Drivers Solutions Week One: It Ain’t Boot Camp.

Topic 29480 | Page 1

Page 1 of 1
Mark C.'s Comment
member avatar

It’s been about 35 years since that Drill Instructor so politely invited me to exit the bus, I figured as long as that memory was alive there wouldn’t be anything that could disturb me. I was both right and wrong.

I encountered that belligerent instructor who confesses his own Napoleon complex, the office administrator with an over-inflated ego, and some extremely likable instructors who surround them. I can get along with all of them, the roach motel is another paragraph.

Problem is, I’m not 18. Not only do I have to keep my childish pride in check, but I’ve also got to hold back my lifetime of critical thinking and experience. I’ve trained plumbers, I’ve taught middle school math, and I’ve run my own businesses. There’s a part of me that hurts when I encounter extreme inefficiency, and week one was painful.

I was amazed at how many arrived without a permit. I reckon a lot of recruiters just look to get bodies in the school and don’t really prepare them, but it made week one unproductive for those who had them and sent those without into a high stress “catch up” mode. I was even more amazed at how unprepared the school was for our arrival. I had until Wednesday to withdraw. I thought long and hard on that. I could just pay for school. First step is pre-trip and the training was to watch youtube videos. For hours, no days, we watched the same videos. We eventually got a 50 min live pre-trip, and that was Wednesday, then left to our own devices again while they focused on those needing permits.

Some of us spent considerable hours watching the week 2 & 3 students on the yard maneuvers, and that kinda hurt too. There was one instructor, Napoleon, trying to teach offset and ally dock to about 20 students at once. No wonder his idea of a hand signal is to throw stuff on the ground, it reminded me of teaching a class of 28 7th graders. Most of those waiting for a turn spent their time on their phones, ugh, and those behind the wheel seemed to be more interested in how far they could jackknife the trailer when Napoleon wasn’t looking. Maybe they liked his hand signals…

By the end of the week, I had decided to stick to the plan and things were starting to come together. A few of us wrangled the pre-trip instructor into giving us evals Friday morning and just like that we could join the fun on the range. There was no one in line for the “straight back” so we got to start right away. It finally felt like progress. Then the truck died. Then the next truck died. That turned out to be good news because we were advanced to the offset range without delay. I had experience with trailers so the straight back lost its appeal after the first half dozen times, the offset was much more interesting. We each got in one attempt in the hours remaining, then home for the weekend, since I’m only an hour and a half from the school.

Looking forward being on the range in week 2. My only question at this point is whether to commute or not. I mentioned the hotel is its own paragraph and my story of week one wouldn’t be complete without it. I think it’s run by a thief because they must have stolen a star from somewhere to have two in their rating.

I had an entire platoon in one bay at boot camp, but it was clean. VERY clean.

I don’t smoke. At least I didn’t until last Sunday night when I checked in. The haze of stale smoke hung in the air throughout. My roommate didn’t show up so I cranked the AC down and opened the window, at least the few inches it would. I remarked to a classmate about the smell and noted how bad it was in the elevator. He objected, explaining the elevator odor, unlike the halls and rooms, was vomit and urine, not cigarettes. I stand corrected.

I made a trip to Walmart for some staples, I’d resolved to eat in, and I settled in. I can survive this. A couple days in and my door clunked against the chain lock as a manager tried to open it unannounced. I was relaxing on the bed at the time. When I answered the door I was told I had a roommate, but the look on my face must have screamed superlatives over an unannounced entry (attempt). That roommate never came back that evening. Got a call from Driver’s Solutions the next day asking why I objected to a roommate… he got an ear full and I got a roommate.

The roommate doesn’t bother me. The broken microwave, smoke, stink, and roaches bother me. I have one confirmed kill with the disposable paring knife I picked up at Walmart. I won’t hold a grudge against the manager, but that 80 mile commute isn’t looking so bad. Gas spiked $0.30 this week, thanks Biden, but at 30+ mpg I’m only looking at about $130 in fuel to finish out the next two weeks. (math teacher skills)

Why I chose this path is a whole other story, but I’m resolved to see it through. I wish I were writing about personal victories and uplifting stories of accomplishments, but sometimes life is about enduring unpleasantries. So far that is the best and most honest description of my first week, with just a smattering of small victories sprinkled in. Not one time did I tell them how to run their school. That is an accomplishment.

If asked what advice I would give it’s just this. Learning is a personal effort. Never think skills can be bestowed, they must be earned, so a good student will take responsibility for their own education. The students who arrived without ever taking a moment to prepare will likely not graduate.

Happy Trails...

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.
Anne A. (momcat)'s Comment
member avatar

Excellent post, Mark ~!!

