Swift Academy And Terminal Overview

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Greg H.'s Comment
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I went through the Corsicana, Tx training facility, and am based out of the Lancaster, Tx terminal so, some of this may or may not apply to you. It's all relatively the same information no matter what Swift Academy or Terminal you go to but, maybe with small differences.

Ok, first, go to your local DMV and get started studying the information in the Commercial Handbook. It's simply a whole lot of information to cover, and you'll want to get started on it asap. If you wait until you are already at the Academy, you'll find yourself thinking, ' this is a whole lot to grasp in a such a short time '. They only gave I believe 3 days learning the handbook before the class had to go test for the written exam. And from talking with my roommate, he was a bit frantic about it. Luckily I had already been through all of it and was there to help him out with any questions he had. And personally, I had already picked up a Handbook at my DMV and started studying way in advance. And I also took the written portion before I went to the Academy. So, I didn't have to attend the CLP class (The first week of Academy). I was only at the Academy for 3 weeks.....

The Hotel in Corsicana (LaQuinta) was awesome. I mean, this is a very nice Hotel. It has a pool (unfortunately, I simply didn't have the time to check it out), exercise room ( I did check this out. It was small but, still very nice. ) There is an outdoor patio with a grill so, take advantage of this. Can food and fast food gets old. I personally brought all of my own food. So bring a few pork chops in a cooler or something with you. They have microwaves, and small iceboxes. The rooms are huge.... and the Tv had to be a 50 inch. I have a 36 inch at home and I know it's much smaller than the ones at the LaQuinta Hotel. And there are around 200 channels to choose from.... woohoo. :) They also have free wifi. And it works very well.... I watched Netflix on my tablet. So, that was cool..... They do have two computer stations down in the lobby... And I believe breakfast is free the first day but, after this, you'll need to pay $6 a day if you want to continue eating it.

The shuttle will pick you up around 5:30 am your first week. mmm, yeh, believe so (I started out in the 2nd week).... if you're in class, it's 5:30, if you are out on the Range, you'll be getting up around 3 am and leaving at 3:30. And depending on how many people are going to class, it could be the mini bus, the full size bus or the van. Most likely it'll be the bus.... and it does not roll up to the front door so, be standing out by the service road in front of the Hotel. You'll most likely see others standing out there.

The Academy isn't but something like 15 minutes from the Hotel, if that far. Don't miss the freakin' exit off of the Interstate or you'll be driving a good ways down to the next exit to turn around. There are a few routes to take to get to school.

On a personal note, I checked out Collin Street Bakery. It's on Hwy 31 West a few miles from the Hotel. They have great cookies. And from what I've heard, great food over all. Oh, and the Walmart is somewhere around 4 miles West, also on Hwy 31, down on the Left, from the Hotel.

1st week - CLP

2nd week - mapping, logbook , general discussion, overview....

3rd week - Range/Class ( very little time will be spent in Class, most on the Range practicing backing. )

4th week - Road ... The first day will not last long or didn't for us. The second day, up and down the service road you'll do up shifting, downshifting. And yes, you do learn and test on trucks with Manual transmissions. 3rd day you'll go on a route through different parts of the city. 4th day, you'll most likely go East of Corsicana and drive a long country road with a lot of curves to learn off tracking. 5th day is D - Day, either pass or fail. They will not give you your grade, only pass or fail.

Oh, yeh, forgot to mention or haven't gotten around to it yet. They have 3rd party testing at the Corsicana Academy. We didn't have to go anywhere or to the DMV to test. We tested right on the facility, and DMV approved testing routes for the road test.

You get tested for blind side offset back, blind side parallel parking and straight line. First you have to do the pre trip, and it's not simple. They don't simply ask you a few questions, you have to know it all, front to back. You'll choose a card that is facing down. It will either have A, B, C or D written on it. Which ever one you choose, you'll pre trip this part of the truck or the trailer. Everyone has to do the coupling. Coupling includes the pig tail (electrical line) and air lines coming from the truck, going to the trailer, and everything about the (fifth wheel). DO NOT call it the fifth wheel. It's called the skid plate.

I hope I'm not confusing anyone. I'm not proof reading much and I may skip around a bit.

Ok, first week, CLP is a pain.... generally ask anyone who has had to do it.

2nd week is pretty easy... mapping is generally fun stuff and who doesn't like log books.

