Start Date With Roehl GYCDL Program - Gary, IN Terminal - 8/24/20

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Brandon Kitts's Comment
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Welcome to Roehl! Good luck!

Verminator's Comment
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8-26-20 - Day 3 - Trailer day!

Today was our first day driving on the range with a trailer. Before driving each day, we start by practicing our pre-trip inspections.

After about a half-hour of pre-trip inspection practice, our instructor demonstrated how to couple to a trailer (in this case, a dry van), and we took turns driving around the practice pad and yard. We will practice with a dry van for several days, then once we head out on the road, we will be using a flatbed trailer.

Things went pretty well overall. Each of the three of us had some challenges, but nobody hit anything - so it was a good day!

We also spent some time in the simulators, practicing backing maneuvers. One scenario involved one of my (and probably most rookies') biggest fears - having turned your rig down a rural highway, you soon realize to your horror (after a eighth of a mile or so of twists & turns) that you are on a route prohibited to trucks. The simulation started with a police car with all lights rolling positioned across the road directly in front of you, blocking both lanes of a two lane road. Another police vehicle then drives slowly past you on your left, who will act as your escort as you back down the road, returning to the main highway. It was challenging, but I completed it with only a couple of pull-ups. Slow and steady.

We had a bit of free time afterwards, and the sim instructor let us have a bit of fun driving around offroad and running into trees.

Another very good day. I continue to be very happy with the program and the quality of the instruction at Roehl.

Tomorrow, we will be leaving the yard, and driving our rig with trailer on city streets for the first time. Should be exciting!

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.

Dry Van:

A trailer or truck that that requires no special attention, such as refrigeration, that hauls regular palletted, boxed, or floor-loaded freight. The most common type of trailer in trucking.
Verminator's Comment
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8-28-20 - Day 5 - Turned loose upon an unsuspecting public!

Today after completing our pre-trip inspections, our instructor took us out of the terminal to a nearby industrial park in Prospect, IN, about 10 miles east of Gary.

There, we each took turns driving on city streets for the first time. We each would complete several loops around the area, each loop consisting of two right turns, and totaling about 2 miles. It was a great area for new drivers, as there was minimal traffic and good visibility, with a 30 mph speed limit.

I missed a few gears, but did well with lane positioning and offtrack control. Towards the end of the day, about halfway through the loop, my instructor asked how I felt. I told him that I felt good, and he said "OK, good. At the stop sign, I want you to make a left turn." This would lead us out of the industrial park. I calmly said "OK". Inside I was thinking "Oh, man. Am I really ready for this?" However, I had faith that my instructor would talk me through anything I needed to do, so I took a deep breath and made the turn. Slowly and carefully.

He directed me through several left turns and about 10 miles of driving, until we reached a truck stop, where he had me park. He said I had done very well, and said "Your training wheels are off." That felt pretty good!

On my return from the truck stop back to the industrial park, I did kiss a shoulder (not a curb) with my tandems during a right turn, but that was my only mishap. My instructor mentioned that any shoulder or curb contact during my drive exam would be an automatic fail, so I will have to make certain that my first one is also my last one.

When we reached the industrial park, we realized that there was not enough time remaining in the day for the other students to drive again (we had been delayed earlier in the day by needing to have a trailer tire repaired at the terminal). My instructor said "Guess what... you're driving us back to the terminal."

The trip back consisted of a mix of streets through Prospect and Gary, followed by a stretch of Interstate 94. Traffic on I-94 was heavy at first, but eventually I was able to get into tenth gear (briefly). Practicing what I was taught under the Roehl Safe 7 system, I continued to be amazed at how absurdly close many truck drivers follow other vehicles. During the brief 15-or-so minute drive on the Interstate, we saw many trucks following perhaps two or three car lengths behind other vehicles, often at speeds over 40 miles per hour. I had always noted that some trucks seem to follow others rather closely in my own driving or motorcycling, but now that I have actually driven a truck, it is so much more apparent at just how much these poor driving habits are needlessly endangering the drivers themselves as well as others on the road.

