My Roehl Training Adventure

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Wild-Bill's Comment
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Week 2 day 1 We started out the day with pre-trip practice as usual. I have the exterior of the tractor & trailer down pretty well. I need to polish up my in cab, Brake checks and light checks a bit I'm like 80% but I still have time to get it down with no errors. My instructor said there is a standing challenge for a steak dinner for any student that passes the CDL test with no errors. Challenge accepted! I want to double down my effort to be the first.

It was a little foggy in the morning and we had a winter weather advisory for the afternoon. Out instructor wanted to get me ant the other student that were ready for the road to get out and back before the snow started. I knew I wasn't 100% ready but I knew this was about getting outside of my comfort zone again, so I was all in. I went first. I asked if I could take one lap around the range to work out the nerves. True to form, my instructor said no and pushed me out of the nest so to speak. He too one lap around the block narrating what he was doing then pulled back in and it was my turn. I was nervous as hell, but took a deep breath and got on with it. The job is to drive and this was the next step. It's funny how much the reality of traffic and the realities of the danger of a wrong move hit me like a ton of bricks. I'm glad he pushed us so hard on the track, because it helped me to slow down my thinking and focus. I got out of the corners briskly, got up to speed and back down smoothly. Overall, I had a good run. We went with all left turns, then all right turns. I over-revved before shifting a few times. I also messed up one downshift and had to go through gear recovery to get to the right gear. But overall, I felt on top of the world when I was done. I actually drove a truck on public roads and kept it under control. That's a big deal for someone who had never been inside of a truck less than one week ago.

After our trips around the block, our instructor worked with the other two driver for the rest of the day on basics. They're just not road ready yet. The one struggling the most got another one on one session with a different instructor. One of the people on another truck dropped out this morning, So, my guess is that they will move him to that truck. On a very selfish level, that will give me more time behind the wheel with only three in the truck which is a big win. Apparently the two that are struggling got the "you need to show improvement or you might need more time than this program allows for" talk this morning. That rattled them up a bit. Hopefully it helps them to step it up a bit tomorrow.

We had simulator time scheduled for after our second break which was a good thing because it started snowing pretty hard after lunch. In the sim, We worked on straight line backing and lane changing in reverse. I'm not sure what the "lane change" maneuver is actually called as he didn't name it. I was the only one to be able to successfully do both. He then had me do a backing maneuver simulating a curvy road closed. It really helped me figure out the angles and getting back under the kingpin. It's still tough to think backwards like that. I'm going to need to buy a toy truck to practice which way to turn as I'm having a tough time working it out in my head.

Overall a great day that kept me just the other side of my comfort zone all day. We got 4 inches of snow today with more coming tonight. The high is going to struggle to get above zero for the rest of the week. If they cant get the roads clear tonight we may not be able to get on the road tomorrow. Hopefully we can at least get some backing maneuvers done on the range. if not, I'm sure they'll find something for us to do. Might be a chance to perfect the pre-trip.

I haven't written much about the hotel life. I brought along a small foreman grill, some sourdough bread, lunchmeat, brats, burgers etc. I've been cooking up something every night to save money. Most of the folks are going out to eat every night frankly, I'm not sure how they afford it. I've had some pretty good paying jobs and I certainly don;t have the funds to eat out every night for the next couple months through phase 1 & phase 2 training. I did go out and re-supply over the weekend. I also picked up some salad fixings as all of the sandwiches and burgers are getting old.

That's it for now. I need to get through more chapters in the J.J. Keller textbook. It's due Friday and I'm a bit behind on that one.

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.

DWI:

Driving While Intoxicated

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Wild-Bill's Comment
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Rob D. I forgot to answer your question. The straightaways aren't huge. You have to push pretty hard to get up to speed, but, it forces you to get up to traffic speed quickly and safely. I'm not great with judging distances but I'd guess it's somewhere around 3/4 of a mile by maybe 1/4 mile. I'll ask someone in the morning. Now I'm curious.

Delco Dave's Comment
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I want to train on a manual if possible so I dont have the restriction. Another reason Roehl is very attractive to me. That opens all doors for you. I wouldn’t want to miss out on a good opportunity somewhere in the future because I cant drive a manual.

Unless I fall in love with the road, my plan is still to go regional or local, home daily/weekends so I dont miss all my kids stuff. Hopefully my training company will have those options available for me as well so I dont have to leave. I’m not a job jumper, I’m loyal and I get comfortable so I stick around for a long time. Only had 3 jobs in last 24 years. Thats most of my adult life

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Wild-Bill's Comment
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Week 2 day 2. I'm having a blast so far this week. I'm still being pushed outside of my comfort zone which is a good place to be for learning. I was looking at the day one folks on their first day on the driving range and it hit me how much we've learned and accomplished in one short week. I know there's still a ton to learn and the learning will continue for many months (years) to come. It feels good though to take a minute to look back.