I'll be happily following your journey; and I LOVE that last paragraph, for sure!

Stay safe, stay focused ~

~ Anne ~

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

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Mark C.'s Comment
member avatar

Week Two in Retrospect

I now commute to class. The day after I retrieved the rest of my stuff, the room was flooded by a toilet overflow from the 4th floor. Divine providence? I believe.

It really helps to have some experience with trailers. I see no shame in testing in an automatic if a stick is totally new, but if you must translate the wheel to the trailer each time, the increased stress and any distraction can interrupt that resulting in confusion, and lots of pull ups. Having a bit of muscle memory helps focus attention on the “when” and “how much” rather than “which way”. Fortunately for me, I’ve backed trailers of many sizes. My ‘turn’ on the course usually lasts just a few minutes while the less experienced have taken as much as 40 min on a single alley dock.

We lost the pre-trip instructor this week and started with a new one. Last guy put me in the system as a fail so the new guy’s attempt to get me caught up brought my second eval quickly. The picture I took of my signed passing eval, plus the fortuitous opportunity to complete a second, meant I was done with pre-trip requirements ****il test day) earlier than expected. Then I was able to solicit the other instructors to use my practice time as the requisite evaluations for yard maneuvers. I’m happy to report I was able to start the actual driving part of my training by Wednesday of week two. A couple others in my class followed my example and got their first drive time on Friday with me on my second.

Having my permit in hand, and having had experience backing a trailer, combined with some proactive presence really paid off. I really want the extra time double clutching because… da##! I could blame it on the terrible condition of the trucks, but I’d be fooling myself. I know how to shift, but the muscle memory keeps getting in the way. And downshifting while approaching a row of stopped traffic instead of just hitting the brake isn’t what my brain wants. I want to be on that brake with stopping power at the ready, not fumbling with double clutching and revving the engine. My second time was much better than my first, though I’m still leaving my hand on the shifter, another muscle memory thing I do even in my automatic car.

I’ve made Napoleon my friend, he’s a good-hearted man with anger issues. He just gets over-heated when his instruction is ignored. If he blows that whistle any harder he may pop a blood vessel. On that same topic, I could no longer resist giving a little instruction to the office administrator. She had achieved a high level of resentment among the students (being in the yard with them made impossible not to notice). I’d like to take credit for the cessation of her condescending remarks in meetings, who knows… but the temp at meetings has come down.

I’ve met people just starting life, some who’s careers have been eliminated and others who’ve had to shut down life-long businesses over Covid. People from all walks of life are turning to trucking for a stable income. Trucking has long been a popular choice as a second or third career, though I don’t think there has ever been a time when so many are looking for that ‘next career’. Hopefully, I’ll be prepared to test next week so I can start my… 4th?

God Bless

Double Clutch:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

Double Clutching:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

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.
Andrey's Comment
member avatar

Mark, you picked up a bad school. I have completed my CDL training a few weeks ago, so it is still fresh in my memory. It was with Roehl in Marshfield, WI, and from your whole list of problems I cannot name one that I faced myself.

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.
Mark C.'s Comment
member avatar

Mark, you picked up a bad school. .

Hehe, that seems to be the general consensus in the yard. The guys who paid out of pocket are pretty vocal. I really feel bad for the people who needed more one on one time to learn, the ratio is simply too large for individual attention. But on a positive note, I'm still in FL where a cold morning is 42 deg. Roehl wasn't hiring in FL and lets face it, WI is a bit chilly this time of year. They were my first choice though.

I almost backed out during my rescission window, but I was confident enough in my own ability to do this even with the obvious issues. I also have a schedule to meet for an income and picking another rout would cost a few weeks. If I fail a test it will be the result of my own laziness, not the school. I do need a little more seat time for shifting and getting the "feel" of it, but that shouldn't be a problem. Where I get agitated is knowing the people who fail out will be on the hook for $6k to Driver's Solutions and they never got near that in value.

Three decades later and I'm still pulling lessons from my military experience, a crappy commander shouldn't be allowed to color your career choices. If I had known that then who knows where I'd be today.

My future is what I make of what God gives me, and it won't be excuses.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Mark C.'s Comment
member avatar

Excellent post, Mark ~!!

I neglected to thank you. I try to turn off the computer time during the week to squeeze in more wife time before I start out, thus the weekly update. In reality it's me falling asleep on the couch at 9 to make the commute.

So Thanks for the response. My next post may include a testing result, time will tell.

Andrey's Comment
member avatar

Hehe, that seems to be the general consensus in the yard. The guys who paid out of pocket are pretty vocal. I really feel bad for the people who needed more one on one time to learn, the ratio is simply too large for individual attention. But on a positive note, I'm still in FL where a cold morning is 42 deg. Roehl wasn't hiring in FL and lets face it, WI is a bit chilly this time of year.

