Journey With Wilson Logistics - Springfield, MO

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Eugene K.'s Comment
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28 Dec 2020 - 1841

As I'm writing this from my hotel room at the Baymont Wyndham in beautiful Springfield, Missouri, it's unseasonably warm outside, so I have the windows open to catch a breeze. The hum of interstate 44 just below would normally have a soporific effect after 9 hours on the road, save for the uncanny level of excitement I'm experiencing, akin to a four-year-old on Christmas Eve. Tomorrow morning at 0630 the shuttle from Wilson Logistics arrives out front to pick us up and start the onboarding process, and though I know a good night's rest is imperative, I'm so jazzed up that I'm sure sleep will be a long time coming. It's been a wild ride getting to this moment, and I have the moderators and community at Truckingtruth.com to thank for this opportunity. I'm launching this training diary because, more than any other resource on this site, the training diaries of others have helped me the most. I believe it's my duty to pay it forward to any who may be benefited from reading my own.

I fancy myself a bit of a wordsmith, and verbosity is one of my character defects, so in the interest of brevity I'll keep it pithy. I'll briefly share a bit about myself and my background, and what interested me in making this career change. I'm originally from Virginia Beach, Virginia, but spent the last fifteen years living and working in New York City, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia, with the last ten of those years in the fitness industry. I started off as a membership consultant, got certified as a personal trainer, then eventually worked my way up to management, responsible for all of the highs and lows that come with the title (member experience, billing, hiring and firing, p&ls, mentorship, coaching, sales revenue for all of the different departments, customer service, equipment maintenance, clean team, you name it). Though I easily could have stayed comfortable in this career for decades, my priorities gradually began to shift more toward my family back in Virginia, hastened by the arrival of my baby nephew in January of 2020. Then COVID hit, and the bottom dropped out of the industry. The first six months, shepherding my team through the confusion and chaos of a mandated shutdown, were the most challenging of my entire career. Carrying us through it all were the love and support from our members, many of whom voluntarily chose to keep their billing active so our company could pay its employees. The local company I was working for in Philadelphia was one of the few nationwide to lay off or furlough ZERO employees--350 of them.

But when we reopened under heavy restrictions in late July, the writing was on the wall. Business just never rebounded, and I could tell it was only a matter of time before another shutdown. I had an initial burst of excitement to be back in action, but during the closure I spent close to six months working remotely from Virginia, watching my baby nephew grow up by the minute, and my heart just wasn't in it anymore. All the while, I felt stifled fixed in just one place, and a latent "secret dream" of trucking grew more and more tantalizing every day. I've always had a "wanderlust," and feel the most free either in the great outdoors hiking, rock climbing, and camping, or taking road trips. Two of the most spiritual experiences I ever had in my life were driving coast-to-coast solo, with no itinerary and no company but myself and the open road. Mind you, as romanticized as this sounds, I have NO ILLUSIONS about the work that lies ahead! I've spent countless hours researching the reality of the career choice I've made, and thanks to trucking truth.com, I feel as prepared as possible. I passed my CDL permit exam with flying colors due to the High Road training course. I've listened to all of Brett's Road Home podcast -- twice. I've pored over god knows how many hundreds of forum posts, daily, seemingly for hours. I feel well prepared for the harsh reality of the "boot camp" of company sponsored training and my rookie year after that.

And to be honest? Right now, in spite of all my preparation and the support of everyone on this site, and underneath all of my giddy excitement, I feel the flapping of butterfly wings in my stomach. That's right! I'm a bit nervous. But it's a healthy apprehension, and I feel that it's a good sign I'm experiencing it right now. If I WASN'T experiencing this now, and was flying blind with nothing but arrogance and pride, THAT would be a recipe for disaster. I'm going in with humility, a positive attitude, and the willingness to work hard and do whatever it takes. I can't wait for you all to join my on the journey!

- Eugene

(Follow me on Instagram on @euge_i_oh if you want real-time videos and media updates)

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.

Interstate:

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

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Dave W.'s Comment
member avatar

Good luck sir! I look forward to hearing about your progression. I will be starting mine in 2 weeks and im excited as well.

SRJ's Comment
member avatar

Good luck to you. Look forward to following your new journey.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Eugene K.'s Comment
member avatar

Mon 28 Dec 2020 - 2041

Evening folks! As I'm winding down for the evening, it's occurred to me that even a cursory summary of Day 1's jam-packed agenda would take me at least 20-30 minutes to bang out, and I need to hit the hay ASAP to be up and ready to roll at 0500 tomorrow. Today was terrific on all accounts, however: a huge challenge, any remaining illusions I had were thoroughly smashed, but all in a good way. I know I will rise to the occasion, but no one said it would be easy--just that it'd be worth out!

Check back tomorrow when I'll be able to dedicate more time and attention to the day's events. Having the time of my life!

