Roehl 2018 Training: My Blog, By Professor X

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Professor X's Comment
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I remember a few weeks ago finding this site and benefiting greatly from the contributions made by others. So, in the manner of paying it forward, I feel like I could help others by sharing my personal experiences with joining Roehl. My training begins tomorrow morning and as I begin settling in for the night, I would like to recount my journey up to this point:

I was laid off from my job June 1st, 2018; a mass layoff of 300 workers. From that moment, I applied to more than 175 jobs within my industry and found absolutely no luck with obtaining gainful employment, full-time. I was at my wits end, when a friend of mine suggested switching careers and getting my CDL. I have a master's degree in a branch of linguistics and education, though nothing stateside would hire me, I discovered that the trucking industry would actually work in my favor (with the massive shortage of drivers nationwide).

Nearly seven weeks ago, I was told I was accepted into a government assistance program that would help me financially with attending a trucking school in my home state of Arizona. After 6 days of training, which included getting my CLP and 3 days of straight-backs and offsets, I was told I had to stop until further notice. A week later, I was told that I would receive ZERO funding and that the government agency would no longer assist me in any way. They cited my degree as a qualification where I didn't actually need their help... 175 rejections, I would wholeheartedly disagree.

I then looked into a loan from the trucking school itself. ***disclaimer*** I will not throw the school under the bus on this blog, so please, do not ask who that school was. I was shocked to see how much additional money they added on simply for getting the loan (an additional $2500 +19% interest). I get it, they are a business, but I wanted to look for an easier way. I explored other options (as I did not have enough in my savings to pay outright, was damn near broke by that time), and was at my wits end when a friend of a friend told me about training with a company. I looked into a few (especially ones where I was already pre-hired), one of which who told me, "Because you have already attended a trucking school, you will need 3 months experience and blah, blah, blah." I pleaded with them that I had to stop because of funding being pulled, but they were rather stringent of their policy: No trainees who have already started with a different school.

So, with that, I narrowed down my choices to just two companies. The one rejected me because I did not have forklift experience... Yeah, found that a bit weird. Anyways, Roehl was more than happy to bring me on, as long as I made it out to Wisconsin on my own dime. Considering my options were dwindling, and the fact that the government agency basically placed me in the worst possible position ever (was almost broke and homeless because I thought I was covered when they pulled my funding), I was very happy to make the 1,800 miles drive from Phoenix, AZ to Marshfield, WI.

As far as recruiting goes, Kevin at Roehl has been awesome. Very helpful, informative, patient, and knowledgeable (and if he didn't know, he quickly found the answers). We got everything settled and arranged, then I hit the road Friday late-morning, heading Eastward. Made my first stop in Guymon, OK. Rested up and made it to my next stop, Saturday, in Clive (Des Moines), Iowa. Sunday, finished off the rest of the trip and made it to the Woodfield Inn, where we are housed for the next four weeks. Met my roommate, who seems cool, we grabbed food and are settling in for the evening. Breakfast at 6:00am, then off to the yard/training facilities by 6:30-6:45am.

My goal will be to blog each day, or close to that. If you would like to follow, just check out this thread daily. I will be happy to answer questions, but always willing to share in my experience with Roehl. Again, I am grateful to those who have also shared their stories... and, here is mine ^,^

-Professor X

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.

Pre-hire:

What Exactly Is A Pre-Hire Letter?

Pre-hire letters are acceptance letters from trucking companies to students, or even potential students, to verify placement. The trucking companies are saying in writing that the student, or potential student, appears to meet the company's minimum hiring requirements and is welcome to attend their orientation at the company’s expense once he or she graduates from truck driving school and has their CDL in hand.

We have an excellent article that will help you Understand The Pre-Hire Process.

A Pre-Hire Letter Is Not A Guarantee Of Employment

The people that receive a pre-hire letter are people who meet the company's minimum hiring requirements, but it is not an employment contract. It is an invitation to orientation, and the orientation itself is a prerequisite to employment.

During the orientation you will get a physical, drug screen, and background check done. These and other qualifications must be met before someone in orientation is officially hired.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

DWI:

Driving While Intoxicated

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.

