Roehl 2018 Training: My Blog, By Professor X

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Professor X's Comment
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Day 12

The day kicked off the way it used to: Bad. Our instructor comes in, we already finished pre-trip, all inspections, and had the truck ready to go hook up. It had snowed the evening before, so there was a light, yet wet, dusting on all the tractors. As I mentioned, we did a thorough inspection of all parts. He comes in and asks, "Did you do your pre-trip inspection? All of it?" We replied with an affirmative. He asks us if we're sure. Stunned, we all looked at each other in confusion. He then proceeds to say, "Did you check the tires?" with that typical sarcastic, yet demeaning tone. One of my colleagues says that he did, and I assured the fact that I watched him do it.

I hate ANYONE who says what he said next: "I don't believe you. There is still snow on the tire." He straight up implied I lied, like the way a child would who didn't want to do their chores. He comes back in and I explain that snow on the tires doesn't mean anything, as it is wet, packing snow. He then says, "Yeah. That snow isn't going anywhere." He then proceeds to just go about the day. no apology; not even a acknowledgement nor thank you for actually doing our job.

Great. Glad to see we are back to this point.

Anyways, the rest of the day went as it usually does. Me and colleague 1 do just fine with city driving. Colleague 2 struggles and keeps slamming the gears, thinking when it's going into 7th, it accidentally (more than 15 times) goes over to 9th. This has been going on for days... Not sure what to say to that, nor what the instructor can keep saying to help and try to fix the problem since it has been addressed for over a week. As for colleague 3, it was a terrifying run, as usual. What makes their day worse - and this person really does it to them self - they "stir the pot". I mean, it is relentless! I cannot understate how bad this really is. You would think the shifter had something on it, and this person was determined to shake it off in between gears.

Missing gears, grinding gears, slamming and t*******. I was starting to think the gears from the transmission were going to come flying through the floor board, tearing us all to shreds. Couple all of this with slow turns in front of oncoming traffic. Taking more than 20 seconds for a turn across two lanes... I did my best to watch, but had to look away at times.

Eventually, the instructor had to throw down some tough love and explain that this cannot continue. Next Tuesday is Do-or-Die time. So, we will see what happens then. However, the instructor is at a loss as to how to help colleague 3 out. I don't blame him (the instructor); this trainee simply cannot perform regular tasks without having their hand held, or being told each step along the way. I cannot feel pity any longer - not that I ever did - but, when should someone finally say to them self, "Maybe I don't have what it takes."

Again, this is a profession for professionals who can do their job with a high level of skill. Skills which can be taught, but some of those skills require certain innate abilities. I would argue that spatial awareness is paramount, on top of no-look shifting. Can't be staring at the shifter at 55 mph.

I was able to work on my offsets and 90 degree backings, today. It was a good day, plus the instructor allowed me to make errors and correct them. I can finally see what is going on, how the trailer will move, and what I need to do to start correcting the movements depending on the situation. The day ended well with the instructor. Just wish we could have that kind of attitude from start to end.

C'est la vie. I am learning and will be motivated towards greatness in the field of trucking. Keep on keepin' on!

-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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
G-Town's Comment
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To some extent, technically I agree with your instructor about thoroughly checking the tires. How can you visually check the treads and sidewalls if covered by snow? To his point, you can’t.

Although I don’t agree that he called any of you liars, he should have thoroughly explained why it’s important to brush the snow off the areas of the tire you must inspect.

Tires and brakes...the areas I spend the most time inspecting, inside and out. Can save your life.

Old School's Comment
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Professor X, I have to agree with G-Town on this one. Your instructor may be a little rough around the edges, but you've got to realize he wants to make sure you guys get this. You are the student. Keep that in mind at all times. You may be a great student, but you're not near as knowledgeable as your instructor. Nor do you have his years of experience. You may not like his teaching style but, as his student, you need to learn from it. You have a tendency to set your commentary up as it's us humble students against this ornery teacher, and I'd be very careful about that.

Here's why: The trucking industry is infiltrated with this whole "us against them" attitude and approach. It's a cancer on the industry in my opinion. It keeps many drivers from ever really enjoying their job and real success in their career. I'm sure you've been on some trucking web sites where this approach to the industry is evident. These are the folks we've come to know as "Terminal Rats." They foment with bad advice and are never doing well in their trucking careers. They are convinced that the industry is set up to keep drivers oppressed, and their complete mischaracterization of the industry keeps them at odds with everything that would help them have success. When you're a student, there is value in being humble, even if your teacher seems to be a jerk.

