Training: The Beginning ... My Thoughts... —in 4 Parts—

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David John's Comment
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The Beginning ... My thoughts...

part 1 of 4

This post started with the idea of mentioning a couple things that would have been helpful during the early stages of my CDL training and thoughts on the process. A training diary of sorts. These might be as simple as a suggestion that you get your CDL permit before entering a truck driver training school. Or as complicated as a suggestion that you learn the pre-trip nearly word for word before the first day of scheduled driving (my first day of the 3rd week). It would include the recommendation that you memorize the 10-speed shift pattern for the truck you will be driving. This last, the shift pattern, is absolutely necessary if you are a capable driver of a manual transmission car.

But first I must apologize. I have learned that I speak in sentences, if not paragraphs, rather than sound bites. It is also true that I type rather fast so in writing, saying more costs nothing in effort. Hence I generally provide many details and produce rather long reads... as is the case here. A challenge for some. If the information provided is too detailed for your liking, I apologize.

And perhaps a disclaimer. At this time I am completing Truck Driver Training for the purpose of obtaining the CDL-A. I will be entering orientation in the next week or so. I am older and therefore have experience which is both helpful and not, but generally I am as green as can be. A rookie within this profession. A rookie with hopes of becoming a Top Tier driver who follows the rules and puts the puzzle pieces in place to safely accomplish the task at hand, and accomplish it well. I am looking forward to the challenge.

The beginning...

The idea of becoming a truck driver passed through my mind briefly in the past but I never really considered the possibility. I was, in life, in a different place, a different job, I had family ties, hopes and dreams that had me focused on a specific place, a town, a home. It was a different time, a different place.

Then the idea presented itself again perhaps a year ago, in listening to a presentation from a driver trainer turned pastor. Then the idea surfaced again when seeing the “Schneider Jobs” advert on the tail of their trailer during a recent trip through upstate New York. A look at their website. An offer of provided CDL training. A personal tie to the company, and a good opinion based on my prior notions about the company and their approach. An application. A phone call. An offer. The door opened. I walked through.

There is a level of concern with driving trucks that simmers generally and sometimes rises high as a result of comments and stories I hear of from veteran drivers, or perhaps accidents and incidents I hear about. Through all of this I have a sense of peace and the feeling that this is where I am supposed to be. There is a sense that this is what I am supposed to be doing.

In all aspects I find great fun and the challenges are interesting. There is much to be learned and always more effort that can be applied for the purpose of mastering a new skill and performing well. There will always be more to learn. Never a dull moment, as it were. And this is exciting.

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.
David John's Comment
member avatar

The Beginning ... My thoughts...

part 2 of 4

The company asked me to study for, and get, the CDL permit before beginning CDL training at a truck driving school in Phoenix. I am VERY happy they made this request. They also asked that I pass the DOT Physical and participate in a drug test, possibly multiple drug tests, before off running solo.

The Drug Test...

A drug test (or multiple) would be performed by the company prior to driving. Thankfully for me, drug tests are a formality. A form provided with a lab identified. A visit to the lab. Testing performed, employer notified.

HAZMAT and TWIC Card...

Additional reading and discussion lead me to consider completion of the processes for the HAZMAT endorsement and the TWIC card.

For both the process appeared simple. Apply online at the TSA website and either walk-in or schedule an appointment with a TSA processing center. A visit with the necessary documentation, a few weeks of waiting. Process complete.

I encourage future drivers to consider doing both before turning in the CDL drive testing paperwork to complete the CDL process. The CA DMV explained that in completing HAZMAT FIRDT, the HAZMAT endorsement would appear on the license immediately. This would also save me from making an additional TRIP to the DMV. In Cali, always a good thing.

The DOT Physical...

This too is a formality at this point, thankfully. A google search provided multiple DOT/DMV approved medical facilities. An appointment. A visit. A certificate (1 page) and a long form for the DMV (5 or so pages).