Old School's Comment
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Welcome aboard Professor X, and thanks for doing this diary. There will be plenty of people following along and learning from what you share. This section doesn't have as much conversation going on back and forth, but you can be assured there are very curious people reading and learning in these training diaries.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Han Solo Cup's Comment
member avatar

+1 Like; I'll definitely be following along. I was in a very similar boat. At my last company, I was let go in wave #3 of layoffs during which my company let go of hundreds of people; layoffs are very common in defense contracting. I went six months looking for work as the market was flooded with programmers in my immediate area (wonder why... oh that's right, the layoff). I've spoken with my wife and when (not if) it happens again, I'm going to pursue my dream of the trucking lifestyle. I look forward to following along with your journey.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Dave (formerly known as K's Comment
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I'm very much looking forward to reading about your experiences at Roehl.

Good luck!

Professor X's Comment
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Day 1 ***officially

Woke up around 4:30am to get myself together for the day. I was a little excited to see what kind of breakfast to expect from the hotel we were staying at (thinking eggs, maybe some meat). I was informed the night before that breakfast would be ready by 6:00am, so I sat outside the dining room door around 5:35am and met some of the others who arrived just the night before, too.

6:00am rolls around, and a very sleepy-looking kitchen staff member painstakingly opens the door, allowing myself and other truckers-to-be to flood in. I quickly made my way around the counter to find... Bread. More bread, and sugar (doughnut holes). Cereal and, of course, more bread -_- After this, I will be searching for a regular breakfast restaurant for the rest of my time here. I typically am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth, but there was pretty much zero protein options.

As a side note, I primarily eat meat and veggies. I minimize simple carbs, so this kind of meal is something I would do anything to avoid. Let me transition by putting aside my personal tastes and simply say, it was a nice little breakfast. Apple and orange juice, as well as coffee, were all available, too.

We were all informed by our recruiters to be ready by 6:30am for the shuttle over to Roehl. We were waiting until about 6:45am when the shuttle finally arrived. There were far more of us than could possibly fit into the van, so about three of us drove separately and followed in a convoy. It was a rather easy trip over, and I realized I passed it on my way into town the evening before. We followed into the yard and found where we will be parking during the duration of the training. From there, we made our way to the "classroom". They make sure to reinforce that this is not a school teaching us how to get our CDL. Rather, it is preparation for working with Roehl. I am completely cool with that concept, as it fills me with the notion that I am already welcomed and on board for my new career.

As we met our trainers, I came to realize that I accidentally left my CLP and Medical Card back at the hotel. This left me with accepting the walk of shame. I quickly drove back, collected my things, and rushed back (safely and at the speed limit) to Roehl. We completed numerous forms, finished online training items, and completed our I9, as well as some other items. I should say, before any of this, they stressed the importance of selecting our lunch items. We filled out what we wanted for the entire week. There was an exceptional selection, but I opted to keep it simple and consistent: salad.

At 11:45m, we had a Zoom meeting with our sister terminals who also had new trainees beginning. We were audience to the head of the training program: Get Your CDL (GYCDL). Since Marshfield, WI is the home base for Roehl, the head was there in person. After some niceties, we broke for lunch and when the food arrived, I was pleasantly surprised to see how much salad there was! Not the best salad ever, but far more satiating than the breakfast back at the hotel. I will be looking forward to lunch each day ^,^

The afternoon had a bit more paperwork, and we studied our chapters "assigned" from our book. We also completed a physical exam, consisting of strength related movements. Five movements in total, and the challenge was real. One trainee failed twice, but I think that person was given an additional chance (since they were not leaving when we completed that portion). We were told that passing the strength test was mandatory.

We also had a chance to work on some shifting. Roehl has a trucking simulator with the standard tractor chair, as well as gear shift and pedals to expect in all Roehl trucks (10 gears). It allowed us to get a feel for what to expect without placing us behind a few thousand dollar piece of machinery. Smart move, in my humble opinion. There was much grinding to be had by many of the students. I think I was fortunate to have had minimal experience in the real thing a few weeks prior.

We finished the day with sexual harassment policies and driving logs. Things became increasingly more comfortable and easier throughout the day. It will be good to get back on the simulator for more practice, and actually begin pre-trip inspections tomorrow.

It is pretty late... I should hit the sack. Back up at 4:30am to get ready for breakfast at an actual restaurant. I should also mention that, after Day 1, it is our responsibility to get to Roehl each day (carpool if necessary). My plan is to get to the restaurant by 5:15am to make sure I am at Roehl by 6:30am.

