Roehl 2018 Training: My Blog, By Professor X

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Professor X's Comment
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Day 16 - Pre-CDL Test

The day kicked off as normal, nothing really new to report. We got to our truck, conducted pre-trip, set off to get a flatbed trailer, and then...

INSTRUCTOR SWITCH!

Okay, so we already knew this was coming, no big surprise, there. However, it was a shock to another group of four trainees, as they were facing off with our leader. I guess there was some ball-busting and a bit of high anxiety that made its way to another truck throughout the day. Whereas, our truck became much more relaxed. Sort of.

Thing is, I have grown so accustomed to the hard-nosed attitude of my instructor, it is now a part of me. This is a good thing, and I fully embrace it. I am here to become the best I can possibly be before hitting the road and honing my skills for the foreseeable future. I have taken my intensity to the road, where I passed my pre-CDL test with flying colors ^,^ So much so, the instructor with us didn't even pull me aside for notes. He just said, you made this simple error, which you already know, and this other on a super hard turn.

That was it. plus, with my backing, I scored zero points!... For those who are unaware, and I am really speaking to those not in the industry: the CDL test, when scoring, is like golf-ish. You cannot get fewer than zero. However, you want as close to zero as possible. I did one pull-up on my offset and one pull-up on my 90 degree. Booyeah!

Sorry for the over-excitement. I am very proud and know that, even through that hardened exterior, my instructor is proud. Now, he is only going to find ways to make me even better ^,^ Which, I am sure will come with more challenges! Bring them on!

As for the rest of my cohorts in the same truck, one did fine and as expected. Another struggled a bit, but again, as expected (or, as I would come to expect). Plus, this person also scrapped the curb... Ooops! Auto-fail, although it was the second to last turn of the route. The instructor with us said this person would be fine, just to avoid ever doing it during the actual test. Then there was the one who has been struggling greatly. This person did not fare so well on the backing. I do not want to go into any further details, but suffice it to say, it did not go well at all.

It was interesting to hear from the truck who got our instructor, though, that a couple of those drivers actually appreciated him being with them. They learned about things they had not learned earlier! Kudos to my instructor! Again, hard-nosed and unforgiving, he gets the job done ^,^ Plus, it was great to hear another trainee made improvements with their shifting from just one day with our instructor. He may be mean, but he helps everyone who wants to learn and get on the road.

My tone has definitely switched from two weeks ago. It is even evident in the truck with all four of us... Mostly. Those who struggle may seek out others to blame. Just saying. Also, as I mentioned, as much as I gripe on here, there are things that occur from which I do not divulge on here. It is what has made this all work very well. Tomorrow, I believe we find out when we will test, and also, unfortunately, who will be cut (if any). I am not sure what will happen, but I do know it is possible some will be asked to leave. Again... Hope it is nobody!

Not much else to report. I will say this, though: With all of my experience with Roehl so far, I highly recommend giving this place a shot. Especially if safety on the road is an outspoken trait you wish to have in your truck. For me, it seems like a great fit! When all of this is said and done, I will try and reconfirm my opinion and would be happy to speak more with anyone interested in learning more.

-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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Professor X's Comment
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Day 17

Really, not all that much to say. We are getting closer to when we will test (next week), and so each day is just about jumping through the right hoops and keeping things consistent; or improving upon the skills we should be honing. One of my fellow trainees in the truck came down with a hell of a flu. Hope that person feels better soon!

Actually, I could talk briefly about the expanded, and slightly new, route our instructor took us on; also, that I was the first to go. It was a bit stressful, as we took new roads that had unexpected twists and turns. I was caught off guard a number of times with road signs that I was not expecting, awkward speed-limit changes, as well as stumbling across non-truck routes and how to handle them. I was able to avoid any major mistakes, other than forgetting to roll down my windows at the first set of train tracks I was headed past. It was interesting, and the added stress helped me find my weaknesses. It also helped me identify where I have become stronger ^,^

I am very confident that my shifting will continue to sharpen and fine-tune. My backing is getting better and better, but I still need to trust myself and stop second guessing my large angles. I know what I am doing, I just need to trust that I did things right and that I put my trailer in the right spot. Limited, if not just shy of zero grinds on the gears, and I learned how to properly double down... Actually, that was a great thing to learn today! Doubling down is a real treat, and super helpful ^,^

We do have tomorrow off and I would like to wish all a happy holiday! Roehl is doing something special for all of us who attending training (those who are far away from home), so tomorrow should be eventful ^,^ Although, we do have the day off and are free to do whatever. All around, a good day ^,^

Be back Friday evening... Cheers!

