Starting TDI Tomorrow

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Rockin' Rick's Comment
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Editor's Note: Check out our very thorough review of TDI Truck Driver Institute

Hi everyone!

My name is Rick. I'm starting school tomorrow with TDI in Richburg, SC.

My background is that I'm retired US Army and I have about ten years of law enforcement and I'm a certified fire fighter, volunteering here with the city FD.

The TDI recruiter has been pretty cool and gave me good advice about getting pre-hire letters. So far, I have a pre-hire letter from Covenant and I got an email from Melton. I spoke with the folks from Swift prior to signing on with TDI and I've been using their CDL prep, along with the TT material, to get ready.

I've made sure I had all my medical ducks in a row and have been cleared, there. In 2010 I rolled out to SLC to train with C.R. England but I didn't have the doctors medical release (DMR) beforehand, and one of my docs didn't give me top cover and I had to head back to the greyhound station far too soon.

The main reason I chose TDI is that I'll be able to use my VA benefits to pay for school. And I've been leaning towards TMC and Covenant because I'll be able to continue receiving my Post 9/11 GI Bill benefits while training! My recruiter told me to expect to hear from a lot of recruiters while there at school, so I'm keeping an open mind.

A high school buddy of mine happens to be prepping for the TDI school in Milton, FL and May be a week behind me. So I already have a opportunity to have a team ready to roll once I get through school and training. First things, first.

Thanks, Brett, for creating this site. It's been a refreshing source of info while trying to decide when to bust a move in to the trucking world. My brothers have both been drivers, and my bro PJ drives a dedicated route now for CRST, after having driven for Schneider hauling HAZMAT tankers for several years. My younger bro, KC, didn't take to the ride...so I've had a balance of resources to work with.

Back to studying...and my honey-do-this list!

Have a great day, Rick

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

Dedicated Route:

A driver or carrier who transports cargo between regular, prescribed routes. Normally it means a driver will be dedicated to working for one particular customer like Walmart or Home Depot and they will only haul freight for that customer. You'll often hear drivers say something like, "I'm on the Walmart dedicated account."

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.

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.
Brett Aquila's Comment
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Hey Rick - how did school get started off?

Rockin' Rick's Comment
member avatar

Hi Brett,

On day 4 and all is well, so far, thank you.

The hurdle I was most concerned about was the DOT physical. Four years ago I took the dirty dog ride to Salt Lake City from SC. Found out the hard way that I should of talked to my doc before I left. He didn't give me the green light because it had been a while since I'd seen him. Makes sense, but I was hot and was PO'd all the way back to SC.

This time, thanks to Jeff from TDI, I got a "doctor's medical release" from my current MD which made the physical a snap!

My week one instructor has logged 1.5 million miles of OTR driving, and taught me enough to get my CDL on my first try. I also took and passed the written tests for hazmat and tankers. The CDL prep here, on trucking truth.com, and from my high speed instructor gave me all I needed.

An interesting, as in unexpected, part of our first school day was filling out applications for 18 trucking companies. That process is all about getting "pre-hire" letters. I got pre-hires from about half of them, some of which I'd never heard of before walking into the classroom.

After listening to a couple of recruiter presentations and contacting some companies myself, I believe more now than ever that There is great opportunity in the world of Professional Driving and I can be as successful as I want to be. Choosing a company has been foremost on my mind. There are companies guaranteeing weekend home time and some guaranteeing a chance to go OTR and log some miles. I would like to lease myself a truck and become a trainer. The company I'm leaning towards requires their trainers to have a year's experience before they can instruct. I can't help but think that having a more experienced initial trainer will be a good thing.

Now, I'm getting psyched for next week. We'll work on pre-inspections and maneuvering combination vehicles around TDI's back yard.

Be safe! Rick

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

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.

Combination Vehicle:

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

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.

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.

Pre-hires:

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.

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.

Rockin' Rick's Comment
member avatar

TDI Week 2

Well, today was the big day as my class got out onto the road with our instructors. After driving for a couple of hours I can safely say both that I had a blast and that I suck when it comes to double-clutch shifting a ten speed transmission. The good new is that our instructor, Jeff, is the man! The other good news is that I know I will get better. I have a few miles of good shifting, and then brain cramp and stress because I can't find the gears. When I'm distracted by driving through a town, I shifted without thinking about it...and that's what I'm working towards...the shifting becoming second nature.

There's a great article here on TT by an instructor describing the first time he taught double clutching... I can't help but agree that the instructors here will have more to talk about tomorrow over coffee following my class's first day on the road.

Be saf...have a great day!

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Old School's Comment
member avatar
I would like to lease myself a truck and become a trainer.