By the way, no, you will not use paper logs, unless the QUALCOMM goes down. It is illegal to keep 2 sets of logs. And Swift uses the Qualcomm to log all your times. But, you will learn how to paper log in case the QUALCOMM does go down.

To be continued....

Logbook:

A written or electronic record of a driver's duty status which must be maintained at all times. The driver records the amount of time spent driving, on-duty not driving, in the sleeper berth, or off duty. The enforcement of the Hours Of Service Rules (HOS) are based upon the entries put in a driver's logbook.

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.

Qualcomm:

Omnitracs (a.k.a. Qualcomm) is a satellite-based messaging system with built-in GPS capabilities built by Qualcomm. It has a small computer screen and keyboard and is tied into the truck’s computer. It allows trucking companies to track where the driver is at, monitor the truck, and send and receive messages with the driver – similar to email.

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).

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.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

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.

Big Scott's Comment
member avatar

That's some great info. This might have fit better in the Training Diaries section. Also, we have the High Road CDL Training Program. This is free and will help pass the written test in every state. It is a very thorough tool and highly recommend. Good luck to you.

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.
Greg H.'s Comment
member avatar

Also included in 2nd week is straight line backing. They'll let you start practicing around the 3rd day. If you can not get this, they'll send you home. You have to be able to straight line back to drive a truck. And yes, you only have a couple of days to get it. I'm not sure what kind of leave way you'd have there. They pretty much told us, within those 2 days, if you don't get it, or pass, you're going home. I think they worked a little more with a few people that weren't getting it. But, in the long run, if you slide by on the straight line, it may bite you in the behind when you start the offset and parallel backing.... so, pay attention to what they are telling you and try your best.

3rd week - yahoo, you'll get to stand around on a rocky dirt hot parking lot for several hours this week so, prepare yourself. Hydration is key word here. And head cover, sun screen, anything you need. This is pre trip, pre trip, pre trip week.... study folks, study, study, study. We had some pretty smart peeps (including my roommate) out there, and they still missed stuff on their test. I was one of them. I never could remember, no foreign objects or spacers, between the tires. And I failed the air brake test the first time I tested. I had to wait until the next day to retake the test. And I believe you only get 2 chances at this, and if you don't pass, you'll have to come back the next week and take the whole 3rd week over again. I forgot to turn the key on (so I could read the gauges)... once you start learning this stuff, you'll understand what I'm talking about (safe start). You can't miss or get anything out of order on the air brake test. You can miss and go back on anything else but, not the air brake test..... anyway, you test out on it on mmm Wednesday.... so, Over the weekend, after week 2, study study study the pre trip and air brake information they will give to you. And continue studying it all the way up to the test.... otherwise, you will return the next week and retake the entire 3rd week over again if you fail.

(I'm going to do a quick overview of the facilities at the Academy and the Instructors after I finish this info. )

4th week actually begins on Friday, after the pre trip and backing test. By the way, the backing and the pre trip/air brakes test are separate. You can pass the pre trip and airbrakes ( considered the written test ) and fail the backing, and only have to come back on Thursday and retake the backing test. On Friday, you'll get to meet your road instructor. You may or may not drive this day, it all depends. John, my instructor had to do road test and was tide up until 12 so, we only had a 4 hour day on Friday. Most of it we spent talking..... Ok, so, you come back on Monday, and you go up and down the service road, shifting up, shifting down, shifting up, shifting down.... you do this along with around 3 others, all day long. And Tuesday, you get to do it all over again. Wednesday, you get to visit in city and practice crossing railroad tracks, making turns, observation (bridge heights, speed limit signs, etc. ). Thursday, off to the long windy country road where you go and do the off tracking practice, of your trailer. Thursday evening, you practice your backing.

And then there's Friday: Big test day.... and let me tell you folks. I was the very first to test. I had just driven up and parked in the parking lot when the instructor came around the corner bellowing my name, looking for me. It was 5:50 am, and even though I was still early, he was ready to get started. Soooo, I was first to test.... yahhhh me! whew, I passed.... I tell everyone, maybe it's a good thing. I was still half asleep and didn't have time to over think things.... He complimented my driving though. And I'd passed the backing with only one problem. I'm going down to the next paragraph, because I want to make a point of something.