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.

Anne A. (G13Momcat)'s Comment
member avatar

Mon 28 Dec 2020 - 2041

Evening folks! As I'm winding down for the evening, it's occurred to me that even a cursory summary of Day 1's jam-packed agenda would take me at least 20-30 minutes to bang out, and I need to hit the hay ASAP to be up and ready to roll at 0500 tomorrow. Today was terrific on all accounts, however: a huge challenge, any remaining illusions I had were thoroughly smashed, but all in a good way. I know I will rise to the occasion, but no one said it would be easy--just that it'd be worth out!

Check back tomorrow when I'll be able to dedicate more time and attention to the day's events. Having the time of my life!

All's well that ends well, in a day's work~!!

Goodnight, good sir. . . FOLLOWING, and cheering~!!

~ Anne ~

good-luck.gif good-luck-2.gif good-luck.gif

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Old School's Comment
member avatar
Today was terrific on all accounts, however: a huge challenge, any remaining illusions I had were thoroughly smashed, but all in a good way. I know I will rise to the occasion, but no one said it would be easy--just that it'd be worth it!

As long as you can keep smashing those illusions and keep it real, you are going to do just fine at this. We're all proud to see you making this new start. Hang in there - the ride has just begun!

I love the way you say, "I know I will rise to the occasion." That is a great attitude! Keep it up.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Eugene K.'s Comment
member avatar

Okay folks! Giving this a go to fully bring everyone up to date now that days 1 and 2 are under the belt. Make no mistake, I'm physically exhausted as hell, but mentally sharp, unlikely yesterday evening when I was completely drained from the sheer bombardment of new information.

One thing I will say to anyone considering company sponsored training: BE PREPARED to be held responsible for a HUGE amount of information in a very BRIEF period of time! I love a challenge, so this doesn't intimidate me in the slightest, but it's not for everyone. The way I see it, the company is here for the foundation and for support, but 99% of my success as a student and rookie driver is up to me. This is NOT to be confused in any way with an overconfident, know-it-all attitude--these are the company's own words! They are highly selective and made clear that they only want the best of the best. Almost no training class ever has all students make it past the first week, and up to 40% are sent home before the first five days are up. They've said from day 1 "consider this the longest working job interview of your life." Trust me: there is nothing easy about this endeavor whatsoever. However, to be clear, we aren't being told this information to be scared off: Wilson wants it drivers to not only survive, but thrive, and they will give us all the tools we need to succeed, but it's up to us to utilize them. They are serious as a heart attack when it comes to their commitment to safety and excellence, so this needs to be communicated right out of the gate! I consider myself lucky to even be here, so I intend to make the most of it and prove that I deserve to stay.

Day 1: Part of what attracted me to Wilson Logistics in the first place was their beautiful, late-model trucks, their impeccable safety record, and most importantly, that intangible "realness" vibe I got from the people here. I was a sales manager for 10 years, so I have an extremely high B.S. detector. I can tell when someone genuinely wants my business, versus when someone is just trying to sell me. My interactions with my recruiter and intake processor right from the very beginning were diligent, courteous, and on point. They checked up on me often and made me feel valued, not a number or just a commission. When I got here, the "family atmosphere" was communicated to us. Now, I recall in one of Brett's podcasts, that a "family atmosphere" should NOT be a consideration when looking for a trucking company, but for a company of this size, Wilson DOES seem to genuinely have it. All of the owner's children and in-laws work here in one role or another, and best of all, he has an "open-door" policy: no one needs to go through an appointment with a secretary to meet with him. I haven't met him yet, but I hear he walks around in jeans and cowboy boots and a Hawaiian shirt at all times, and anyone is welcome to come to him at any time. That level of transparency in an organization speaks volumes for the culture, and I'm thrilled to have the opportunity here.

The entire first half of Day 1 was spent going over safety (Wilson has one of the safest records for a company of its size in the nation, AND the trophies and plaques to back it up; in fact, two of its drivers have won safest driver-of-the-year--nationwide!), the contract, and various rules and expectations that I was already prepared for from having studied the onboarding materials before arriving. Our class is fairly small -- only five people -- and everyone has a great personality and we all vibe well together. There's a lot of laughter and camaraderie, but most of us recognize the seriousness and the responsibility of what we're going through and know how to buckle down. I feel confident that 4 of us will definitely make it if we study and do everything that's asked of us, while one of us is kind of on the fence. This is only because she's significantly younger than the rest of us, a lot more immature and with less life experience. She is sweet as can be, and seems to really want to be here, but a lot of the information doesn't really seem to be sinking in with her very fast and she doesn't seem to be "buckling down" to study as hard of the rest of us. I'm just not sure she has the life experience to take this as seriously as they want us to, but I'd really like to see her succeed. As a manager, one of the responsibilities I enjoyed most was leadership and mentoring, so I'm going to do all I can to help her, but not at the expense of getting this down for myself too! I'm sure we can find a balance with no problem.

