Prime Orientation, PSD, And TNT! Where Does The Time Go?

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Jay G.'s Comment
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I swear I had the best intentions of logging my thoughts and activities into a super cool diary like everyone else, but here we are almost a month later... So I will do my best to keep it up from here, but no promises as the time just freaking flies by:

Short summary before the long read: I am having a great time and am excited to continue on this journey!

Obligatory introductory stuff: I have had several people in my immediate family either drive trucks or work for trucking companies. After 10+ years in assorted call center positions, I needed to escape the cubicle farm and phone shackles! lol. Finally after drumming up the courage and doing a bit of research, I elected to go with Prime. Now, you can drive yourself crazy trying to divine what company is going to be best from tea leaves, the position of the stars in the night sky, and disgruntled reviewers online, but honestly many of these large companies have many success stories and successful drivers. Worst case scenario, I swallow my pride and tough it out for the experience. So I based my decision on the most arbitrary factor; I think the Prime Inc Logo looks really cool, lol (no not really, but still an important factor!)

Application: Between applying and having a recruiter reach out to me, it was not even 24 hours. It might have been quicker had I not applied late in the evening. We went over the basics and expectations of training. Everything is mostly straight forward almost to a fault. If you are not sure if something, ask a dang question! Everyone has been more than happy to answer and it might save you a lot of hassle in the beginning.

Fortunately (or unfortunately as some people seem to think), I was flagged for sleep apnea. Turns out I had pretty bad sleep apnea. After some research and consultation with other medical professionals, Google, and fellow sleep apnea patients, I discovered that that the downside of being stuck with a crappy machine was more than a fair trade off for my future health. Not just sleeping better, but for cardiovascular health and a whole host of other afflictions. I only got a 3 month DOT card, but I have appointments scheduled at the Prime terminal this coming week to get all that renewed and get their official blessing on a CPAP machine.

Orientation: Travel for most students is done via a greyhound bus. I was shuttled from Phoenix, AZ to Salt Lake City. On the bus, I met a fellow Prime hopeful and we toughed out the 20 hour journey in a cramped bus with people of questionable hygenic choices, but honestly pebbles in the grand scheme of things. We arrived and were shuttled to the local hotel where Prime set us up in. I'm not sure if its just me, but any place you can set your head down with a roof over your head, a bed that's a little too firm, and shower pressure that is a little weak and varying in temperature is a 5 star hotel in my book. I am thankful for the opportunity to be there.

The hotel has a hot breakfast, Prime caters a pretty tasty lunch, and at the end of each day of orientation we were provided a meal ticket to use in the hotel restaurant. If you do not like the food, let me tell you this: The best seasoning for food is hunger, lol. If you get hungry, that food will beat out any 3 star Michelin chef offering you dandelion salads or whatever other BS they serve up on a cutting board instead of a plate.

The first day and some of the second are dedicated to videos. Basic stuff about the trucks, inspection, etc. We had the shop manager come and give us a 2 hour class just on tires alone. It almost felt like the scene in Forrest Gump when Bubba talks about shrimp for a while, but the tire class is incredibly informative and will probably save your life out on the road.

We toured the SLC terminal including body shop, trailer shop, a little company store, and then the employee lounge areas. There are showers and cheap washing machines on site as well. I've heard that the Springfield terminal is much snazzier, but SLC has some renovations going on scheduled to open in the next few months which should bring it closer up to par with the mothership AKA Springfield terminal.

Some time throughout the week, we were issued green ID badges that also double as like a debit/credit card. This is where Prime loads up the $200 a week throughout your time training with a driver in PSD (Prime Student Driver or something like that) program. Once orientation was wrapped up, maybe 4-5 days in, we took a personality questionnaire that is hopefully supposed to match you up with a decent trainer. My trainer ended up texting me to confirm I was who I was and a short blurb to introduce himself.

Driving: Now the fun begins! Once I met with my trainer, I was essentially handed the keys of a big ass truck and it was off to the races from there. I don't know jack about trucks or the different brands, but the 2019 Freightliner Cascadia we were cruising in got the job done. I think its like the Coca-Cola of trucks. Basically, there will be those who dislike the flavor for some reason, but it is hands down the most common truck I saw on the road. For the 2-3 weeks that you are out with a trainer initially (or here local if there are no trainers available), it will be mostly you doing the driving. The trainer is just on duty with you as a passenger at the beginning of your journey.

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.

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.

CPAP:

Constant Positive Airway Pressure

CPAP is a breathing assist device which is worn over the mouth or nose. It provides nighttime relief for individuals who suffer from Sleep Apnea.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

PSD:

Prime Student Driver

Prime Inc has a CDL training program and the first phase is referred to as PSD. You'll get your permit and then 10,000 miles of on the road instruction.

The following is from Prime's website:

Prime’s PSD begins with you obtaining your CDL permit. Then you’ll go on the road with a certified CDL instructor for no less than 75 hours of one-on-one behind the wheel training. After training, you’ll return to Prime’s corporate headquarters in Springfield, Missouri, for final CDL state testing and your CDL license.

Obtain CDL Permit / 4 Days

  • Enter program, study and test for Missouri CDL permit.
  • Start driving/training at Prime Training Center in Springfield, Missouri.
  • Work toward 40,000 training dispatched miles (minimum) with food allowance while without CDL (Food allowance is paid back with future earnings).

On-the-Road Instruction / 10,000 Miles

  • Train with experienced certified CDL instructor for 3-4 weeks in a real world environment.
  • Get 75 hours of behind-the-wheel time with one-on-one student/instructor ratio.
  • Earn 10,000 miles toward total 40,000 miles needed.
Jay G.'s Comment
member avatar

My trainer was very helpful and incredibly generous. I mean, it might have helped that he was getting extra money for being a trainer, but he offered to pay for several meals. Actually, I was doing the Keto diet and so was my trainer so we made big batches of food to eat and save money in lieu of going out to eat at the truck stops. There were many times where the truck stop food seemed tempting, but I remained strong!