Rick, I wouldn't recommend that you jump into a lease any time soon. Just try and get yourself established in your career for now. The trucking company yards are littered with abandoned lease trucks. There's just way too much risk and unanticipated pit-falls for a beginner to understand what it is that he's really committing to in a truck lease. In reality, most company drivers come out making way more than your average lease operator. And the primary reason the lease operators have turned to training is that they need the extra cash flow just to keep their heads above water.

Rockin' Rick's Comment
member avatar

Hi Old School!

I will definitely heed your, and Brett's advice! I plan to learn as much as I can over the next year or so before I jump into that world. My TDI instructor, Jeff, has described to me and my classmates what it was like for him as an owner-operator and the expenses that go along with it. While we were out today on our second day on the road, he took us by a couple of truck stops and showed us some of those magazines listing a bunch of the companies looking for experienced drivers and one that was full of tractors for sale. A few of the lots were full of trucks as you mentioned were most likely returned leased trucks. I'm sure there is a smart way to venture into that business world. If there is, I may try it. And I know that I can be a trainer as a company driver, too.

I had a much better day double-clutching this afternoon. I still tend to get into a rush, fight the truck, and lost that battle every time!

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Love the daily log. Keeps my interest in the business...er...lifestyle. Hoping to start TDI within a week, no more than 2. Your experience is a breath of fresh air to all the negative forums out the. TT is so open book. Keep on moving!

Rockin' Rick's Comment
member avatar

Glad I could help, PC!

They had a pizza party Friday as the seniors, week 3 guys and gals, graduated and received their blue envelopes containing their diplomas and loan paperwork, if applicable. They all had passed their road test, their skills test, and Thursday morning passed their pre-trip inspection test; the whole class scored 94 or 95 out of a possible 95 points! They also received an appointment to come back and take the final exam, so to speak. South Carolina law mandates that CDL students have to wait 48 hours from graduating, at 5:30 pm Friday, to take their state road test, driving skills and PTI tests. The schools CDL examiner, Bobby, said it takes about three hours to give each student their tests.

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.
Rockin' Rick's Comment
member avatar

Week 3 Tuesday

This is day four of our road training. Because of an impending snow storm on the way here to north central South Carolina, our instructor gave us the option of taking our road test today. I passed mine on the first try, thank the Lord.

My shifting in this old Freightliner owned me until yesterday. As we headed to lunch in Myrtle Beach, I started using a mantra that I used in Army basic training: click, click, boom. Getting that rhythm in my mind helped me get the double clutch beat, so to speak. It reminded me to stop flooring the clutch as if I were shifting a car five speed. It also reminded me to breathe and stop fighting the truck. I was rushing myself when taking off from a red light, trying to keep up with the pack as if I were in my old Maverick! Click click boom, and I crushed that test.

The snow is hitting most of SC right now. We have been in a slot between the snow fronts. It looks though like the back end of that atmospheric cul de sac is about to catch us. My partner and I plan to get our night driving in...and we should be able to get some of it in before we have to head back to the barn.

Y'all be safe!

Rick

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.

Rockin' Rick's Comment
member avatar

Week 3. Thursday

Two more days! We are piled in the classroom waiting for class to start. The snow kept us off the highway yesterday so we, the six of us, are looking forward to again hittin the highway.

The snow and ice changed up our schedule. We tested on our PTI yesterday and we all passed. We then had time to practice alley docking. I finally got the hang of it with the help of J.B., another one of our driving instructors. I have been able to get the trailer in the box straight as an arrow...then I was stuck. I've been trying to do it the way our first instructor showed us...by putting it all the way to the dock without having to pull up. He made it look so easy I didn't consider any other way. JB introduced me to the idea of pulling up and straightening the the trailer and then straight line backing it in. I kinda felt stupid, but easy solutions are always welcome and I got over myself and put it right in there! What a great feeling...

I have to get my night driving hours in tonight. The guys and I are trying to figure where we can go, get something good to eat, and then work our way back. Rumor has it that we will be in three trucks today instead of two. I'm sure the schedule rearrangement has something to do with that rumor and the kernel of truth at its center. Three trucks would allow us to stay out for 8 hours instead of twelve. But we can cover a lot of turf in eight hours

Tomorrow, we take our final test for the school: the road skills test comprised of alley docking, serpentine, stop box, and straight line backing. They have it set up so that it's all one maneuver on the pad in front of the school, here on SC Hwy 9. Once we pass that, we get our blue envelope which we can't open until we hand it to the folks at the DMV , so they can open it. They'll then schedule us to come back next week to see Bobby, our on-site examiner who will administer the actual state of SC CDL test. I stand corrected...we don't get that blue envelope until Bobby gives us his blessing...better than last rites; that's how nervous I am about that final exam.

Y'all stay safe and stay warm, Rick

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.

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.

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