After lunch, we split up. Three of the class went out on the pad to start going over the pre-trip, while myself and and another gentlemen (a bit older than me at 53, definitely has what it takes, highly motivated) started off on the sims. Suffice it to say: though we are to treat the simulator exactly as we would a truck, driving the simulator feels nothing like driving the truck. I managed to take out god knows how many poles, fire hydrants, and road signs while careening my cartoon death vehicle over the 16-bit landscape, terrorizing the poorly animated citizens. Though I held my cool on the outside, secretly and quietly, I was beating myself up on the inside: "Ugh it's the first day and already you suck, they're going to send you home, you're going to fail." I know how to recognize that narrative in my head for what it is: NONSENSE. Continued:

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.

Eugene K.'s Comment
member avatar

Continued:

HOWEVER, I need to be cognizant of my defects as well as my strengths. Though I have everything it takes to succeed: a positive attitude, a strong work ethic, a willingness to ask questions and to not be afraid to "look dumb" when doing so, etc., I also tend to be a perfectionist who's brutally hard on himself at even the slightest sign of struggle or weakness. I've been coping with this FOR YEARS, and have tons of tools to manage it, but that doesn't change the fact that my DEFAULT reaction is usually to come crashing down on myself for "messing something up." It's okay to have "the first thought." The problem is when I let a negative thought snowball into a negative attitude, which thankfully, hasn't really happened for years. Thoughts are just thoughts. How I react to them is what defines my attitude, and my attitude I have complete control over. So long as I remember that, I'll maintain equanimity through this process, and come out just as successful as I know I'm capable of.

When my partner and I went outside to do our share of the pre-trip, I took to it very well. I'm a strong visual and data learner, so memorizing parts and functions with very little effort is something that comes very naturally to me. Not to toot my own horn, but the safety director (2nd highest in command underneath the owner) came out to "pop quiz" me on the engine compartment, and asked me "are you sure this is your first day? You sound like this is your fifth day." Then, today, he quizzed me again on more parts of the truck, including things I'd also just learned for the first time. He cut me off early and then told the rest of the class, in front of all the trainers, that "rookie of the day goes to Jim Carrey (yes, I look like Jim Carrey). He probably could have tested and passed the pre-trip on the first day." That was a great honor and very satisfying to hear, especially on top of how he had already told me he admired my positive attitude early in the morning on Day 1 ("I saw you back in the kitchen, introducing yourself to the team, asking people how they're feeling, cracking jokes, good body language, attentive and ready roll. Those are the winners with the positive attitude who always make it.") It is kind of embarrassing I suppose lol, as humility is something I know I need work on. I just took the praise, said thanks, and kept my mouth shut, because I know everyone hates a know-it-all and I'm going to strive very hard to be one.

THAT SAID, I experienced plenty of struggles today on Day 2:

My partner from Day 1, an older gentleman from South Carolina named John, and a woman just a few years younger than me named Maralan from Northern California, are "the group" now with one pad trainer. In freezing cold sleet and high winds, we finished the rest of the pre-trip today, and then went right into straight-line backing. Our trainer told us that as easy as it seemed, straight-line backing was actually the hardest part OF THE CDL test, because it's the ONLY part of the test that requires us to intuitively feel how to move the trailer. All of the other backs: offset, 90 degree, and parallel, are simply following directions, like baking a cake. He made it clear, however, that in the REAL WORLD, straight line backing is by far the easiest. Every maneuver should ideally end up as a straight line back whenever possible. He just said that if we can straight line back, we can do every other backing maneuver, and don't need to worry. If we can't straight line back, we can't progress, can't learn any other maneuver, and therefore won't be able to pass the CDL exam. I was reassured, because of my six attempts at straight-line backing, I nailed every single one of them almost perfectly.

HOWEVER ..... when we got to offset backing in the early afternoon, I found it to be anything but easy. The first three parts: sight-side or blind side offset, followed by backing to JUST short of straightening before the cones and then G.O.A.L., I had no problem with. Finding the landing gear and switching directions was easy. Identifying what adjustments I needed to make before setting up with the straight line back were easy. For whatever reason, the pull-up was when I started to "overthink" everything and somehow never manage a decent straight line back. I understood completely the reasoning behind figuring out first where I want my trailer to go in the hole, pulling forward and steering in the opposite direction to straighten the trailer, then pushing it back. But for whatever reason, I just couldn't execute it. I would start to pull up, turn the way I needed to, then second guess myself and GOAL repeatedly. The end result was I kept inching forward and back all over the pad, never believing I had a good enough set-up to go ahead and back straight in. All of the instructors and my teammates told me to breathe and stop overthinking it, but in the end I think I just let my nerves get the best of me. I know I can do this, just need to sleep on today's experience, let it process overnight, and give it another go tomorrow!