Driving forward is, well, pretty straightforward. Keep your head on a swivel, control your controllables like following distance, and just try to be aware of the fact that other people probably aren't cutting you off because they are jerks, but most likely because they do not understand the commitment of being a professional driver hauling a vehicle that closes in on 80,000 pounds. Watch out for these people, dont let it get to you. By the time they hit the exit, they have no idea what they have done while you are there fuming and gesturing externally and/or internally. Just let it go and focus on keeping yourself and others safe around you.

We went through snow and wind in Wyoming, Snow, rain and mountains in Oregon, Washington, and California, and through the snow and flatlands of New Mexico and finally down as far as San Antonio, Texas.

Life on the truck was pretty chill. You are just there in a small space. I tried to get out and stretch when I could. Truck stops tend to get packed at night so I enjoyed stopping at rest areas. Crossing into Wyoming from the south, they have a cool visitors center that has a Mammoth skeleton. Enjoy the beauty of the sights and the miracle of evolution/creation/whatever floats your boat. No matter what you believe in, it truly is a gift to experience the highs, and while it may not seem like it at the time, the lows can be just as fruitful for your development. Driving through Wyoming, I witnessed the remains of a couple of trailers that had been blown over on the side of the road. It was a sobering reminder to stay safe. Pardon the expression as I am sure it gets tossed around like a generality, but no load is worth your life. I miss my wife and kids, but we prepped ourselves before hand and kept in touch while on the road.

Testing day Once you have been out on the road for a few weeks, you will be scheduled a few days of practice time to try and fine tune your pretrip inspection and backing procedures. Try and follow the formula, and with a little luck you should be able to have some success. I wish I had more to write about this experience, but I mostly nailed the backing procedures (including the parallel parking) and the driving to score the coveted "Trifecta."

Prior to testing, I was about to buy a Prime hat in the company store. However, I said to myself I needed to wait until after the test just to make sure I passed, lol. Well after testing, I got a voucher to get a free hat! Good things come to those who wait! lol.

TNT So after orientation, student driving, and testing, here I wait now for a trainer. Normally, you would be sent home on a Greyhound bus to get your home CDL , however my PSD trainer has some business to attend to in Springfield. We are going to team drive to Phoenix, hang out a day with my family and the DMV , and then team to Springfield so he can tend to his business and I can get my DOT card renewed.

I am sure there is a lot I missed. If you have read this far, thank you for coming with me on this journey and providing your experiences for others to learn about as well. I will do my best to try and keep it updated from here and just to share the little bits I pick up here and there. I am still a seedling that has barely begun to sprout, but I am excited at the potential!

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.

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

PSD:

Prime Student Driver

Prime Inc has a CDL training program and the first phase is referred to as PSD. You'll get your permit and then 10,000 miles of on the road instruction.

The following is from Prime's website:

Prime’s PSD begins with you obtaining your CDL permit. Then you’ll go on the road with a certified CDL instructor for no less than 75 hours of one-on-one behind the wheel training. After training, you’ll return to Prime’s corporate headquarters in Springfield, Missouri, for final CDL state testing and your CDL license.

Obtain CDL Permit / 4 Days

  • Enter program, study and test for Missouri CDL permit.
  • Start driving/training at Prime Training Center in Springfield, Missouri.
  • Work toward 40,000 training dispatched miles (minimum) with food allowance while without CDL (Food allowance is paid back with future earnings).

On-the-Road Instruction / 10,000 Miles

  • Train with experienced certified CDL instructor for 3-4 weeks in a real world environment.
  • Get 75 hours of behind-the-wheel time with one-on-one student/instructor ratio.
  • Earn 10,000 miles toward total 40,000 miles needed.

TNT:

Trainer-N-Trainee

Prime Inc has their own CDL training program and it's divided into two phases - PSD and TNT.

The PSD (Prime Student Driver) phase is where you'll get your permit and then go on the road for 10,000 miles with a trainer. When you come back you'll get your CDL license and enter the TNT phase.

The TNT phase is the second phase of training where you'll go on the road with an experienced driver for 30,000 miles of team driving. You'll receive 14¢ per mile ($700 per week guaranteed) during this phase. Once you're finished with TNT training you will be assigned a truck to run solo.

Delco Dave's Comment
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Congratulations!!!

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Glad training went smooth for you!

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Jay that is a fantastic journal. Full of practical, common sense snippets of wisdom. I encourage anyone seriously considering trucking as a career to read Jay's experience summary...

Of everything he wrote, this little ditty was my favorite...and oh, so true! Here it is:

Finally after drumming up the courage and doing a bit of research, I elected to go with Prime. Now, you can drive yourself crazy trying to divine what company is going to be best from tea leaves, the position of the stars in the night sky, and disgruntled reviewers online, but honestly many of these large companies have many success stories and successful drivers. Worst case scenario, I swallow my pride and tough it out for the experience. So I based my decision on the most arbitrary factor; I think the Prime Inc Logo looks really cool, lol (no not really, but still an important factor!)

The timing of this is perfect when considering the plethora of protracted research and spreadsheets we frequently discuss with folks in the "tire-kicking" phase. Brett should take this quote and put in his book...just my 2 cents!

Great stuff Jay. Keep up the good work, safe travels... and "watch that wagon".

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.

PackRat's Comment
member avatar

Congratulations on the CDL and completing the Trifecta!

dancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gif

Fantastic diary posts with plenty of useful information for others thinking about training to drive. Keep those updates coming as you have time.

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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