Local Carrier Driving Program - Lil'RedRidingHood's CDL School Adventure

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Lil'RedRidingHood's Comment
member avatar

Hi Everyone, I'll start with a brief introduction. I'm one of those people who always wanted to hit that big road in that big truck, but due to life's various turns just never put it into action. My background is as an office professional in heavy industry. In 2016 I found this forum, and started getting some good information about the industry, in contrast to what can be found in some other locations.

My serious preparation started last fall, and this community has been just GOLD in that process.

I knew I would have to be resourceful, as I have a very long employment gap, which not all carriers are fond of. Sifted through lots of ideas in the process, some good, some bad, and some so bad the Crypt Keeper was crying under his bed.

I looked at carriers that would let you buy into the truck, (not lease or buy)--yes, RUN and run away fast. I looked at buying a truck and doing hotshot. I looked at leasing, from carrier and from leasing company. Looked at employers, tools of the road, training programs, and so forth.

Over time, with the input of so many of the kind folks here, my direction--which looked much like a spaghetti casserole, solidified.

I found some good employers to talk to. It was also time to select a CDL school, and hit the High Road Training app on this forum. It is great by the way.

My nose was pointed in one direction (Prime--which I have a huge girl-crush on), when kind Kearsey alerted me to a wrinkle in my state's CDL school laws I was not aware of. My state must approve the school, and list it. For a long treatise on the finer points of WA DOL Laws--go check out This Thread, and This Thread.

Suffice to say, my options were limited. And I was BUMMED. I wanted to go to Prime for their top notch training.

Continued in next post...

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.

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.
Lil'RedRidingHood's Comment
member avatar

...Continued from above:

Beside Prime, I spoke with two other carriers, and several private schools. Because of our life situation--I need to get my CDL and find a job (and be at least mostly through road training) by early fall this year, so waiting was not an option for me. People have mentioned moving, and we may do this--but as homeowners this needs to be right financially. Hell (can I say hell?), the DMV rep in the CDL division even suggested I'd get a PO box in Portland Oregon! But I digress...

So. One carrier school was listed. LUCKY ME! Swift's Idaho location is approved by our state. And here is where the employment gap comes in.

I sent them a quick introductory e-mail with some initial questions, clicked the "send me texts" button on their website, and waited. Couple of days later a gentleman called, unfortunately at a time I was not available. Over the next week he left voicemails, and I left voicemails. We were finally able to connect on the phone, where after a 5 minute conversation he advised me not to apply, due to my very large employment gap. I think perhaps playing phone-tag, trying to set up an appointment also played a role.

Note to self: If the next carrier's recruiter is old school, put him or her in contacts and keep the phone on me 24/7. Lesson learned.

Also, I am guessing that with all the new laws, and the carriers losing masses of trainers, plus the equipment being difficult to get; they want the cream of the crop when they sink thousands of dollars of training into someone. And I don't blame them. If I owned a carrier, I would do the exact same thing.

So... while that might look bleak it is not so bad. Two other carriers wanted me to apply when I got close to graduating from private school, one of them being Prime, and the other a larger carrier in my state, which no longer has their own school (closed it down at the beginning of this year, bummer).

And this is when I enrolled in Private CDL school, and the adventure began. Let me be CLEAR. If you are reading this and think private schools are lollipops and unicorns, READ THIS FORUM. EVEN IF YOU WON THE LOTTERY--read it. If you can get into a paid school at a carrier's location, DO SO.

I am hoping this diary will entertain, inform, inspire, and perhaps at times be a warning.

The school shall remain nameless, as my impressions are forming day by day, some good--some less than good. I would suspect that in many ways they are representative of all the other private schools around the nation.

My next post in this thread starts the diary.

Thank you for following along this far. thank-you.gif

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.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Lil'RedRidingHood's Comment
member avatar

THE SCHOOL:

It has a flexible schedule, tailored to each student's needs, so that a person can study full-time, part-time, or on the weekends.

The training environment is on-demand; which depending on who you are as a person, can be a good thing or a very bad thing. If you need a lot of structure, this school is definitely not for you. For me--I see it as a positive.

We are heading into an occupation where we are for all intents and purposes the CEO of our little lives. We are entrusted with an expensive tractor and trailer, freight that can be worth a million dollars and more, and the lives of everyone on the road around us. That in itself is a ton of responsibility. On top of that we are entrusted the responsibility to be capable in communicating with shippers and receivers, the DOT , and other people we come across during our day, as REPRESENTATIVES of our employer. We have to be able to set up a schedule, figure out how to get there, communicate when we are available for a new load, any issues that arise, and many many other things.

No-one will hold our hand.

So therefore, for me, on-demand learning is perfect.

The curriculum conforms to WA state guidelines and the FMCSA's minimum guidelines.

160 hours total, which consists of 40 hours of classroom study; which now is required by the state, EVEN if you already have your CLP. If you want Hazmat that's an extra 16 hours, and DOL won't even let you sit for your test until you have finished it, and the state has looked over the results from your class.