Okay, it's 1746 and I need to spend the rest of my evening studying the coupling, trailer, and lights portion of the pre-trip. Check in with you all tomorrow evening!

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Eugene K.'s Comment
member avatar

Very important correction: I'm going to strive NOT to be a know-it-all, lmao!

Eugene K.'s Comment
member avatar

Days 3 and 4 - Wed 30 Dec and Thu 31 Dec 2020

LOTS to update here from the last two days! I'll try to remember as much relevant info as possible and share everything I can!

Wed 30 Dec 2020 0645 - As usual, the shuttle picks us up to drive us from the Baymont hotel over to the Wilson Logistics campus. Along with our starting class of five D seat students, a trickle of other students (C seats and B seats) have shuffled back for various reasons: waiting to test for their CDL , waiting to be assigned a B seat trainer for the next phase of training, etc.) along with various drivers who are back in Springfield for various reasons (waiting to be assigned a trainee, truck in the shop for repairs, etc.). We all mix together in the hotel and the other students/drivers are always mingling with us out on the pad or in the office, so there's lots of experience and tips being shared.

(The training progression is as follows: after the first week of orientation on campus here in Springfield, you are assigned a trainer to go out on the road for two weeks. After two weeks, you're brought back to Springfield, and typically have a day or two to refresh your backing skills and practice your pre-trip before testing. After you pass, you're issued your CDL here, then sent back to your home state for a week or so to transfer your registration. Once that's done, you're assigned a new trainer to begin the next phase of training, which for Wilson is 30,000 miles of team driving. After that you have a solo week to iron out any kinks, and if you pass muster and earn the right to call yourself a Wilson driver, you're issued your own truck.)

Once we arrive on campus, we sign in with our lunch requests (lunch is provided free and is ALWAYS good - so far this week we've had delicious BBQ twice, among others), fill up on coffee, and head out to the pad to practice our pre-trip and start with our backing maneuvers. Four of us hop into a cab and start rehearsing our air brake and in-cab inspection, and right out of the gate it's clear that the one student who seemed questionable from day 1 has either not been studying at all, or else simply nothing is sinking in. We were specifically tasked with having the 4-stage air brake script and in-cab inspection memorized by Wednesday, and she literally didn't know a single thing (we had to feed her every cue). Sadly, she wound up being sent home from training when she was caught sleeping inside at a desk by the simulators--literally right in front of the company's most senior executives! I hate to see this happen to anyone, but at the end of the day, we are here to do a job and have been told multiple times to treat this endeavor as "the longest job interview of our lives."

OH: a side note about the weather. It's been consistently freezing out on the pad since we arrived, with temperatures averaging in the low 30's to high 20's, with constant rain all day on Tuesday, high wind Wednesday morning, and snow on Wednesday afternoon. COME PREPARED!!! I had recently stocked up on new winter outerwear before heading to training, including an 850-rated down jacket w/hood from REI, plus thermal gloves. I really wish I had thought to pack long underwear and wool socks, and will make sure to get some the first chance I get when I head out with my trainer. Also, Wilson requires slip-resistant footwear, and will reimburse you up to $50 if you provide a receipt.

Back to the morning on the pad: my group and our pad instructor began learning the blindside parallel, which has MANY more steps than any other backing maneuver, yet for whatever reason, came to me much more naturally than the offset did. As we were told, it really is simply a matter of following the directions to the letter, and you will land it in the box every time. Nothing more complicated than that. After I successful completed it a few times, my instructor told me to go complete two offset backs, blind side and sight side. Just like on Tuesday, things got hairy here. I would consistently overcorrect or undercorrect, and keep rolling with the error until it was too late to fix. The few times I did remember to pull up and correct, I either didn't pull up anywhere near far enough, or when I did, didn't turn the wheel hard left or hard right enough. Just like the day before, I wound up creeping back and forth all over the pad, never lining up my trailer where I needed it to go. UNTIL: I finally backed it into the box, perfectly! My instructor walks over with a huge smile on his face and says, "so, did you pass?" I said "yes, finally!!!" He said "are you touching any lines or did you hit any cones?" I said "nope, it's perfectly right in the box!" He says, "your right! Now which box were you aiming for?" It must have immediately shown on my face when I realized my error. He follows with, "congratulations, you successfully completed a blind side offset back into the same box you started from." Everyone on the pad had a good laugh at this. If you can't have fun with it while you're learning, what's the point??

After lunch, one other student from the group and myself paired off with one of the examiners to go driving--just as a torrential downpour of snow hit Springfield. I was terrified, but also exhilarated. Truthfully, I didn't find driving the truck to be at all difficult. I was a little jerky with my accelerator and braking (the examiner said "if you were hauling a beer load, it'd be flat by now"), CONTINUED

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.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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