FedEx Freight Driver Apprentice

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Banks's Comment
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FedEx Freight hired me as a permit holding driver apprentice a few months ago. A driver apprentice is a full time dock worker waiting for a spot to open up in the driver development course (DDC). FedEx does give you the option to travel locally or far as balls if there is an opening elsewhere. Another facility might have an opening if they offer the program but have no open city driver positions. Those instructors still have to work. If you do travel FedEx will give you a car rental and put you up in a hotel. I'm not sure if they reimburse for meals. The only perk to traveling in my opinion would be you get bumped up in seniority. For example I was hired before John Doe but John was willing to travel to the other side of the country for training, now John has seniority over me on the city board. Seniority is everything here.

What does being a dock worker entail? At a hub you get freight from all over the country. You move it from door A to door B. You deck trailers so that freight is stored high and tight and you don't mess up the freight. It's not hard but it's not easy. The hardest part for me was the overnight hours. I was running on 3 or 4 hours of sleep a day. A terminal is smaller than a hub. A terminal only deals with freight that gets delivered from that terminal. So you'd be loading city delivery trailers which is easier and harder at the same time. Easier because there is no decking and you load trailers with pallets facing forward. Harder because you have to make damaged freight pretty again so the customer doesn't flip out when they get it.

FedEx offers every benefit a big company offers. You get them on the first of the month on the following month after 30 days of hire. So if I got hired today, my 30th day would be July 21 and I'd have all my insurance on August 1. I don't know how the good the insurance is because insurance is one thing I don't understand. I go to the doctor and give them my card. If they want payment, I pay them. You are required to wear black steel toe boots. Fedex will reimburse you up to 60 dollars. FedEx has a pension plan and it's based on hours of service. They match 401k up to 5%. 100% of the 1% and 50% of the rest.

As a driver apprentice, I make 20 an hour with over time after 8 hours, not 40. Once I get my CDL I get my city driver offer and bumped up to 22 and a change an hour. Top pay is currently 28. With their raise history, I should be at 30 by the time I reach top pay.

I just completed my first week of training. I will update this thread as the posts get approved so that they're all in order.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Banks's Comment
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Prior to beginning the skills training, I had to take some computer based courses. They probably took about 20 hours. These 20 hours were hours that were supposed to be spent on the dock, so I did get paid for them. These courses covered everything from pretrips, post trips, and Smith systems to the safety technology FedEx uses it their trucks.

This program is 1 on 1 all the way through. It's just me and my trainer for 40 hours a week for 4 or 5 weeks. More pros and cons. Pro is I'm training all day every day. This is also a con because when you get frustrated and flustered you want to stop, but you don't. You push through it and keep going which can make it worse. I have the option to take a break at any time but I refuse to.

On day 1 it was me and another student (he has his own trainer). We watched some DVDs on pretrips, a message from the guy in charge at FXF (I forget his name and official title) and more Smith system. We received some books on pretrips and how to do one. Once that was done my trainer and I headed to the yard. He performed a pretrip walking me through everything. The pretrip at FedEx is way more than anything state required. They run down every component of that vehicle and check everything. It's not about a test, it's about safety. We then took the tractor and hooked it up to a trailer. After inspecting the combination we did the brake tests.

Now he gets out and let's me drive this 10 speed combination vehicle to the first training area. That area was maybe 300 feet away. I think I stalled about 5 times before he told me we'll work on that let's just roll down there in first.

The first skill was straight back. It took me about 2 hours to get this down. I had trouble catching the drift and I killed so many cones (RIP cones). Once I learned to catch the drift I backed up with no problem.

The next skill was a pull up and back in. You drive passed the spot and back in. It's different from the first skill because there are no guidelines. Just a spot you back in. I had no issues with this skill because I already learned how to straight back. At the end of the day we started 45 degree backing. I did not finish that skill.

We parked our trailer and did our post trip. We unhooked and I drove the tractor to the office. By now I'm able to shift up. I miss some gears and grind here and there, but I can shift up. I can't shift down. My coordination isn't there yet. In the office I get my daily progress report. I have to work on shifting, but overall a good day.