All in all, it was an exhilarating experience to be in control of such a mammoth machine. It is an almost indescribable feeling of immense power to have at your control. I fear it may be addictive.

I cannot wait until my next turn in the driver's seat!

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.

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.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Interstate:

Commercial trade, business, movement of goods or money, or transportation from one state to another, regulated by the Federal Department Of Transportation (DOT).

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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.

PackRat's Comment
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Great posts, Verminator!

Verminator's Comment
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Day 7 - Monday 8/31/20 - Pushing a chain

Saturday's class (Day 6) consisted of all classroom time, discussing trip planning, and an introduction to the DriverTech ELD system used in Roehl's trucks.

Today's class began with a trip out to the industrial park for driving practice. I was selected to drive us out to the area, which I did with no incidents.

I don't think I mentioned that our training truck is a 2013 Freightliner Cascadia in fire engine red. Good shape overall, and well maintained for the most part. Knowing the abuse these poor training trucks get, she is in remarkably good shape!

After some practice for the other two students, one of them was selected by the instructor to drive us to a truck stop, and then back to the Roehl terminal for lunch. His training wheels are off! Our instructor advised that the one remaining student will be "kicked out of the nest" tomorrow, meaning his training wheels are coming off as well.

After lunch, we began backing training on the backing range. Our initial lesson consisted of backing in a square pattern of four turns around the backing range, while our instructor walked along side the rig and talked us through it. It was easier than I expected, with the biggest challenge being to understand the need to make small adjustments in trajectory and to catch any undesirable trailer movement early, so as to avoid large oscillations back and forth.

Later, we proceeded to the strait line backing area, and were required to back the rig through a line of cones (about 75 feet long) with approx. two feet on either side of our wheels. I managed this without too much trouble, and only had to pull up one time out of four exercises.

Towards the end of the day, we performed our first offset backing and parallel parking exercises. These were again done with the instructor walking alongside the rig and providing instruction.

I have heard backing a trailer compared to "trying to push a piece of chain". I didn't find it too difficult, having some experience moving aircraft with a tug - the principles are similar.

All in all, I am happy with my performance, and know from reading many similar threads here on TT that it will all become easier with experience. Our instructor advised yesterday that he has pretty much shown us everything we're going to need to learn, and from now on each day will be repetition and more repetition in order to hone our skills.

Talking with the other six students in our class, I think we are all progressing at a fairly even pace. A few still have their training wheels (have not yet left the industrial park area for city driving), but they should be moving on Tuesday. Everyone seems pleased with the program so far, and I have heard no significant complaints from anyone.

Again, I'm very happy with my choice to join Roehl, and am looking forward to my next turn in the seat.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Verminator's Comment
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Day 8 - Tuesday 9/1/20 - Forward, backward, rinse & repeat

Our day began as usual with practicing our pre-trip inspections. I have the exterior portion memorized and am at about 95% on the in-cab and brake checks - just need a bit more repetition and practice.

Our instructor yesterday told us that he had pretty much showed us everything necessary in order to pass the CDL exam, and that from here forward, it will be lots of repetition in order to get comfortable with all the techniques we have learned.

The final student in our group had his 'training wheels' taken off yesterday, meaning he was directed to leave the industrial park area where we began our street driving, and drove to a truck stop a few miles away. He had a few rough patches, and stalled the truck once (which led to some frustration on the instructor's part), but made it there OK.

After lunch, our backing practice included the three maneuvers (straight line, offset, and parallel), with each of us getting several turns at the wheel. During backing practice, the instructor and the other two students are out of the truck, so it's kind of fun to be solo for a few minutes, if only in the yard.

Along with the instruction received during the day, Roehl uses a web-based video-centered instructional system from J.J. Keller, consisting of about 35 'chapters', each of about two or three hours. The first half of the course consists of information already covered in obtaining your CLP , so it's a bit redundant. Frustratingly, the system occasionally crashes, losing your progress, and forcing you to start the chapter over from the beginning - most annoying - happened to me twice and at least once to my roommate.