-Professor X

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
G-Town's Comment
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Doubling Down...a great skill to learn and a necessary one when ascending a steep grade under a heavy load.

It’s getting real now. Good Luck!

PacMan's Comment
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Sheesh, I missed two days of story time. Professor X, I am thinking of attending Roehl's school and I wanted to know do they have cabin facing cameras and do they have team driving positions.

Professor X's Comment
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Day 19 & Day 20

Sorry about Friday. I had gotten into bed when I remembered that I did not write a blog, but I was too tired. Not too much to discuss, as far as differences go. Actually, it brings me to the point to where I have to say, there hasn't been much difference, so it is difficult to really discuss my experience, other than the direct, first-hand stuff. Guess that is why I have been feeling increasingly narcissistic with my posts.

It is what it is.

That said, Friday was more of the same. Driving and backing... but, that was a very good thing, because our CDL test is next week. I am not too sure which day I am testing, but I do know I will be one of the first to go. I have stood out and above, so they try to get those out of the way early. Also, it gives the others who are not as adept to get a couple more days in. I expect to test on Tuesday, but will not know definitively until Monday.

Our regular, hard-nosed instructor had the day off. Although it is always good to have his tutelage, some of the others breathed a sigh of relief with his absence. I have grown fond of his rigid teaching methods, as I feel they have gotten myself, as well as the others, to the point we are. It should be noted that on the day of pre-CDL tests, another truck had our instructor for the whole day. Some of them nearly quit, but from what I understand, that one day with him made a HUGE difference. On Friday, the instructor who was assigned that group said that all of those trainees made improvements. He went from wanting to fire them all, to tolerable and potentially capable of passing.

Sure, a rough instructor may suck, but you will learn the most from them. I would argue, though, that there is tough and rigid; then, there are bullies. At least we didn't have to deal with a bully the whole time. However misplaced with odd sarcasm, he got the job done, IMHO. I would do it all over again with his lead if I had to.

As for the driving and backing, the instructors implemented a time limit and "you're out" rule, where if you go out-of-bounds, the next person gets to go. I couldn't have been happier to hear this. For so many days now, I have had to sit by and watch as some of my colleagues would spend 20, 25, 30 minutes, even more on a whole backing exercise. This had left me with days where I had only gotten one, maybe two, chances to practice backing. Luckily, I picked up on this skill very quickly, but that does not change the fact that I could always use more practice; we all could.

With the time restrictions and out-of-bounds rules in place, I actually got to go three times! Usually taking me no more than 6-8 minutes to complete an offset and 90 degree. That included setup and prep time. I feel that I would be to the point of no-stop backing had I gotten more time behind the wheel (... maybe ^,^).

The backing was in the morning, and he driving was in the afternoon. With a substitute instructor in the lead, we were given a whole new place to travel. I am not sure how they select routes, but we got out into the open roads for a while. Not that there are too many -open- roads in rural Wisconsin (I am thinking huge highways), but we were countryside on county roads. We passed through a number of small towns, but had long stretches where we could just coast along at 55 mph. It was really nice to have that chance. Also, it allowed for more opportunities to downshift suddenly, since cars opting to turn left could force us to bring things down to a halt. Then, progressive shift that rig back up to 10th as efficiently as possible! All in all, it was a fun day.

At the end, the instructor wanted to help a couple of the trainees out who were struggling with the basics of straight-line backing. So, the end of the day consisted of myself and the other trainee who was performing well standing off to the side watching the others follow the concrete landing pad for a few hundred feet. One picked up on it quickly. The other... I think they will need more time. Even with that, I have my doubts.

Anyways, as for Saturday (today), we covered reading our road atlas and planning our hours, as well as estimating if trips were possible. It was a bit bland at first, but by the late morning, we were having a good time with the instructor who was there.

Have to admit, I am glad I put these two days in one post. I would have had almost nothing to say about today ^,^

Next week is the big week (CDL test), plus hands-on training for load securement!

-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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Professor X's Comment
member avatar

Sheesh, I missed two days of story time. Professor X, I am thinking of attending Roehl's school and I wanted to know do they have cabin facing cameras and do they have team driving positions.