The long form will be taken to the DMV and they, for a fee, will scan this into their system. California DMV no longer produces/provides you with a card for your wallet. Everything is computerized. They mentioned that many people shrink the 8.5x11 page down to a wallet sized business card and keep a laminated copy of this in their wallet. I decided to do this. I have now written my emergency contact information on the back of the paper/card before lamination. I have heard that some testing centers provide a wallet sized card along with the other paperwork when the test is complete. This card would be helpful and might be something to ask about when choosing a particular medical center. My chosen center did not provide a card but I will likely return rather than finding another. The process was quick and thorough.

I believe it is a new thing, the CA DMV no longer providing drivers with a card. I believe it is unfortunate, but with the computer system, it is likely unnecessary for them and a cost savings.

Obtaining the CDL Permit...

I am very happy I found Trucking Truth’s High Road Training. VERY HAPPY!!!

I was asked to have the permit before entering driver training school. This is an incredible advantage that completely removes stress from the first step in the driver training process.

With permit in hand I sat and listened to a full week review of the CDL Manual. One student, also with permit in hand, felt this was both boring and unnecessary, in the beginning. Later he commented he felt it was time well spent. We learned and having completed the process, the material is more deeply rooted.

I have heard that patience is required of a driver, in this industry. I have felt that the driver training process is one step on helping me/us to develop peace and patience and to find the best in this training as well as all situations that will come.

Having my permit in hand made the first week a peaceful review.

Many other students who attended the class had not been asked to obtain the permit beforehand. It is not necessary. After all of the study they went to the DMV on the 4th day of class and most passed the test. A couple would return in the days that followed to retake one part or another that they did not successfully complete the first time. In the end all passed, but there was a measure of pressure. If they pass, they continue. If they do not pass, they do not drive with the rest of the class. Also not an issue as if it took too long to pass the permit test now, the individual would drive with the students in the next group of students two weeks later.

It is my rather strong, recommendation that folks study through the High Road tests and take their General, Combo, Air Brakes (& Pre-Trip in Cali) tests before starting class. Get your CDL permit before the beginning of the class. It makes the first week much easier and stress free.

It has been my plan, as is suggested by Brett, to get all endorsements. I have heard that HAZMAT can be particularly helpful.

With the Trucker’s Truth High Road training tests, it is easily possible, given an investment of time studying, to pass the written tests before entering the class.

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.

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.

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.

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.

David John's Comment
member avatar

The Beginning ... My thoughts...

part 3 of 4

Note, the DMV written tests are not difficult, but they are tricky. This is also true of the DMV class C tests. You must have a good understanding of the material, read the test questions carefully and in some cases guess well. At times the questions seem to have multiple correct answers.

I finished reading through the California CDL Pre-Trip and General Knowledge Selections of the manual before finding Truckers Truth and it’s High Road Training. I also reread the Cali Class C Driver’s Manual. Whether necessary or not I figured a class C reread would be a healthy reminder of the concepts the DMV considers important. I had also run through a number of CA DMV online Class C tests.

I then found and began using the High Road Training series and I never returned to the manual.

I found the Trucking Truth presentation and testing mechanism to be exactly what I needed to prepare for the DMV written tests. I used no other training tools. I completed the High Road sections for all written test endorsements and went to the DMV to take the test.

After MANY hours of waiting, (for me, the DMV experience always involves setting aside a day for “fun” and “high adventure”.) This was no different. Aside from the waiting, I must say I thoroughly enjoyed talking with each of the DMV staff members who helped me. They have many layers of government and DMV process they must guide and take me through. They were all Champion: considerate, kind, and in some cases entertaining.

I passed each of their written tests on that day. (9 total) It was necessary that I review the manual and re-take the Passenger endorsement test after missing too many on the first attempt. This was the last test taken and in the end I was too conservative regarding HAZMAT. I said keep it all off, they said a little is ok (<100,<500, though no batteries). Thankfully California allows you to retake a written test on the same day, if you choose. After reviewing the passenger section in the manual, I passed the test.

Truck Driver Training...

Within the truck driver training class, the first week was review of the entire CDL manual. This could have seemed boring as much of the time the CDL manual was read word for word. Perhaps surprisingly, however, I found this review very interesting and beneficial.

Our second week in the truck driver training course was also in class, with study focused on the log book and hours of service regulations, trip planning and safety. We had an opportunity to listen to presentations from trucking companies who are hiring.