For your practicum, you get 50 hours behind the wheel, which consists of 18 hours street driving, 16 hours backing, and 16 hours proficiency development, consisting of backing or driving. In addition, there are 70 hours of combined lab, range, or observation training; so--your on-duty not driving; such as pretrip inspections, coupling, chain installation, weight balancing and so on, and observing other students while driving, backing or pretripping. You also get lab credit for self-study that you do in any of the above.

The tuition comes to about 4K when you factor in drug testing, permit fees, skills testing fees et cetera.

So in this regard the school is probably like all the other ones. The important difference is the on-demand part.

In order to graduate, you must have the above, must pass the school's internal tests, put in an effort and do well. HOW YOU GET THERE, IS COMPLETELY UP TO YOU.

You decide when and how often you want to drive, when you want to back, and when you want to pretrip, and so on. Nobody babysits you. You want instruction? You ask--and it is given to you. You can take as little as 4 weeks to get there, or as long as 6 months. It is completely your call. You come and go to the school as you want.

Sounds a bit chaotic? It is. They will give you advice on what you should do first and last, but you ultimately decide.

Now here's the first real drawback. Without a firm schedule set up for everything, equipment may not be available when you want it, except for driving, which has a schedule.

Like I said--if a person craves structure, this is NOT the place.

The owner and the instructors are capable, experienced, kind and helpful people. Every last one I've met. They have a mix of instructor experience levels, from a few years behind the wheel, to 5-millon milers. Some are old-school, some are new-school, but they are all kind.

All the students I have met are also the kindest people, and the students that are further ahead help out the newbies, a lot.

I don't have any more time tonight; so next time I will tell about each day, my utter confusion to start with, and how it is now starting to come together, and the steps I took to ensure I am taken advantage of what is given.

Stay safe out there everyone

Lil'Red

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

CSA:

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

FMCSA:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

What Does The FMCSA Do?

  • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
  • Data and Analysis
  • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
  • Research and Technology
  • Safety Assistance
  • Support and Information Sharing

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.

Fm:

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.

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.

Travis's Comment
member avatar

Glad to hear you got past the gap. I've got 15 years no work and start private school in April. Hoping that me footing the bill for that and having some endorsements, TWIC and passport will present enough value to companies they'll be willing to bite.

Your State requirements sound a bit onerous, I'd probably have borrowed a friend's address in another state 🤣

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.

Anne A. (and sometimes To's Comment
member avatar

Lil' Red!!

What an excellent start, to what I'm sure shall be an EXCELLENT diary, m'lady.

I'm so glad G'Town gave you the go ahead, and YES, I'm following! (I haven't been on Meta in a few days, but will try today.)

So happy for you, is an understatement. The school sounds 'onerous' at best, which actually CAN work in one's favor!

Best wishes going forward, gal. TTYS!

~ Anne ~

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

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Lil'RedRidingHood's Comment
member avatar

I tell ya, my state needs a lobotomy. rofl-2.gif (Can I say that here?)

But hey--it's not like me throwing a fit in the governor's office would change anything, except me getting a nice vacation with a cool orange coverall & some nice slippers to go with it, so I just roll with it.

I'm not across the gap yet, I have yet to secure a contract anywhere. But--I do not give up easily. Per the DOT statistics of 2021, there are 813,440 carriers on file with the FMCSA. I'm really cute, so I'm sure one of them will want me.

And they will want you too. I think the key is, when you have a "black eye" like we do--is to show a lot of initiative.

Good luck with your school! good-luck.gif

Glad to hear you got past the gap. I've got 15 years no work and start private school in April. Hoping that me footing the bill for that and having some endorsements, TWIC and passport will present enough value to companies they'll be willing to bite.

Your State requirements sound a bit onerous, I'd probably have borrowed a friend's address in another state 🤣

CSA:

Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)

The CSA is a Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) initiative to improve large truck and bus safety and ultimately reduce crashes, injuries, and fatalities that are related to commercial motor vehicle

FMCSA:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

The FMCSA was established within the Department of Transportation on January 1, 2000. Their primary mission is to prevent commercial motor vehicle-related fatalities and injuries.

What Does The FMCSA Do?

  • Commercial Drivers' Licenses
  • Data and Analysis
  • Regulatory Compliance and Enforcement
  • Research and Technology
  • Safety Assistance
  • Support and Information Sharing

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.

Fm:

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.

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

Lil'RedRidingHood's Comment
member avatar

Thank you Anne. :)

I'm so glad I got permission as well. I also followed your advice and emailed Brett, who was very supportive. What an amazing man he is, to dedicate his life to helping others like he has.

I did PM you over on the gossip box (FB). It was waaaay late, but I did remember. smile.gif

Yes the school is very different; but I think given what kind of industry I'm entering, this is decidedly a good thing. I also like that they have massive focus on road training. And I don't mean coast around the city block in a quiet industrial area. Once I can actually shift, instead of grinding the thing like it was grandma's porridge casserole, I think that will be great. DO send me a big box of Epipens though dear. I'm ordering a vat of smelling salts from Amazon.