I honestly think your instructor was looking for one wise one among you who would have spoken up and said, "Well sir, I guess we kind of showed our lack of experience. We certainly could have missed a small nail in a tire due to it being covered in snow. Thanks for pointing that out to us. Now we have increased our understanding of just how thorough our pre-trip inspections need to be." That student would be headed for success out here, and that's the student your instructor was hoping to discover.

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.

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.

PacMan's Comment
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Hello Professor X,

Your diary is one of the reasons I joined this site. I would also agree with your instructor about checking the tires. There was a picture that I saw in the gallery section of some type of sharp object that was stuck through the thread of the drive tire horizontally. If that tire was covered in snow, there would have been no way to see that foreign object. As G-Town said, the treads can't be checked if they are covered in snow.

Keep up the great job and please keep your diaries coming. It is also said that instructors in any field are hard on the ones that they feel can do the job to make them better. I hope this is the path your instructor is taking with you.

Professor X's Comment
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I want to thank all of you for taking a moment to chime in on what I have been discussing. You're right, he is making sure we have the skills that will keep not only us, but also the public, alive. I understand what is being said, and I will do my best to put the right foot forward and humble myself. My concern, I feel, is placed in a different scenario, but I have bitten my lip every single day so far, and I will continue to do so moving forward.

As I have also mentioned in various other posts (during week 2), I do appreciate my instructor. I really do; and so do my cohorts in the same truck. Well... most of us, but I am not discussing that any further, it does not involve me. That said, I will be taking what he teaches me to the road and I hope to be a strong representation of what a person who has changed professions can do. Coming from higher education as an instructor to going OTR.

I will "salute" my instructor at the end of this, but it will come with a touch of disdain. It will be greatly appreciated. No matter what happens at this point going forward, I have learned so many of the skills, and practice will push me towards mastering them. I will never be satisfied and will be looking for ways to make myself better every single day. For the multitude of industries I have worked - higher ed teacher, DJ, body piercer, body guard/security, manager, etc - I have always tried to take myself to the next level, or to the top levels. I plan on being acknowledged for safety, as well as timeliness and courteousness to our customers.

I will make my instructor proud I was his trainee.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

Professor X's Comment
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Day 13 - Sick

Saturday's are short days. These are days where we sit inside, exclusively, and work on book skills (logging, Hazmat , personal matters, dealing with shippers and consignees, etc). We were learning some really standard things, such as Bill of Lading, detention time, tarping fees, etc, but then... I started to slowly shiver.

I went to Dunkin' Donuts this morning for breakfast and grabbed a coffee and breakfast sandwich. Although they did put creamer in, when I did not request that, I still drank my beverage. I think that, unintentionally, they may have given me food poisoning. I say this, because at first, it seemed like the flu. However, I had no fever. I had a stomach ache and my skin became hyper sensitive.

As I sat there, the shivers were building. Initially, I looked at one of my colleagues and commented, "I think I will go into the hot tub tonight. Not sure why I am so cold, but it will probably be nice." Well... I would not make it to the hot tub, nor have I made any effort to go there as the evening came in. Instead, I felt my body getting colder... and colder... and colder. I put on my super heavy work coat convinced that would fix the problem. I was only there in a t-shirt and jeans, along with the coat and my baklava. When I started to realize this wasn't really helping, I stepped away to the restroom for a bit of relief (no details, but deuces ^,^). The entire time, I was shivering worse and worse. The bathroom was horribly cold and I had to remove my jacket to take care of business.

I felt increasingly weaker by the minute. Made my way back out to the meeting and continued listening. Though, as I shivered more and more, I was losing all focus just trying to stay warm. Eventually, I had my jacket and baklava on and I was tucking my hands and fingers under my armpits. Some other trainees looked at me occasionally as I made more and more stutters with my shaking body. Eventually, I stand up and go to the back of the room. While standing there, it got worse. Soon, my toes were in pain, and my fingers could not hold on to any warmth at all. Not even coffee helped.