Well, we all owe our souls to the company store now :-) For me it will be driving 120k miles or shelling out 7G from my pocket... Personally I would also preferred FL, but WI attracted me because I have never been to this state before, and I know that life is overall better in a hard climate. Plus, of course, all the good things I heard about Roehl. Anyway, all the best to you , and good luck with your test. With your good attitude you almost have your CDL already!

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.
Mark C.'s Comment
member avatar

Week Three and Passed. This final week was a much better experience for me. Previous classes moved on and some who had struggled for a long time were let go. They also got more organized in the class portion of training. This meant a much better ratio of students to trucks which meant more seat time for each of us.

It almost went sour when I was passed over for scheduling my test. Since I was the first in my class to complete all required evaluations, I was a bit put out. Once more I became a (politely) squeaking wheel, and after some tense glances in the office over who dropped the ball I was scheduled for Friday. I’m not usually very good at squeaking so I’m blaming/crediting my NY wife for the skill. Besides, she’s not here to object which is my number one rule for passing the buck. If you had siblings or multiple kids, you understand.

Meetings this week were more professional, and dare I say, mature. Seat time in a truck went from 20 min in a 10 hr day to easily over an hour. The final hour of the day would offer opportunity for those scheduled to test to practice in the test truck on the actual test course. That meant just three or four students to a truck which was an excellent preparation. Such a contrast to previous weeks.

The test was a bit nerve wracking as the gears I’d mastered in training hid from me. Getting distracted even had me trying to shift in a turn, like a dummy. But I hit no curbs, ran no lights, and held the truck under control in traffic, so I passed and now await further instruction from PAM.

I could never recommend this school. Anyone who is already familiar with driving larger vehicles and backing trailers will likely enjoy success like myself, but those without such experience should consider a larger school. If you do try it and too far to commute, bring a bedroll and clean towels... and roach spray. I’m a little stoked to be one of only two to test out in week three, it really pays to own your training. I wish I could have done more to help a few others but it’s time to turn my focus ahead. Since the “Grad Line” went to voicemail late Friday, I’ll start that focus on Monday.

God Bless, see you on the road.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Congratulations!

dancing-banana.gif dancing-banana.gif dancing-banana.gif dancing-banana.gif dancing-banana.gif good-luck.gif

Page 1 of 1

New Reply:

New! Check out our help videos for a better understanding of our forum features

Bold
Italic
Underline
Quote
Photo
Link
Smiley
Links On TruckingTruth


example: TruckingTruth Homepage



example: https://www.truckingtruth.com
Submit
Cancel
Upload New Photo
Please enter a caption of one sentence or less:

Click on any of the buttons below to insert a link to that section of TruckingTruth:

Getting Started In Trucking High Road Training Program Company-Sponsored Training Programs Apply For Company-Sponsored Training Truck Driver's Career Guide Choosing A School Choosing A Company Truck Driving Schools Truck Driving Jobs Apply For Truck Driving Jobs DOT Physical Drug Testing Items To Pack Pre-Hire Letters CDL Practice Tests Trucking Company Reviews Brett's Book Leasing A Truck Pre-Trip Inspection Learn The Logbook Rules Sleep Apnea
Done
Done

0 characters so far - 5,500 maximum allowed.
Submit Preview

Preview:

Submit
Cancel

Join Us!

We have an awesome set of tools that will help you understand the trucking industry and prepare for a great start to your trucking career. Not only that, but everything we offer here at TruckingTruth is 100% free - no strings attached! Sign up now and get instant access to our member's section:
High Road Training Program Logo
  • The High Road Training Program
  • The High Road Article Series
  • The Friendliest Trucker's Forum Ever!
  • Email Updates When New Articles Are Posted

Apply For Paid CDL Training Through TruckingTruth

Did you know you can fill out one quick form here on TruckingTruth and apply to several companies at once for paid CDL training? Seriously! The application only takes one minute. You will speak with recruiters today. There is no obligation whatsoever. Learn more and apply here:

Apply For Paid CDL Training

About Us

TruckingTruth was founded by Brett Aquila (that's me!), a 15 year truck driving veteran, in January 2007. After 15 years on the road I wanted to help people understand the trucking industry and everything that came with the career and lifestyle of an over the road trucker. We'll help you make the right choices and prepare for a great start to your trucking career.

Read More

Becoming A Truck Driver

Becoming A Truck Driver is a dream we've all pondered at some point in our lives. We've all wondered if the adventure and challenges of life on the open road would suit us better than the ordinary day to day lives we've always known. At TruckingTruth we'll help you decide if trucking is right for you and help you get your career off to a great start.

Learn More