We lost 3 people so far this week. One came in Monday morning to resign. One had a family issue and needed to go home. My roommate left after lunch yesterday with a personal issue. he packed up all his stuff and wont answer calls or texts, so, I guess hes not coming back. These changes made for some truck movement today. In the morning, our most under-performing truck mate went to another trainers truck. After lunch our other truck mate that was behind the curve went to another truck as well. That leaves two of us. Our instructor said we were being held back with him spending time trying to get the others up to speed. He wanted to get us some intensive time to catch us up to where we should be in the curriculum. I'm happy to get more drive time. It's hard to believe, but we do a pre-test next Tuesday and if we do good enough on that we will test next Thursday or Friday. it's a high bar for the pre-test. if we get more than 12 points, they wont let us test at the end of the week. They want the pre test to be harder than the actual test.

It's unseasonably cold here. It barely got into the single digits for highs and it's going to be even colder tomorrow. They wouldn't let us on the road until after lunch to give the roads some time to clear up from yesterday's snow. It's so cold though that the salt isn't working. After we hooked up the trailer, we spent the morning backing (still straight line). by the time we got on the roads they were still very slick. it was near dusk by the time I got out there. We did a few roundabouts and it was getting pretty dark by the time I got back to the terminal. It was a whole new level of "pucker factor" driving on darkening icy roads at speed but we'll need to learnt to drive in all conditions. I'd rather learn it now under controlled conditions than have to figure it out on my own when I'm solo.

My shifting this morning was all screwy, I don't know what was wrong with me but my rhythm was way off. I was forgetting gear locations. I got it back together quickly. I didn't sleep well last night so hopefully I can do better tomorrow morning.

On a personal level, My mother in law fell and went into the hospital over the weekend. It's been hectic on my wife getting back and forth to the hospital and my teenage sons are having to fend for themselves to make dinner. I felt like this was muddying up my mind today. I hope it doesn't get worse over the next couple weeks. I'd hate to lose this opportunity. I guess the warning here is to be prepared for emergencies while you're away.

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.
Appalachained's Comment
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She only got 1400 miles last week. I know it could be because she’s not one of the better drivers, but I don’t think so as she was getting around 3,000 for a while.

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did she take hometime? Sit in a "dead zone" waiting on a load? Not get paperwork submitted in time? Late apts? I highly doubt if shes constantly turning 3000 miles they're intentionally going to cut those miles in half. Slow weeks can happen at ANY carrier.

I think your last sentence covers it. That’s probably the reason with her.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Appalachained's Comment
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Thanks for the update. I like how Roehl still trains on manual transmissions. That might be the deciding factor for me when I make my choice. Also the fact that they’re still getting miles. I have a friend who chose Swift almost a year ago. She only got 1400 miles last week. I know it could be because she’s not one of the better drivers, but I don’t think so as she was getting around 3,000 for a while.

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Your reasons here are on really unstable ground. Miles per week will vary for all rookies. That has nothing to do with the name on the truck's doors. It makes no sense for you to bring up Swift like you do, as if the one rookie driver you know there is a proper representation of the overall operations of a company with more than 20,000 drivers. Think about that for a minute. It sounds kind of silly don't you think?

The driver is almost always the determining factor in how many miles they run. Unfortunately it takes a few years to grasp the concepts of how you manage things so that you are getting preferential treatment. Neither you nor your friend have the experience to make that happen, but you're happy to make your own presumptions and make a decision based on one bad week that a rookie driver told you about.

I get it how you newbies get all uptight about manual transmissions. But again, it's really a trifle. At this point your focus needs to be learning to handle a rig in a safe and productive manner. That's a tall order that has nothing to do with the type transmission you train on. You need to get licensed, and trained enough to go solo, and then you've got a lot of learning ahead of you for the next full year.

I think Roehl is a great choice to start your career. I also know that Swift is a great choice. Your comparison based on hearsay from a rookie driver is really not a good way to form your opinions or base your decisions. I certainly wouldn't base my decision on the transmission either. It's a really minor concern at this point.

Here's the three things you want to base your decision on...

1) Type of freight you want to haul.

2) Area of the country you want to run.

3) Home time options.

If you can get those three things to line up the way you want, you're going to be on solid ground.

You extracted a lot out of the little I said. I said I realize there could be different reasons for her recent mileage drop. I have nothing bad to say about Swift. My friend actually talks highly of Swift and her training. Swift is on my short list, always has been.