Anyway, I'd better get back to making me some flash-cards for the pretrip inspection.

Lil' Red!!

What an excellent start, to what I'm sure shall be an EXCELLENT diary, m'lady.

I'm so glad G'Town gave you the go ahead, and YES, I'm following! (I haven't been on Meta in a few days, but will try today.)

So happy for you, is an understatement. The school sounds 'onerous' at best, which actually CAN work in one's favor!

Best wishes going forward, gal. TTYS!

~ Anne ~

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

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

This is fantastic Lil’ Red! Thanks for taking the time to write this.

Best of luck!

Lil'RedRidingHood's Comment
member avatar

Hi everyone, sure has been a looooong time. Sitting at a SLC hotel writing this, waiting for my trainer to roll into town tomorrow..

So...I will break this diary up into two parts.


Part 1 will be a comment here, updating everyone on CDL school.
Part 2 will be my adventures with my carrier... which... you'll just have to read the other part to learn who... Spoiler alert, there are only a couple of threads I could find on all of TT about them... and they are not small... If you guess who.. SHHHH... Let the others sit with the cliffhanger haha.

The good stuff is coming in the next comment...

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.
Lil'RedRidingHood's Comment
member avatar

CDL SCHOOL

So the school I started at was "on-demand", where you had to grab the training for yourself. The instructors were in the office, if they were not out driving with students. The ratio was pretty high, but--upside, this school was flexible for folks who needed to work a full-time job while getting their CDL. Their theory was excellent, with plenty of real-life advice I don't think other CDL schools give. Their instruction was focused the same way. However....

I was in a situation where we had a finite amount of cash; we could survive, but only for so long, so I really needed a firm end date. It became apparent quickly my path was NOT the best for me. Also, it became quickly apparent that I just wasn't of the caliber that the school required. The folks with a very steep learning curve, or just needing to refresh did excellent there. This was so not me.. but I hung in there..

What happened next, was really not their fault..
2021 & 22 was hard on equipment operators everywhere. Especially if your business model is to purchase old equipment and fix it. I happened to walk onto the scene when an old broken down truck was 80K, and parts could not be found anywhere.
Their trucks kept breaking. Old trucks do. But they didn't have any to replace those broken--which given it was -22 I really cannot fault them for. Hard for a small, even larger operation to find all the parts you need.

Now add my situation, and I knew I needed to do something different. So I enrolled in a full-time CDL school. School one was super understanding, refunded my money no questions asked. I'd definitely recommend it to anyone who wants to do school part time, and for folks with some driving background.

School two: These people were AWESOME! It is where I would send other hopefuls first, for sure. If they could teach ME how to drive a 10-speed manual, and to pass my CDL, they could teach anyone.

I had such a hard time learning how to double clutch. Having driven a car-stick for decades was messing me up BAD. I had such a hard time wrapping my head around rhytm, placement of the clutch pedal, and the correct RPM. Finally they put me with a "fixer". This 5M miler gentleman will forever be close to my heart. Little by little he got it through my dumb skull how to shift a semi.

Then onto the city driving problem. I was terrified.... Not of the truck, but of ****ing the other drivers off and of the speed of everything. Of hitting anything, of my own damn shadow? Of the heavy traffic, of stop-signs, stop-lights, anything you can think of.

They took me out on the country roads, major arteries, the packed 3-lines in each diretion freeway. I was serene. They scratched their head. "You can really drive, why are you s****ing up so bad in the city?"

Two 7-million milers, an 8-million miler and my 5M sweet favorite teacher later, they had it figured out.. Tossed me in the simulator, where I had WAAAY too much fun. 7M miler who ran simulator said "with all I threw at you, there is no way you should have problems out there". There were kangaroos, blown steer tires, 60mph gusts, he even made the roads black ice and me drunk.

Nerves. Plain ol' nerves, coupled with lower performance when tired, which at times I was..

My fave teacher took me to the big city. I nailed it. The day after that? OH MY GOD let's just say I'm happy bonehead truckers weren't watching. I'd have good days, then STINK. A good day, then STINK. And when I stunk,I STUNK!!! I would do crazy things there's no human explanation for. But--I did not hit anything, or do any damage to the truck, so there's that.

Backing? Here again I was an oxymoron. I could do the 90. Sort of at first, then pretty good. Straight? I did ok, but not like the 90. Offset parking? HAHAHAHAHA! Oh GOD I'm glad bonehead truckers weren't looking. One thing that made a difference partway in, was getting half a day to just mess up. The school was closed on Fridays, so they could catch up with office work, maintenance etc, and the owner let me back unsupervised all morning. After awhile of turning the wheel and the truck doing EVERYTHING but what I wanted it to, things started to click.. Like the delay in the 53 ft trailer, where the trailer tandems where and what was going to happen next, and how to bring the trailer at least sorta straight when setting up with less than unlimited room.

Then come exam day, and my fave trainer personally drove the 50 miles to give me my favorite truck. YES this is how cool these people are..

Think I'm running out of allowed characters, so will continue in the next comment...

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.

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".

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.

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.

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