Feeling more confident with my driving each day. I actually look forward to my turn in the seat. The only nerve-wracking times for me are left turns, where you really have to watch that trailer on any cars waiting to turn left from the street you're turning on to. Our instructor is very good about reminding us to take it slow, slow down during turns, and monitor our tandem's progress through the intersection.

Looking forward to tomorrow's drive time!

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.

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

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.

CLP:

Commercial Learner's Permit

Before getting their CDL, commercial drivers will receive their commercial learner's permit (CLP) upon passing the written portion of the CDL exam. They will not have to retake the written exam to get their CDL.

Verminator's Comment
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Day 9 - Weds 9/2/20 - Unexpected News

Today we were each allowed to drive the CDL road test course. The course itself is not difficult, consisting of about 3 miles of freeway and the remainder made up of city streets & local highways. There are two tight right turns which are challenging, but manageable.

After lunch, we practiced our backing maneuvers. After backing practice, my instructor asked how I was feeling about everything, and I told him I felt good and was enjoying training. He then announced that he has decided that I should take my CDL test next Tuesday, which is a week ahead of schedule. He says I’m ready. I was surprised at this, and a bit concerned about the minimal amount of practice I’ll get between now and then. He advised me not to worry, as he was pretty confident that I could pass today. That made me feel better about my chances.

This was an unexpected development. Over the last few days, I had been running over in my mind the things I wish to improve upon before taking the exam… now I’ve got just tomorrow and Friday to make whatever improvements I can! No pressure!

Anyway, I’m excited, terrified, joyous, and worried.

Who knows what tomorrow may hold?

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.
Badgerland's Comment
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Go getem Verminator. Just passed my road test up in Marshfield today. Hope to see you join the ranks next week!

Verminator's Comment
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Go getem Verminator. Just passed my road test up in Marshfield today. Hope to see you join the ranks next week!

Thanks, BadgerLand!

Congrats on passing your tests! dancing-banana.gifdancing-banana.gifdancing.gifdancing.gif

Verminator's Comment
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Day 10 - Thurs 9/3/20 - I knew this was too easy...

Well, today was my first 'bad' day.

Our day began with backing practice. I had no problem with the straight back, but struggled a bit with the offset. My initial setup was off a bit, and rather than pulling up, I tried to correct, which resulted in some pretty big oscillations. I managed to complete the maneuver after a few minutes. The parallel backing maneuver, however, completely defeated me. My initial setup was perfect, but I initially backed too far before straightening out, and even with two pullups, I couldn't seem to get a feel for how to get inside the box. My instructor then came over and said 'go ahead and pull back out, set up for a sraight back, and let's go to lunch.' So I didn't get a chance to finish. I did worse on backing today that I did on my very first day.

After lunch, we went out driving. Today we took a new route through unexplored territory around Valapariso and Michigan City, IN. When my turn came to drive, I began having trouble with downshifts - specifically coming down in the higher gears. Shifts that had been coming easy for me over the past week were now mysteriously uncooperative, with me grinding almost every downshift, and sometimes drifting along for several seconds in neutral (a big no-no) before getting into a gear. I took my time, thought about my clutch engagement, RPM, and road speed, but couldn't figure out what I was doing different. I got so discombobulated that several times I forgot my current gear position - something I previously hadn't done. My instructor was very supportive, and said, 'sometimes you just have an off day'.

The weather was quite windy, with gusts up to 30 mph or so. Even with a flatbed trailer, the rig was noticeably affected, and it took constant corrections to keep centered in my lane. I had two lane departure warnings during my drive time, which were the first I've had.

embarrassed.gif

On the way back to the terminal , we were waiting for a train at a crossing. I was so frazzled by my inability to downshift that I forgot NOT to shift while crossing tracks, and did so. I couldn't believe I did it, but I did.

wtf-2.gif

I didn't hit anything during my drive, so that is some consolation. All in all, it was my worst day so far. Very frustrating and concerning, as I still don't know what my issue was with the downshifting.

My instructor remained positive, and said 'Don't worry about it - just come back tomorrow, and have a better day!'

Here's hoping tomorrow will go smoother!

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.

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