We finished the second week with a final. And on that day we also spent time focused on preparation for performing the pre-trip inspection. This pre-trip inspection prep was invaluable. We received a paper which detailed the pre-trip the examiner would expect us to perform including, much as is discussed within the High Road Training material, specific wording we must use. Modification is acceptable, but the outline provided offers a thorough foundation.

Pre Trip...

It was interesting, to me, that the pre-trip inspection is not, in truth, a pre-trip inspection. It is really a presentation in which the student explains, for the examiner, how a pre-trip would be performed. Stepping through this realization was a challenge for me as I wanted to demonstrate the actual thorough pre-trip for the examiner.

In consideration of time the process involves our convincing the examiner we are capable of performing a pre-trip but not actually performing one. In truth, that thorough pre-trip should have happened beforehand, as anything on the truck that fails a pre-trip inspection during the exam could/would end the exam and require a retake.

At this point in the discussion. I would encourage everyone to read the pre-trip inspection routine material provided, and read it many times. Memorize the key wording and phrases. Develop a feeling for your “routine”. And begin to develop YOUR planned approach. Imagine yourself walking around the truck. Say the words out loud. Hearing yourself will help you to remember.

I make use of a routine that follows a top down, left to right path with addition of an inside to outside pattern, working my way out, where appropriate. Inside... axle, suspension (leaf springs, shocks), break system, axle seal, lug nuts, rim, tires... to Outside The path you develop need not be the one I use, but a standardized path will help during the exam if you lose your place (or your mind). Stress can do interesting things. The routine will help. “Where was I? Oh yeah...” and continue with the routine knowing you will not miss, or not miss much...

Have a very good feeling for the pre-trip before you begin the driving. As with having the permit before the class, this familiarity simplifies and removes this hurdle from being a concern for the driving test. The familiarity you have gained early will help you to perfect your routine and your presentation during the remaining driving portion of the course. It becomes a time to perfect, not a time to study and learn. And believe me, there will be other things to study and learn during the driving portion of the truck driver training course.

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.

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

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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.

David John's Comment
member avatar

The Beginning ... My thoughts...

part 4 of 4

For me the during in truck “study” involved learning the shift pattern, double clutching and correcting the problems I seemed so likely to make.

If you know how to drive a manual transmission automobile, beware. Driving a 10-speed transmission is different. The shift pattern is different. The shift technique is different. It is the reverse of all auto patterns I’ve driven. As the instructor would yell, “put it in 5th”, I could produce the most terrifying crashing of gears by running the stick into the upper right corner of the shift pattern. The location of 5th in my autos was definitely NOT working in the Truck.

Before driving on the first day it is a must to memorize the shift pattern. Or while not a must it is really helpful. I do not remember hearing this as a recommendation before the first driving day in my course. I probably missed the comment. The first day would have been much easier had I practiced this pattern (hand in the air) prior.

Along with memorizing the shift pattern, watch a video on double clutching. Perhaps, as I have done, watch it multiple times.

I found the following video on google. There are a number of videos. I am sure many present the concept well. This one worked well for me. It also provided a couple exercises to help early development of the technique.

YouTube Search: double clutching 10 speed

Now please note... I understand few, if any, professional drivers double clutch. They use another method. However, double clutching is required for students taking the CDL driving test. I can imagine a few reasons for this, perhaps I will elaborate at another time...

In conclusion, My Thoughts...

I want to make the point that Trucking Truth and the High Road Training material does provide what you need to master the material. Read the pages and take the tests. When you are performing well on these tests, you should, I feel, pass the written test at your DMV.

Get your permit before starting with a school. But make sure you will be able to start truck driver training school in time to complete the process before the permit expires (in some states, 6 months).

Thoroughly review the pre-trip inspection “presentation” materials before you start driving.

Memorize the shift pattern.

Familiarize yourself with double clutching and perform some of the simple physical exercises to build muscle memory and coordination, before driving. Doing this will extend the life of the truck and likely that of your instructor.

And all in all, patiently enjoy the process and plan to look for opportunities to learn, even if everything in class seems like boring review. It seems to me this career will provide many opportunities to be patient. Start your practice for these times now.

And above all, Enjoy.

Blessings...

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.

Double Clutch:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

Double Clutching:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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