A New Beginning At Advance School Of Driving (Fontana, CA)

Topic 2611 | Page 1

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Eric C. (Easy E)'s Comment
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About me:

I am a 41 year old male who has been in the technology industry for about 25 years, primarily in management positions. I was lad off in January 2013, and have been out of work since. Talking to recruiters in Southern California, I have been told that for every technology position (including management) that is open, they estimate there are over 400 applicants trying to land that job. The prospects are not getting any better. I could blame our government for making it cost prohibitive to operate in the US, and for not taxing the crap out of import goods, but that won't get me a paycheck, right now anyway.

I have wanted to be a truck driver since I was a little kid. Growing up, I worked in a specialty auto repair shop and got to drive pretty much everything except a combination vehicle. All kinds of cars, trucks, RVs, buses, cab and chassis internationals, even a 1977 Peterbilt dump with a 4 speed brownie box (that was a terrifying experience at 18) through the streets of downtown Los Angeles.

I met my wife about the same time, strangely enough, while T-hunting on the CB radio. Hey, don't judge! We have been together ever since, and evenly yoked. Over the years we agreed that we wanted to retire by driving around the country in our own truck, picking up loads as needed, and making money while visiting our family, friends, and experiencing America. Like I said, that was the retirement plan.

And so it begins...

With circumstances such as they are, my wife suggested I get a start on this as not much else was knocking on the door. So, I contacted the local Employment Development Department, and got connected with a W[orkforce] I[nvestment] A[ct] administrator. They offered me the option of going to a local school in Lancaster, CA (Hi-Desert Truck Driving School). I had not seen many positive comments about them, so I asked to attend another school of my choice. I found Advance School of Driving (ASD) about 90 minutes from home, and inked the enrollment contract.

After going to the school to get the contract inked, I then went to get my DOT physical at the Ontario Testing Center. I thought I had everything squared away... but, the doctor wanted a letter from my current treating physician for my sleep apnea treatment. No big deal, right? Except I have not been working in a year, and don't have a regular doctor, and don't have insurance. So I begin the hunt to find a new doctor, as I only have two weeks before school is supposed to start.

Now, I am beginning to get worried. I am a big guy at just under 300 lbs, so I know my BMI will force a sleep study and all that entails of I start over. So I start calling, and calling, and calling... finally, my wife's doctor agrees to talk to me. I tell him what I am trying to accomplish and what I need from him. He is very apprehensive, as I would expect him to be. He grills me about the therapy, my pressures, usage cycles, consistency, sleep tendencies, sleeping position, diet, exercise, etc. He said he would agree to treat me, and we agreed to a follow up visit, and that we would get me an updated sleep study as soon as I had insurance. In the mean time, he agreed on a cash basis, and wrote me the letter I needed, and faxed it to the DOT doctor. Woot! and with only 2 days to spare.

Talked to the DOT doctors office later that day, and they had received it. Now I just wait for school to start. Since I am going to be 90-120 minute commute from home, I found a guy on craigslist that will allow me to room with him for $15/day. Now keep in mind I am not able to go to any of the terminals because I am not going through any of the company sponsored training programs. I hope this guy is not an axe murderer or my new career may be "cut" short. hahaha. ok I just could't resist.

Talked to the guy on the phone and he just moved down to So Cal, and needs help paying for the motel. Seems like a decent guy, I cross my fingers and agree to the deal, it's only for a month anyway, right? Turns out to be a good kid, and we get along well. It works for a place to crash and shower. So I make plans to head down on Sunday nights, and come home on Friday afternoons. Next is to get my stuff together. I am certainly not rolling in cash, so in addition to gas in my Ram 1500 to and from San Dimas, I also have the daily commute 30 minutes into Fontana, plus $75/week for a room, plus food, etc. This is going to cost me a bit outta pocket, and with Unemployment being cut off at the first of the year, I am already running short.

The wife and I set about getting provisions together. This part is nothing new. I spent the last 3-1/2 working years commuting like this weekly. So that kinda prepared us for this. Home made beef jerky, PB&J, cereal, bananas, apples, and Subway $5 footlongs ($2.50 per meal!!) will easily carry me through. Clothes packed, 5 gallon water container in the truck, ice chest for milk, and whatever. And it's time to head out on Sunday night to meet the new roomie face to face and get settled for the week. (to be continued...)

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.

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.

Sleep Apnea:

A physical disorder in which you have pauses in your breathing, or take shallow breaths, during sleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Normal breathing will usually resume, sometimes with a loud choking sound or snort.

In obstructive sleep apnea, your airways become blocked or collapse during sleep, causing the pauses and shallow breathing.

It is a chronic condition that will require ongoing management. It affects about 18 million people in the U.S.

