the extra study session? Did your other classmates just want to sleep in? I would jump on every extra practice session no matter what they were teaching or if I even needed the help. At my current job, I greedily take all the training they offer as it can only make me a better employee.

Enjoying your diary!

Colin K.'s Comment
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Hello Han Solo Cup.

We get an hour for lunch. The training session was for the last 30 minutes of lunch.

I agree with you about taking advantage of ANY training that you can get. I'd be a fool not to take advantage of extra study time to help prepare me for testing out. You'd be surprised how many people think they already know it all though. None of us students know as much about trucking as even the worst instructor there, but try telling some people that.

I'm glad that you are enjoying my diary. I worry that I'm too long winded, but I'm trying to give you an idea of what the days are like.

Best Regards, Colin K.

Colin K.'s Comment
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Friday, June 8th: Today was a somewhat frustrating day. It started off with the team meeting inside the truck. We read off our lesson plans on camera again. This was the last day we had to do that. :)

We then split up into two groups. Two team members went out with the trainer driving. They drove the freeway and mountains, including coming down the Cajon Pass. Myself and two others stayed behind in the yard to practice our backing skills. We were then going to switch places after lunch.

I worked on my Off-Sets. The instructor for that drill is awesome. He is patient and breaks things down into small bites for you. (There are eight steps in all but he broke it down into ten for me so I could understand the concepts.)

As I was doing my second Off-Set, a gentleman came into the yard and read off about ten names. Mine was one of them. I had to leave my Off-Set unfinished and follow him to clinic. We had been selected for a random drug test. The irony is that they called us in immediately after break. We had already gone to the restroom so none of us could go right away.

Once you are in the clinic, leaving for ANY reason is considered a refusal to test. They had water to drink so we all sat around drinking water and trying to go. One of my medications is to keep me from urinating, so I had a bit more of a challenge. :(

I was worried as I was taking what seemed like a long to give them a sample. (Not worried about passing the test though.) The nurse was very nice. She explained that DOT rules say that we have three hours to give them a sample, as long as we do not leave the clinic. The trainers were very understanding too as to why some of us were gone for a while. Yes, it's the law, and they have to be, but it was still nice to see that anyway. By the time I was able to give them a sample, it was lunch time so I did not get to finish my Off-Set.

The frustrating part of the day happened at lunch. My trainer told me that one of the other trainers was having a problem with a student. The student was being moved to our team. That meant that someone from our team had to switch places. I was the person who was chosen to move, though it was made clear that I did nothing wrong.

My trainer asked if I was okay with the move. I was polite and professional. I said that I would prefer not to move, as I liked having him for an instructor, but that I would gladly do whatever was needed.

My new instructor is good as well, but he has a very different style of teaching. I am a bit more nervous with him, but that is on me. He was patient with me as the two teams are at different places in the lesson plans and I had to adjust. He welcomed me to me to he team and was pleased that I had a good attitude.

I'm looking at this as getting to learn different things from a new person that will benefit me in the long run. I will be honest and say that I would have preferred not to move though.

My new team practiced advanced turns and figuring out the apex and target area where you start making your turn, in wide and narrow lanes. The instructor said I did well but had some room to improve, which is true. The day ended with the team taking two quizzes on turning, proper lane changes, etc.

Friday, June 9th: Today was without a doubt my best day so far. The first thing we did was learn about pull throughs. They had a mini-obstacle course set up so that we could learn what it is like to find a parking spot at a truck stop and how to drop off trailers for drop and hooks.

C.R. England has a policy that, whenever you can, you find a pull through parking spot at a truck stop. We practiced our serpentine move. For those who don't know, a serpentine is when you turn the truck and trailer like a snake would move so you can get your truck straight enough to pull through.

The instructor got a bit grumpy with me when I couldn't answer a question that he asked me, but it wasn't personal. I should have been able to answer his question but I misunderstood what he was asking. No harm, no foul.

I then spent the rest of the day learning how to do an Alley-Dock. There are three main steps. My former driving instructor was teaching it. He broke it down well and walked me through my first one. I have the concepts down well. As with all of the backing moves that I've learned so far, the key is the set up. If you get that right, you are good to go. If not, you could have several corrections to make.