We took our last break and when the instructor came up to me, he asked if I was okay. Now, I try to be a tough guy most of the time. I will suffer through a range of things, including standing outside in 5 degree weather in shorts... Never get sick, as people think I am crazy. I stand outside in blazing heat (in Arizona), sweat coming down... I don't budge, unless my job calls for it. But this... I looked at my instructor, as what felt like death was slowly taking me over descended upon every part of my body. I grew colder and colder.

He said to go back to the hotel and get better. Took me much longer than it should have to grab all of my things and stumble out to my car (good thing I parked close by). I then headed back to the hotel where things grew worse every second. Keep in mind, I have not considered anything else other than the flu. I thought I would be down for 24 hours, or so, that I just needed to make it through the illness.

I burst into my room (more like staggered and nearly collapsed). I remove all of my clothes, take a quick bathroom break, and jump in bed. Oh, I also took out my Advil from the car and popped three of them. As I began to doze off, I woke after what seemed like 9 or 10 hours. I felt better, but just wanted to sleep more. I noticed the sun was out... which made no sense, if I had slept that long that is. After fighting with myself for about 15 minutes, I sit up...

I feel just fine, except now I am sweating because I upped the temperature in the room. I sat there for ten minutes just to make sure, then got my clothes back on and headed back to Roehl. The class had ended about 30 minutes prior, but I caught the instructor and apologized. For me, I was embarrassed. I never quit, I never give up. I have a tendancy to push my way through illnesses and discomfort all the time. Today, I was just defeated.

He was shocked that I came back, but told me that it would have been perfectly fine for me to have just spoken with him on Monday. After some light chat, I took off and haven't felt ill since (aside from a small headache). I contacted Dunkin' and informed that that I believe they should check their food stock because I think I got food poisoning from them. The manager tried to offer me some freebies, but I turned them down and clarified that, "I didn't call to get some freebies. I just wanted to make sure you were aware so you can check your foodstock. Just in case." She thanked me and I went about the rest of my day ^,^

Kudos to Roehl for being understanding, and for this instructor (first time I have ever met him) for being understanding. Hope Monday gets going with energy and fervor!

-Professor X

Consignee:

The customer the freight is being delivered to. Also referred to as "the receiver". The shipper is the customer that is shipping the goods, the consignee is the customer receiving the goods.

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

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

DAC:

Drive-A-Check Report

A truck drivers DAC report will contain detailed information about their job history of the last 10 years as a CDL driver (as required by the DOT).

It may also contain your criminal history, drug test results, DOT infractions and accident history. The program is strictly voluntary from a company standpoint, but most of the medium-to-large carriers will participate.

Most trucking companies use DAC reports as part of their hiring and background check process. It is extremely important that drivers verify that the information contained in it is correct, and have it fixed if it's not.

DWI:

Driving While Intoxicated

Jamie T's Comment
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I appreciate the updates. I'm starting with Roehl December 10th possibly and I'm nervous as hell. I'm leaving my full time job to pursue this with no experience worried about what if I don't succeed? I don't want to be that guy ducking everything up haha. Sounds like they train you decently though just gotta be sharp.

Professor X's Comment
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I'm starting with Roehl December 10th possibly and I'm nervous as hell.... Sounds like they train you decently though just gotta be sharp.

I would argue that, nervous is good. You should be coming into it with an attitude consisting of understanding and tenacity. Understand that it there is going to be a lot to learn. That said, have the tenacity to push through and not quit. If you have those two things, you should be fine. It seems overwhelming, but remember... you have 4 weeks to figure it out. Most guys who were panicking in week one are doing just fine, now.

As I have told my own students (when teaching them how to write essays and their thesis): Stop looking at the mountain. You know it's there. Instead, focus your attention on the path in front of you. The mountain is big and scary, but the path is small and manageable. Trust me, as your instructor, to get you to the top. Just do the tasks I ask you to do along the way.

Those who focused and did not quit... They succeeded ^,^

Good luck! Roehl has a great program, IMHO. Even if my instructor is a pain in the rump from time to timerofl-3.gif . I wouldn't have it any other way! good-luck.gif

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
G-Town's Comment
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Well Professor, glad your acute illness was short lived. Dealing with such things once solo has it’s own set of unique challenges. Sometimes it’s best to rest for a day when illness compromises the ability to concentrate and focus. Pressing-on regardless is neither prudent or encouraged.

I’d like to comment on this...