-Professor X

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.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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.

Jason R. (Ruck)'s Comment
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Thanks for sharing your journey Professor X.

Professor X's Comment
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Day 2

Some semblance of a routine is beginning to develop. I prefer this because, when it comes to something I am passionate for, I want to know what to expect AND what is expected of me every day. This new career can be my best shot for getting out of debt, as well as being able to build a little nest egg for myself. I have many choices that will emerge in the months and years to come. I am mentally preparing myself for anything.

Today, we received our trainer assignments, as well as tractor assignments. I was placed into a group of 4 people (3 plus myself) and, just before heading outside, we completed our travel logs from the day prior, up until 6:30am, today. Although we are for sure going to be getting rigs with electronic logs , Roehl wants to ensure we have trucker logging skills in place, just in case it ever becomes necessary.

After some shuffling around, we made our way out to the vehicles. My group was assigned one of the grey colored tractors, which I guess is mostly used for solo drivers. The red ones have the taller sleeper area which allows for the double bunk. Honestly, the color didn't matter, since these were training trucks. They were all equipped with the traditional row of three seats in the sleeper area. While one person was operating, the others sat back and observed.

I want to say that I am quite proud of my team, so far. None of us were on our phones and we were all paying close attention to the person driving. We took in the advice from our trainer and attempted to apply the comments to our own attempts behind the wheel. Our trainer was quite descriptive and detailed, as he walked us through each step of the shifting process. He did take us around the yard a couple times before anyone was allowed in the driver's seat, but after that, it was all us.

I quietly sat back as each of my colleagues took their turn. I intentionally waited and delayed my start. I feel that I can learn from others as much as I can learn from my own mistakes and blunders. I took every bit of commentary to heart, as if though I was the one behind the wheel each time. Then, when it became my turn, I was able to collate the plethora of information into a solid first attempt. My previous experience behind the wheel at my previous school consisted of, "Get in there and pull her forward."....

Wait... What??? Isn't anyone going to get in here with me??

Back then, I was glad that I had at least some experience driving a standard vehicle, so I sort of fudged my way through my first time ever driving a rig. Again, let me make it perfectly clear: I was placed behind the wheel with zero experience at my PREVIOUS school. Roehl, on the other hand, had the instructor right there with me, and my group, the entire time. It also helped that the day prior, we were able to get our first experience on a simulator. Big difference!

Anyways, we spent the early part of the day, prior to lunch, driving around the yard, working on shifting. Then, an hour before lunch break, my team was brought in to work on right- and left-hand turns on the simulator (with a trailer attached). This simulator is wonderful! It allows us to muck up our first few tries on a device with zero real-life consequences. I think all of us will benefit from it. I actually went a little maverick, and pushed the tractor in the simulator, flying through my gears... Of course, I made some rather big mistakes, but again... No actual consequences. As I proceeded, I took it more seriously and feel like I made some great improvements.

Lunch rolled around... Salad again... Delicious again ^,^

After lunch, there was some major changes to the schedule. All of us 1st Week-ers were asked to stay in the study area while some others went through testing with our rigs. We used this time to work on our log books and get some reading done. Then, around 1:00pm, one of the other 1st week teams was collected to run the sim, while the other group waited with mine for a some time. Eventually, the group that was waiting around with us was taken back to the yard... Me and my three teammates were stuck in the study area... for an additional 2 hours >,<

That really sucked. I considered going out to the yard to begin working on pre-trip (which will be worked on tomorrow), but couldn't find any trainers to get permission from. I didn't want to chance getting chastised for being out in the yard like that, so I just stayed in and barely stayed awake, cranking out 4 more chapters in our book. I did find out later that it would have been fine if I had gone out to do such... >,<

From around 3:30pm, and on, we made it back out to our truck for more shift work. It went well and I could feel myself improving each time I was placed behind the wheel ^,^ I am feeling more confident each passing minute spent in the driver's seat ^,^

Pre-trip and more shifting to come... I am actually excited about it ^,^

-Professor X

Electronic Logs:

Electronic Onboard Recorder

Electronic Logbook

A device which records the amount of time a vehicle has been driven. If the vehicle is not being driven, the operator will manually input whether or not he/she is on duty or not.