Point taken about the desire to train on a manual though. It would be one less thing to worry about. Home time is of no concern to me. Where I will be running isn’t that important. I would like to avoid the NorthEast if at all possible as a rookie. I think I want to flat bed. I like the physical aspect of it, but still have more researching and thinking to do. I realize by now that regardless of who I pick the first year is going to be tough, IF I make it through school.

This is a do or die thing for me as I will be leaving a steady, much higher paying job that I’m fortunate to have, but I can’t possibly retire doing for a whole new job and lifestyle that hopefully I can retire doing. This is why I have been on the High Road for a while now. I have read tons of threads full of useful information including many post of yours. I could have passed the permit test a year ago thanks to this place. I am not taking it lightly.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Appalachained's Comment
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This thread is so far one the most informative especially about concerns that are most pertinent to me. Thanks and keep em coming. I am curious what ends up happening to the guys that are lagging behind too. Who know that might be me.

Wild-Bill's Comment
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Appalachained, It sounds like you are in a similar situation to what I was. I left a high paying job and 30 year career to take this leap of faith. I simply got to the point where I knew remaining in that career for the next 10-25 years was going to eat me alive. I was terrified of failing in the training and being left with few options to support my family. In the end, I became convinced that if I worked hard I would get through it. The opposite fear started to weigh on my, What If I never make the leap? I'll never know what I may have missed out on.

Here's a link to some of the questions I had going into it. Making the leap

I can tell you from my perspective, the folks that are struggling for the most part are either not listening closely to direction or not working hard or both. I can also tell you that the instructors WANT everyone to succeed. As I've said. They're giving every opportunity to get people the help they need. one on one training, switching instructors etc. Making sure they get access to new teaching styles. At the end of the day, they just cant put an unsafe person on the road. It's a short program and you'll need to work hard. If you apply yourself you'll get it done. out of 15 people there are only a couple struggling and a couple others that just decided it's not for them. The odds are in your favor.

Wild-Bill's Comment
member avatar

Week 2 day 3 Having only two drivers in the truck today was outstanding. We got a ton accomplished. After hooking up the trailer and doing our PTI, We got to do the offset and 90 degree back maneuvers. We each got two drives through town, a few roundabouts and on a limited access highway. My truck partner developed a stalling problem from dropping the clutch too hard. That's pretty scary when you're out on the road. I think he wasn't getting into the working clutch enough. Hopefully that problem gets resolved tomorrow.

I was feeling pretty controlled through most of my drive time. Downshifting is feeling pretty smooth, but I need to work on how to use the gears to my advantage to maintain momentum better. Had a few curbs that were too close for comfort, but I didn't hit any. Got several fist bumbs alont the way which is about the highest praise you can get. I had one major snafu where a stop light that I knew was getting stale changed too quick for me and I had to stop in 6th. I forgot to move the selector down when I went into my start up gear, I ended up starting in 8th when I though I was in 3rd. See if you can guess what happened next, yep stalled it and panicked a bit. Like I said, pretty scary to stall in traffic. That's the first time I've stalled since last Wednesday. Thankfully I have until next Tuesday for my pre-test. Just need to work out a few kinks and get more practice with the backing and I think I'll be testing in the group next Thursday.

On my backing, I have a tough time giving the correction enough time to work. In my offset i was getting too close to one side, but every time I corrected, I ended up in pretty much the same spot. My instructor finally said hey you got yourself into it, you get yourself out of it. Which is what I told my kids all the time. I mad it through but I was withing inches of the cones and blocks. the 90 degree was better, but I'll need to write down the actual moves to be able to understand them.

Now that I know enough to be dangerous, my manager hat is slipping back on again. In trying to be encouraging to my truckmate. I tend to try to correct a miss before or at the same time as my instructor. Now we have this secret code where he shoots me the stink eye and I throw up my hands and say, yep, sorry I'm doing it again, I'll shut up now. It's hard to break habits that have ingrained over the last thirty years. During one of those exchange he put his arm around my shoulder and told me that I'm doing great and that I have the potential to go far and become a trainer and/or instructor which was a real confidence boost.

At lunch, I talked to one of the people that were moved to another truck and it sounds like things aren't going any better for him. Shifting is still a struggle (he used more colorful words). With only 3 driving days left before the pre-test, I don't know how he's going to possibly catch up.

The weather is still ridiculously cold. High near zero with a wind chill of -25. Standing around during the backing was just brutal. The good news is that it's going to warm up to 30 tomorrow. the bad news is that we're getting another 2-4 inches of snow. Hopefully they let us out on the road. I need to firm up my skills before next week.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

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.

Wild-Bill's Comment
member avatar

Oh, and I forgot to mention, thanks for the kind words Appalachained. I really appreciate the encouragement. I'm glad your're enjoying my ramblings.

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