Hey PacMan,

They do have cabin facing cameras. They preach a high level of safety on part of the drivers, but also to cover our butts when someone does something bad to us. There is an option to fire up the recording, say if someone cut you off, raged, or tried to run you off the road. When it comes to working for companies like this, I embrace the cameras. I worked for a different company in a different industry prior to this, and that camera was absolutely crucial. Additionally, when you are in sleeper berth , I guess I have heard that covering up the camera is what most drivers do. The camera is only supposed to activate when certain events occur (sudden jolts, accidents, tipping).

As for the team driving, it wasn't something I was interested in, or considering, so I never asked. You could always just ask the recruiters. I think I heard some asking about it, so maybe it's possible (shrug).

Good luck with whatever you choose!

-Professor X

Sleeper Berth:

The portion of the tractor behind the seats which acts as the "living space" for the driver. It generally contains a bed (or bunk beds), cabinets, lights, temperature control knobs, and 12 volt plugs for power.

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.

Professor X's Comment
member avatar

Doubling Down...a great skill to learn and a necessary one when ascending a steep grade under a heavy load.

It’s getting real now. Good Luck!

G-Town,

I agree! It was actually a nice treat, and it lent some validation to the hard work I have put in. He made it a point to say that for all of us to use it, we need to have the other skills down. He then looks at those not doing so well and tells them to not use this for now. It was something that really helped me know that he appreciates the effort I have been putting in. It will make me work harder in the coming days, for sure.

Thanks!

-Professor X

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Susan D. 's Comment
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Doubling Down? I'm not sure what that is unless you all are just talking about skipping gears maybe?

G-Town's Comment
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Doubling Down? I'm not sure what that is unless you all are just talking about skipping gears maybe?

Slang for downshifting from (for instance) 7th to 5th...etc. I’ve only used this on one hill just east of I-81 coming out of Mauser’s Potato farm. The hill is 12-14 degrees of uphill grade.

Professor X's Comment
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Day 22 - CDL-eve

Walked in to work/training today with the same attitude I always do: ready to learn, ready to work. Not that it really mattered, as I performed with great aptitude all day (yes, ego in full bloom.... look out ^,^). We were back on the simulator to start off the morning. Faced with adverse weather, we dealt with trying to get out of potential jack knife scenarios, as well as typical sliding, skidding, etc. Fared well, then my instructor tried to place me in fog. Handled it quite well, if you ask me ^,^

If you ask him, he found some room for improvement ^,^

After a short break, we went out for some backing with a different instructor. Seems our instructor was staying inside to run the simulator. Maybe they were short-handed with those who have the skills to run the device. No matter, we got out there and I just killed it! Taking me less than 5 minutes to hit both backing maneuvers: Offset and 90 degree. More importantly, if score was being kept, I would have scored 0 on two different attempts ^,^

Actually, one was a 10... I got ****y and honked my horn to signify I was in the box for the 90 degree... was about 6 inches off, lol.

After lunch, we made our way out to the roads. The first trainee ran into some very familiar issues they have been dealing with. I noticed that our instructor kept quiet for a large portion of this person's trip. It seems that whether our instructor is talking or not, this individual needs to work on consistency. I wish them luck! They will not test until Wednesday, so there is an extra day to smooth out the rough parts.

I was up next. I felt like I was in my element. I was in the zone! Smooth shifting, progressive shifting, flow of traffic, easy merging, and even doubled down at will. If my test was today, it would have been a done deal ^,^ Good news is, my test is tomorrow! 9:30 am, to be precise. My instructor had me running around for a good 45 minutes, dealing with roundabouts, congested city streets, and near-blind turns. Even my cohorts complimented the smooth ride ^,^

I was on cloud 9 ^,^

The other two trainees went after me, and for the one, it was the same old story. Grinding gears, poor shifting, near misses, almost off the road, etc. It was a tad bit nerve racking, but I am almost used to the chaos... not that I want it to continue, by any means. The other trainee did well, but is still making some habitual mistakes. I know this person can fare quite well when need be, so it will just be timing when they test on Wednesday.

We finished off the day with one more backing exercise, and it all just came together, once again. Tomorrow is show time! I got this!

Time for some rest. I want to feel fresh in the morning ^,^ Wish me 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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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