GET OUT AND LOOK. I had one "encroachment", because I didn't get out and look, on my offset back. Stupid, stupid, stupid.... I knew I was getting close to the line but, I didn't stop and get out to look. After he blew his whistle, I got out, looked, shook my head, got back into the truck, pulled forward and straight line backed it in. I mean, COME ON, you get 2 free get outs and 2 free pull ups, except on the straight line back. You only get 1 free get out and pull up on the straight line.

Ok, anyway, got that out of the way.... yeh, get out and freakin' look already. Don't be stubborn.....

Overall the conditions and the instructors were pretty awesome. I think a few of them could be a bit to gungho for my blood sometimes. And they have their own personalities but, they were generally friendly, helpful, good people. They really only get upset when they believe that you are wasting their time. They'll be very helpful if you honestly want it. But, hey, they can't give licenses away.... so, work at it and you should do fine. The Academy, while I'm thinking of it, was an old terminal. That was pretty cool....

Oh yeh, I think I wanted to mention a little about the other students.... it was like family out there for us. We all pretty much stood on the side lines and cheered one another along. You have your certain group of people you get along with but, everyone pretty much had one another's backs. At least, as much as possible. We can't drive the truck for you.....

Ok, so, we pass, and we go home.... for the weekend.

To be continued.....

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Greg H.'s Comment
member avatar

I'm almost done here. I just wanted to mention real quick about the Medical Card (DOT Physical). There is a little dot or place to mark Yes/No for CPL applicant or CDL Holder, I believe the 2 options are. Make sure, if you get your physical done before going to the Academy, make sure that they mark this option as ' Yes '. Otherwise you will end up having to get another physical. They paid for mine so, no big deal for me. I just had to pass another physical. But, yeah, this has to be marked ' yes '.

Oh, and the only information they ever asked for from me was my License and my Med Card. I went to the County Clerks office and got an original copy of my birth certificate, and never used it. Not one bit of information I took that they needed other than my license and my med card. This will differ individual to individual I guess but, as for *having to have all of this information, not so far. You may need 3 forms if you get Hazmat endorsements, I don't know.

Anyway, out of school and in orientation. You get to pick your orientation date. They did mention, you may not want to wait to long because positions are filling up. You can either go on Monday or Wednesday for orientation. You can wait a complete week if you need or want to. But, it's either Monday or Wednesday.

Orientation last for 3 days, and then you should get put out on the truck with a Mentor.

Everyone was pretty friendly at orientation. Just a butt load of information being pushed at you. Some of it you've heard before and some you haven't. And then you're handed 2 books and a few sheets of paper you have to study and over the course of the next 3 to 5 weeks, you'll be studying this information and taking test. Yaaaaaahhhhhh..... :(

Oh yeh, I wanted to review the Hotel (Days Inn and Suites) I believe it was called. It's a step down from the LaQuinta but, it's not to bad. About the only issue myself and some of the guys had was that there was a lot of questionable things going on there with some of the guests at the hotel. My roommate said that the smell in the hallway was Meth. Personally, I don't know what meth smells like but, I could definitely smell what he was talking about. And someone else smelled pot....

and here all of us guys are standing here, fresh out of schools and with our brand new Class A cdl's thinking, ' crap, I hope this doesn't show up in my Urinalysis. By the way, if you went to swift academy and already did the hair follicle, you won't have to do it again, just the Urinalysis. But, still, it had us a little concerned.... for our safety some. But, yeh, that meth smell was seriously strong....

Ok, so you get through orientation, all your stuff gets verified, you get your Employee Code, and your off to see the wizard....

The End

If you made it this far, the rest is an adventure. So, enjoy.... by the way, the Driver Coordinator said something in regards to Mentors. They are not your boss, I am. Even though she'd like for us to try and work things out with the Mentors, if issues should arise, they will find someone else to mentor you if necessary. I like that though, they are not your boss, I am.

So, good luck in your adventures with Swift..... a lot of talk about different companies, how they pay and what not. Do your homework, I mean, seriously do your homework before making your decisions.

Oh, almost forgot..... Knight merged with Swift, for anyone who does not know.

Sooo, anyway, yeh, if you made it to your mentor then the rest should be down hill from here.... if they've liked you up to this point and you passed all of your test, then I don't see any serious obstacles in the future. Besides the fact of, are you really ready for this. Who's really ready for anything though, right?

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

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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