Army 's Comment
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Great posts. Keep in mind, as I have read others posts, the sit and wait game is common, so practice patience lol....Best of luck

Professor X's Comment
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Day 3

I would like to start off by saying, going to the local restaurant which opens at 5am is far more desirable than trying to stomach a ton of carbs in the morning, IMHO. Marshfield Family Restaurant is just a 2 minute detour from my regular commute to Roehl, which is absolutely worth the trip, every morning. If you come to Roehl and struggle like I do with putting down nothing but carbs in the morning, put this on your must-visit list.

As for training, today we started off in the simulator. We were faced with straight-backs and offset maneuvering. I was about to say parking, but it was much more than that. We were placed into a simple scenario, at first. Take the simulated rig and trailer down a long runway with straight lines. If, during the backing up, you were doing well, the instructor would have you offset while in motion (there were multiple lanes to utilize). My colleagues had a difficult time, as I am sure I would have to, had I not already gone through this with a real tractor.

My instructor quickly had me doing the offset, both left and right. The great thing is, I picked up some new skills doing so. When I first learned, I was told to keep the rear axle tires out of my mirrors. This helps so much! As for the offsets, what I learned at the previous school only helped so much, only because many of the reference points we were given only related to that school's equipment and trailers. Today, I was taught so much more, and how to use additional reference points; more importantly, ones that are far more universal... Good stuff!

We also used the simulator to back up from a mock accident. It was in a heavily wooded area, along a winding road. This naturally challenged our newly learned concepts on backing up. Having the added knowledge and experience assisted me greatly, as I was able to put in the clutch and never touched it again until I reached my destination. I noticed something else... something that would come up again, later in the day... my instructor stopped talking to me in the middle of my exercise and was speaking with the other trainees, instead.

Just before lunch, we were able to finally attach a trailer to our tractor. I find this a bit entertaining and fun for all the most childish of reasons. If you're wondering if I feel awkward about it... Nope. Not. One. Bit! After hooking up and inspecting, our trainer pulled us out into the yard for our loops. After demonstrating a number of right-hand turns, I was the first on deck. Not only did I pick this up quickly, I was given the chance to make the turns at a higher speed (4th). Also, since we were already running out of time, I was the only one before we ate to take the rig around turns. I was able to take the combination vehicle from the yard to the parking area, where I successfully got it between other rigs (going through forwards, and a tiny back up for straightening out). We would be returning to this, again, after lunch.

Salad... Delicious... Happy...

The afternoon did not start as I would have hoped, unfortunately. We worked on our pre-trip. We worked on it so damn slowly. So slow, my fingertips were in unbelievable pain from the piercing frostbite I was sure that was taking over my flesh. One of my classmate kept asking drawn out questions, which, in any other situation where the temperature is above freezing, would be perfectly fine. It was just so damn cold, everything seemed to be taking forever. If you come here this time of the year, or through March or April... BUNDLE UP! this should go without saying, but I was not expecting it to be this bad (as being originally a native of Northwest Ohio).

After scarping by pre-trip with my body temperature a respectable 49 degrees Fahrenheit, we got back in and took it for another spin. However, this time, it was right turns with a trailer attached. Since we have absolutely no street markings in our yard, we were taught another VERY useful skill: how to utilize the turn light on the side of the trailer as a reference point. Get to the apex of the turn, and crank her over. For veteran drivers, I am sure you know the rest, but it was very helpful. I should mention, this was demonstrated to us before lunch, but it was great to know it was effective for left and right turns.

This time, though, for myself, I was given the chance to take the turn (at a yield sign) in 5th gear. More importantly, after my first stop sign, the instructor stopped talking to me, and just let me go through the motions with no assistance. It wouldn't be until the end of shift when he would mention how that is a sign that you're doing exactly what you need to in order to move on to city streets. I am hopeful my cohorts can ALL get to that level tomorrow, that way we can get a very realistic experience. More time on actual surface roads with real obstacles and situations, the better we can all become ^,^

Big meeting, tomorrow, in the morning. Then it will be us back at the turns until the instructor thinks we are ready. Fingers crossed!

-Professor X

Combination Vehicle:

A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.

Chris I.'s Comment
member avatar

I've been following along. Thanks so much for taking the time to write it up. I do a low carb lifestyle myself and completely understand where you're coming from on the eating/dining options and habits!

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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