The head of the school was there today. He walked around speaking to students, observing what we were doing, etc. I took the time to speak to him and let him know how much I appreciated the patience and knowledge that all of the instructors were showing us. I said that I especially want to praise the instructor who taught me Off-Sets and told him why. He said that I made his day and appreciated that someone took the time to tell him something positive, instead of complaining.

We ended up getting an open book take home quiz. 45 questions. It is due on Monday but i will try to do that tonight after I get back from doing my laundry. No days off so we are back at it on Sunday morning at 6 am.

I know some of my posts are long, but I'm trying to give you as many details as I can so you can get a good understanding of what to expect. As always, please let me know if you have any questions.

Best Regards,

Colin K.

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.

Drop And Hook:

Drop and hook means the driver will drop one trailer and hook to another one.

In order to speed up the pickup and delivery process a driver may be instructed to drop their empty trailer and hook to one that is already loaded, or drop their loaded trailer and hook to one that is already empty. That way the driver will not have to wait for a trailer to be loaded or unloaded.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Army 's Comment
member avatar

Colin

Great post. I am sure they will remember how you took the news that you were being voluntold to moves classes.

I bet those pop up pee tests will catch someone.

Great posts and very informative

Chris

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Splitter's Comment
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Great read Colin! Although on your last post, you were having somewhat of a Groundhog Day!? Both days are listed as Friday. Welcome to trucking! Where everyday seems like the same day! Good luck & keep up the great work & attitude. good-luck.gif

Colin K.'s Comment
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Thanks for keeping my honest on the days of the week, Splitter. Lately, I have to ask Google what day it is. They are all running together!

Sunday, June 10th: This will be my last post for a couple of days. We test starting our testing sometime Tuesday or Wednesday and I need all the time I can get to study. I promise to update you on everything though, good or bad.

Today was another day out in the yard. They again had several things set up to practice that we could pick from, including our pre-trip, alley docks, parallel parking and off-sets. I worked on my parallel parking as it had been a few days since I had done one.

For those of you who aren't drivers, there are two types of parallel parking. One is to start from the drivers' side (Sight Side) and move it to the passenger side and then vice versa (Conventional Side). I liked the way a friend put it: “I can't even parallel park my car and you're going to learn to parallel park a big rig?” :)

I did two parallel parks on each side, with help from a very patient instructor. You do each move opposite of the other and, after a few hours, my brain got things all turned around. I took a break to untangle my thoughts and practice my pre-trip. Sometimes I over think things and get in my own way. Today was one of those days.

Several students did not show up today. One of the students who did not show up was the student whose antics caused me to have to switch teams. Sigh.

They let us go two hours early so several of us got together to do the open book test that they gave us yesterday. It is due tomorrow. Afterward, four of us went to In-N-Out Burger for an early dinner. We all had a great time and got to know each other better. You really bond with some of your schoolmates. That is definitely one of the great benefits of the pressures of trucking school.

I found out how C.R. England does their testing. They break your final testing down into three segments:

Section 1. In-Cab Inspection, Air Brakes and Pre-Trip. Section 2. Your backing skillls. Section 3. Your driving skills

You must pass all three sections in order to be signed off to get your CDL.

Let's suppose that you pass Section 1 and Section 3, but fail Section 2. They send you to a special instructor who gets you up to speed on the section you are weak on. You then retest, but only on the section(s) that you failed. You do NOT have to retest on the other sections again. You can't ask for anything more than that.

They want you to pass, but they will only pass you if you meet certain standards, including being a safe driver. As long as you are putting in the effort, show a good attitude and are studying, they will do everyting in their power to help you pass. It's just one more reason that I'm really glad that I chose C.R. England.

If you have any questions, please don't hestiate to ask. Please remember that it will be a couple of days before I will be able to answer them, however.

Best Regards,

Colin K.

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.
G-Town's Comment
member avatar
C.R. England has a policy that, whenever you can, you find a pull through parking spot at a truck stop.

That's a judgement call, your call.

I have observed many issues resulting from failed attempts to pull through a tight spot. You typically need more room for this maneuver than if backing into the same spot. Keep one basic thought in mind when doing this; you may need to exit from the same direction you entered. Potentially more obstructions impeding your exit 10 or so hours later. Always look at and consider the bigger picture.

My rule of thumb, if the parking spot/lot isn't designed for pulling through (spots are on an angle), backing into the hole is the better option.

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