BMI:

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat. For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. The BMI's biggest weakness is that it doesn't consider individual factors such as bone or muscle mass. BMI may:

  • Underestimate body fat for older adults or other people with low muscle mass
  • Overestimate body fat for people who are very muscular and physically fit

It's quite common, especially for men, to fall into the "overweight" category if you happen to be stronger than average. If you're pretty strong but in good shape then pay no attention.

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.

Company Sponsored Training:

A Company-Sponsored Training Program is a school that is owned and operated by a trucking company.

The schooling often requires little or no money up front. Instead of paying up-front tuition you will sign an agreement to work for the company for a specified amount of time after graduation, usually around a year, at a slightly lower rate of pay in order to pay for the training.

If you choose to quit working for the company before your year is up, they will normally require you to pay back a prorated amount of money for the schooling. The amount you pay back will be comparable to what you would have paid if you went to an independently owned school.

Company-sponsored training can be an excellent way to get your career underway if you can't afford the tuition up front for private schooling.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Eric C. (Easy E)'s Comment
member avatar

I guess this would be the next installment, so let me start by saying there has been a lot going on. Charles W. sent me a message, and this is essentially my reply to him...

Yes I did complete the 160 hr course at ASD. They are a great school and I endorse them to everyone I talk to. The instructors are awesome, the staff is awesome... What to know: - They do not provide housing, so if you live out of the area, you should plan for that. - They also do not provide meals, plan for that. - The job placement is "meh", basically they can give you phone numbers, but they are the same as you can get yourself on the internet.

You will learn to drive a tractor trailer combination. The truck will be a sleeper model so you will learn to use your side mirrors correctly. This is different than a large number of the schools that basically have you drive a day cab. Big difference in the experience.

Here are some things that I wish I would have known before starting....

Practice, Practice, Practice.

*** FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELT ***

KNOW all the parts of the truck and trailer for your Pre-Trip Inspection. They should give you all the materials for it. I highly recommend making sure you know each part, and understand what it does, and how it works. It makes learning your pre-trip easier. Also, practice walking through the pre-trip inspection aloud. Don't be afraid to speak up, the EXAMINER will need to hear you during the test. Make sure you get into a solid routine that you can commit to memory, and don't need any study guides. The quicker you get this down, the better.

*** FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELT ***

KNOW how to complete all of your Air Brake and Emergency Brake tests. Memorize the pressures and procedures ASAP. Make a point of verbally going through them making the physical motions as you mentally go through the processes. Keep in mind that while the air tanks are pressurizing, you can be doing the INSIDE portion of the pre-trip. Make this a habit as well.

*** FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELT ***

Get your straight-line backing down cold. That will make everything else easy.

*** FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELT ***

They will probably tell you this, but make sure when you are backing the rig, you put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel and turn it in the direction you want the TRAILER to go. When driving normally (or backing without a trailer), you hold the wheel at like 9 and 3 and turn it the direction you want the truck to go. When backing, do not be afraid to Get Out And Look (GOAL) to make sure you have space to maneuver.

*** FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELT ***

When shifting the truck do not put the clutch to the floor unless you are coming to a stop. You will learn to double-clutch. Why? Because this is what they teach at this school It is not difficult, but learning to find the gears while double-clutching is kinda like riding a unicycle, juggling chainsaws, and flipping hot cakes all at the same time. At least at first. RELAX... Relax...relax... don't be afraid of shifting. Don't force anything, if it doesn't slide into gear with a gentle press on the stick, you are over-revving, under revving, or trying to put it in the wrong gear for your current speed. Don't try to force the shifter into gear. Listen, yes LISTEN to the instructor...They will give you the tools to be successful.

*** FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELT ***

Since you are going through WIA, you will be taking the test at the San Bernardino Commercial DMV. Make sure you have your spatial awareness down. I found that the backing range (where you test your yard maneuvers) at the DMV uses tighter dimensions than the State Approved layout used at ASD. Problem is when I asked, the DMV gave me a verbal nod that they were the same sizes as they used at ASD. It sure didn't feel like it. When I practiced at ASD, I felt like I had plenty of room. At the DMV, I swear there was at least a foot to eighteen inches difference.

*** FASTEN YOUR SEAT BELT ***

I keep mentioning the seat belt, because if you move the truck an inch without your seat belt fastened, most of the DMV examiners will FAIL you before you get on the road.

Finally, don't be afraid to ask for more time behind the wheel if you are not feeling the groove.

And finally finally, if at first you don't pass the test at the DMV, relax, get some more behind the wheel time, and you will be OK.

Best of luck to you on this new adventure!

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.

Day Cab:

A tractor which does not have a sleeper berth attached to it. Normally used for local routes where drivers go home every night.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

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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