I understand what is being said, and I will do my best to put the right foot forward and humble myself. My concern, I feel, is placed in a different scenario, but I have bitten my lip every single day so far, and I will continue to do so moving forward.

This (above) may prove to be one of your greatest challenges. Experience has taught me; that which has defined our past, can and will affect our future...totally true. However it’s critically important to realize that trucking is the greatest equalizer, a confluence of diversity; ethnic, religious, economic and of course academically. “Fitting-in” is arguably one of the more important aspects of success.

Your challenge is to set-aside critical thinking applied to the delivery of material, and focus more on content. Realize that most all of your instructors are highly experienced truckers and NOT (usually) professional educators. The level of sophistication and intellect you have come to expect in your past experience is far less prevalent in trucking schools, private and Company Sponsored.

It’s obvious there is a pattern developing in your posts that ultimately can be a detriment and possibly retard your progress. My absolute best advice is to focus on being coachable, with a watchful eye and dedicated ear towards content. Forget about the delivery...it’s not going to meet your expectations and seems to be frustrating and distracting. Set it aside.

Trust me implicently; consistent humility will get you a whole lot further than outwardly critical thinking. This my friend will become far more important later as you are in a position of subordinance and must develop symbiotic relationships with personnel in authority that cannot hold a candle to your intellect, yet will have the power to make your life miserable if you project an aura of superiority. Please think about my observations and suggestions, it’s meant to be helpful, not critical.

I do sincerely wish you the best of luck.

Professor X's Comment
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Day 15 - Flatbeds

Today brought about a change up in our normal routine. Instead of working with a traditional trailer, we moved over to using flatbeds. This was exciting for myself, and many others, since this was the fleet we have been recruited for. Out of the 12 in my group, only 3 were going for reefer. The rest of us have been eager to explore what would be new when working with an open-air trailer.

Last week was a bit of the kickoff to get this ball rolling, as we were issued our load securement books and told to being reading the many chapters. We don't need to read every single chapter, but must cover the load-types we will be dealing with while working with Roehl. The appendix was first, since there were a multitude of unfamiliar terms we would need to know. Plus, the various regulations that are detailed were located in the back of the book.

I got that started and am looking forward to learning more as the week progresses. I am also looking forward to driving around and practicing more backing with the flatbed, as it gave a very different feel and perspective. More so on the backing. I should also mention that hooking-up was a bit odd. I had become used to the weight of the full trailer not allowing for too much movement when getting the jaw around the kingpin. This morning, I could feel the trailer give quite a bit, as it was lacking much of the weight one with sidewalls and a roof would have.

As we hit the afternoon, we set-out for backing maneuvers. I watched as my three other colleagues took their turn. I tend to wait, but am always ready to go if the instructor requests me to step-up. I could hear some comments about a different look, and that it felt awkward... They were right about that.

When it was my chance to get behind the wheel, I took on the advice my instructor gave about judging distance and doing proper setup procedures. It helped, but then it came to the moment of adjustments. I started to get myself tucked in when, all of a sudden, it looked warped. What I mean is, I had trouble seeing the angles I had grown used to when backing a full trailer. I had to sit there for a moment and really take it all in. It got even more awkward as I got into my straightback. I used my technique of watching the rear tandem , but it almost threw me out of whack! The trailer seem to get off course much faster, and I really had to tighten up my game!

My small adjustments became quite fickle, and if I let myself go on too long, I would come close to hitting those $70,000 cones. Not too long after getting myself aligned, though, I managed to see what was wrong and made the adjustments needed. Had to pull up twice, but it helped me get things back in order. Then, it came to the 90 degree. Nothing too horrible, just the same finicky and delicate movement from the offset and straightback earlier.

We took a break, got another go, and I made some improvements, while making some new mistakes and learning from them. It felt like quite a productive day ^,^

I also want to mention, it was the best day yet with my instructor. He came in with his most humble attitude ever, had a nice morning greeting; we shared a good chat with one another about our weekends and general life stuff; went about business as usual; and worked as an instructor and trainee should (IMHO). Again, I hear (read) the suggestions being brought forth. However, there is additional context that I do not always share on this forum that I think would affect the perception given. Again, thank you for the various insights and mentoring.

I am sure I will make him proud to know that he has put a safe, responsible, charismatic, and thoughtful driver on the road.

Pre-CDL testing tomorrow. Wish us luck!

-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.

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Reefer:

A refrigerated trailer.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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