I meant do daily updates but when I got home I showered, ate and knocked out. I was exhausted.

Combination Vehicle:

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

Banks's Comment
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Day 2

We started our day by doing a written log of a hypothetical work day. We went out and I performed the pretrip. I did decent for my first pretrip ever. I drove the tractor to the trailer. Still grinding gears still not being able to downshift. I was able to back to the tractor into the trailer getting the kingpin into the locking jaw with no difficulty. After the pretrip it was back to the 45.

We spent all day on this and I could not get it without my trainer standing next to tractor walking me through it. I got it on my own here and there but in order to get passed a skill in this course you have to be able to do it consistently. You back in at a 45 degree angle and you get one pull-up. Later in the day another instructor came up and told me I was moving to fast. He said I was attempting to complete this maneuver at a rate of speed they wouldn't try and they have 35 years of experience between them. I explained to him that when I used the breaks I drain my air tanks and my emergency breaks go off. He told me to slow it down by using the clutch. I got out of the tractor and he showed me how to fan the clutch. Going slower made a world difference, but now it's the end of the day. We do our post trip and unhook and then back to the office.

Progress report says I have to work on shifting. My pretrip was decent, but I had trouble remembering part names. Uncoupling and post trip were good.

Banks's Comment
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Day 3

We started with another daily log and hypothetical work day. This one was a little more complicated as they will continue to be. Once that was done we went out to the yard. My pretrip was better than the day before. I coupled the vehicle and further indirect it. My brake test was good. I know what to do, I don't know how to say it for the state examiner.

We start the day thinking my 45 skill should be done within a couple of hours. And it should've been. I'm going slower now and I'm able to react to my trailer reacting. I get it parallel (sometimes better than others) and I use my pull up. I can't back it in for anything. My setup is perfect, my backing is perfect, my pull-up is perfect but I can't back it in. I always end up in the cones in some awkward shape not sure on how to get my tractor in front of the trailer with 3 feet behind me and combating car driving instincts. By close to the end of the day my trainer and I are both frustrated beyond belief because the pull-up back in is supposed to be the easiest part of this.

At one point he comes up to the window and tells me "you have to listen to me and not your instincts. If you the instincts for this you wouldn't need an instructor. I'm here to teach you these instincts". I know he's right, but I can't get out of my head and keep making the same mistakes. At this point it's just the frustration taking over. The next time he comes up to me he tells me "look, in 2 or 3 weeks I'll be here doing what I do with a new student. You will either be a full-time city driver making 60 or so your first year or you'll be a part-time dock worker making 16 an hour getting 20 hours a week. It's up to you, but we have to get this done. Stop effing it up and listen to me. "

At this point I'm almost in tears because he's right. I can't afford to mess this up and I can't afford to start from scratch. Before the day was over I was able to get it done twice consistently. They weren't pretty, but they were bare minimum to get passed this skill.

I spent 2 and a half days on this skill and I'm worried about how far behind I've fallen. I already know I'm going to need a remedial week to finish up the yard skills. Progress report says usual shifting issues. My brake test was good, but learn the script. I'm happy that the 45 is over with.

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.

Banks's Comment
member avatar

Day 4

We start the day with another log that's more complicated than the last. My trainer drew up some diagrams to help me when I'm in those impossible positions I put myself in. He calls them "baby training wheel cheat sheets".

We go out to the tractor and jump in to log in to our ELD. When we're in the truck my trainer asks me "Do you know why I do this?" I don't so I say no.

He says "about 10 years ago I was working for a printing company. I worked there for years. One day my boss came up to me and said we're going out of business you'll have a job for 30 more days. I was living paycheck to paycheck but I was able to support my family. Now I have no job, no savings and experience in a dying field. FedEx gave me an opportunity with this same program your in and now I take trips and vacations I was never able to take before and money isn't a worry for me. This isn't about me making money because I make less money now than I did as a driver. I'm a salaried employee with no overtime. I want to pass to this forward. I want you to succeed more than you want you to succeed because I can tell you need this and I want to give it to you. I just need you to listen to me and forget everything you know about driving and I promise I can get you there."

I do the pretrip. I follow the path of parts and hit everything. I just forget a few part names. I couple the tractor trailer and perform my brake test. Nailed it, but I added stuff to the script. Don't add anything, just say what you're doing. Don't say why just say what. We're off to a new skill. It's the 90 degree alley dock. 90 degree alley dock 1 pull-up. Do it 3 times consistently and we're on to the next. I start it and it only takes me a hand full of times to get the timing. I get parallel and use my pull up. Guess where I end up. In the cones in some weird awkward position with 3 feet behind me. No pullups left and no room to work. I grab my "baby training wheels cheat sheet" look at it and make the moves I need to make to have my tractor in line with trailer and my DOT bumper in that 3ft box. I'm done with this skill within a couple of hours. Now I know why I had to do the 45. More often than not you end up there when you do your pull-up from the 90. I'm able to do both now because I can fix my parallel line.

Next we have the offset from both sides. The difficult part here is using the little mirrors. Things look distorted in that mirror. I took my time with it fanning the clutch and doing this with the instructions I was given. I'm in the tractor talking to myself. "I want the trailer to kick left so I'll turn it right. Give it some angle, take it away". By the end of the day this skill is done.

We do our post trip, unhook and take the tractor to maintenance for some work it needs. On the walk back my instructor tells me he's proud of me. We went from being border line flunk out to right back in the game. He told me people fail this program for 2 reasons. 1) they just don't have the coordination to do it or 2) it's too hard and they quit. I told him I don't quit and he said then I'll do fine because the coordination is there.

End of the day progress report says I have to work on shifting and my brake test needs polishing.

Now I'm off for 3 days and looking forward to resting. I left there Thursday exhausted and my head feeling like it's going to explode. Next week we have parallel parking from both sides and the blind side 45.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Rob T.'s Comment
member avatar

Very well written Banks. You're taking a route very few here have taken and your experiences both with getting ready for your exam and making it through your first year will help many people. As its always said, many people will be following along but many won't comment. Keep up the good work, you're getting there.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Banks's Comment
member avatar

Very well written Banks. You're taking a route very few here have taken and your experiences both with getting ready for your exam and making it through your first year will help many people. As its always said, many people will be following along but many won't comment. Keep up the good work, you're getting there.

Thanks Rob. I'm going to try to keep up with this, at the very least weekly. A few things I forgot to mention.

1) If you want to go this route I suggest having your permit before applying. Chances are you will not get a call back if you don't.

2) Your first week of training is all yard work. Learning how the trailer reacts and how to react to it.

Week 2 will either be a yard remedial week (my case) or a week of street driving. If you cannot pass the skills necessary by the end of week 2, you're done with the program.

After street driving is complete you go out with a road driver mentor for a week.

After the road driver you go out with a city driver mentor for a week and that completes the program.

3) I recommend ordering the long shirts because your shirt has to be tucked in. You will also need a flashlight because FedEx requires all pretrip components under the tractor trailer be done with a flashlight, regardless of the time of day.

4) I like even numbers. Call it a quirk.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Craig L.'s Comment
member avatar

What state are you in? I am near Boca Raton Florida and tried to find a position like this but haven't come across anything yet. Curious to follow the journey and learn how you came across this.

Banks's Comment
member avatar

What state are you in? I am near Boca Raton Florida and tried to find a position like this but haven't come across anything yet. Curious to follow the journey and learn how you came across this.

I came across a hiring ad on indeed for Driver Apprentice. You can also check the FedEx website under the careers tab.

PackRat's Comment
member avatar

What state are you in? I am near Boca Raton Florida and tried to find a position like this but haven't come across anything yet. Curious to follow the journey and learn how you came across this.

It reads North East, PA on his profile.

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