I've Applied To Attend Driver Training At Swift Academy Phoenix

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Michael B.'s Comment
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23 August 2022 Today during my lunch break I got a call from Mayra, my assigned recruiter at Swift Driver Academy here in Phoenix. She asked me a bunch of questions to see if I prequalify for eligibility to enroll in the school (“Have you ever used illegal drugs” threw me for a bit of a loop). After hearing my answers she said I did qualify, and she invited me to come to the Phoenix terminal on Friday for a tour and an interview. I’m off early on Friday at my current job in Phoenix, so getting there by 4 will be easy. I’m smiling. It’s exciting to feel excited.

I’ve been thinking about taking truck driver training for several years, and in recent days I filled out the info on the Swift website to get more info on their training program. It’s time for me to take a deeper look at what my life could be like if I were to become a truck driver. I have Trucker's Truth to thank for helping me do an enormous amount of research before I decided to apply for training. I'm going to try to write a diary of my experiences to help inform others who find this site after I did.

I’ve read many Trucker's Truth posts and watched dozens of YouTube videos posted by drivers in their first year on the job. Big concerns seem to be equipment breakdowns that keep drivers off the road (thus not making money), and not enough “home time,” or days off near where they live. I noticed Swift now guarantees new hires will make $1,0000.00 (one thousand dollars) weekly after they get off their mentor’s truck ($800 a week while on the mentor’s truck), so that addresses the equipment issue for the first six or seven months of the gig. There is no payment during the four week training, and I am OK with that. As far as home time goes, I don’t technically have a home, or live with or near my family, so it’s not an issue for me. I’ve just been renting rooms in houses for years, usually with friends. If I can take my Phoenix Terminal “home time” in Oregon, Idaho, New Mexico, Colorado, or Virginia, that would give me time off near family. So I’d kinda rather stay on the road. Not much holding me here in Phoenix.

I’ve lived all over the Western United States (Idaho, Utah, California, Washington, New Mexico and Arizona) and traveled in about as many Western states I’ve lived (Nevada, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, and I’ll include Oklahoma and Texas). I’ve owned homes in California and Washington state, but I’ve not had interest lately in putting down roots, and even less ability to pay for anything of the sort. But if I could swing it, if I could cobble together some cash and get my own place on a little bit of land, I have a pretty good idea where I’d like to do it. El Paso, Texas. It’s like Mexico but it’s not in Mexico, and I love Mexico. I love the culture, I love the food and I love the language. I speak fluent Spanish, having learned it as a missionary back in the late 1980s.

It feels a little odd to have a dream again, a goal maybe. I’ve become such a minimalist in midlife that owning things holds very little value for me. I value experiences. I value adventure, and I don’t mean planned ones, I mean when things don’t work out, how do you work them out? Challenges maybe. The more I read about trucking, and the more videos I see about it, the more I think it may be the right fit for my wandering soul always in search of adventures that challenge my intelligence and my patience. Lots of other people are doing this work safely and efficiently every day. There’s no reason to think I can’t as well. I’m ready to give it a try.

I think Over The Road sounds like the kind of challenge I would love. Big trip, be disciplined about my schedule, and get it done a little bit early. Five hundred miles a day does not bother me. Back in March I drove backroads from San Antonio to El Paso in a day and had the time of my life. Windmills, oil rigs and two-lane blacktop for hours on end.

I’m interested in team driving if that is an option for newbies and it sounds like it may be. Teams can be on the road even longer than solo drivers, so they can get really long trips, like 2,000 miles each way. I like the road warrior lifestyle. “We’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there” are lyrics to "Eastbound and Down," a song I used to sing along with on the radio when I was in elementary school and Smokey and the Bandit was in theaters. Being four states away by morning holds a certain appeal for me. But finding a good partner for team driving must be a real trick. How do you choose a person you can be cooped up with for three weeks at a time? What if their farts are horrible? What if they are lazy? Or worst of all, what if they don’t know the difference between “there” and “their?”

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.

Over The Road:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

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.

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
member avatar

Following along.

Get through the schooling part, then the training, then go out solo. You'll see as many miles, and get paid the same. Team miles the pay is split. Plus, all you have to worry about is yourself. The truck is small; even smaller with two on board.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Michael B.'s Comment
member avatar

Following along.

Get through the schooling part, then the training, then go out solo. You'll see as many miles, and get paid the same. Team miles the pay is split. Plus, all you have to worry about is yourself. The truck is small; even smaller with two on board.

Hi PackRat, thanks for the guidance. I've read a little more about team driving in recent days and I'm kinda leaning toward what you are saying: 1) Learn what is taught in the academy so I can pass all the tests. 2) Ride and drive with an experienced trucker until the company greenlights me to go solo. Then boom! 3) I am on my own!

I saw your phone number and invite for texts in your bio. OK to text you the first time I am in a panic? I suspect the truck will be in an awkward, near jackknife position, and either in or very recently in reverse!

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Michael B.'s Comment
member avatar

25 August 2022 I just read a story in the Washington Post that had the following phrase: “Immersed in discouraging chaos.” That’s one hell of a line! It describes frustration in just four words and is far more descriptive than what folks usually say, like “I’m screwed.” What do people mean when they say they are screwed? I bet they mean they feel like they are immersed in discouraging chaos. I guarantee you that is how I will feel when I have to back a trailer into a spot that is barely wide enough. Frustrated by what a pain in the ass backing can be when conditions are not perfect. I know a few US Marines who shout, "Embrace the suck!" when things aren't going as planned. Yeah. I bet it's like that

26 August 2022 Had my preliminary and or screening interview at Swift Driver Academy this afternoon. It seemed to be designed to weed out applicants who won’t be up to the challenge of studying to pass an exam. Also to weed out those whose home lives are more comfortable than a life on the open road. Some with cozy lives might quit after they encounter endless on-the-road setbacks. Apparently, lots of folks apply to the school thinking the tests will be easy. They are not, especially if you aren’t an expert at backing a 52-foot trailer into a space that can barely hold it. It ain’t easy, and several backing maneuvers are required to pass the test. The school recruiter walked me through the different phases of the four-week training offered at the Phoenix terminal. First two weeks will be mostly classroom, last two weeks will be mostly in a truck on a lot at the Phoenix Terminal. Once training is complete you take the tests. Pass the tests, you graduate. If you want to work for Swift and they want to hire you, you can be hired immediately by Swift. Within about a week, you will be assigned a mentor and ride in his or her truck for about 200 hours to learn about life on the road. Pickups. Drop offs, trip planning, where to park for the night, etc. Probably about three or four weeks with the mentor. After that, one final road test to see if you look ready to have your own truck. Pass that test and they assign you a truck.

27 august 2022 My dream of a West Texas home keeps recurring. Or maybe it’s not in West Texas like I’m thinking. Maybe it’s in a part of the US I haven’t even seen yet. I’d really like to see Kentucky and Tennessee, the Cumberland area. I’ve read books about it and it sounds like gloriously rough country. For years I’ve been looking at small adobe houses. I think that’s what would really like. On a lot large enough to host semis and RVs if need be. I’d even install a few RV hookups so friends can visit as long as they like. The adobe house would look more natural in West Texas. For the Cumberland, I’d want a log cabin or a stone house.

28 August 2022 I’ve been signing up for truck stop rewards programs in anticipation I get accepted to school and offered a job with Swift. I’m interested in the free showers! The Pilot/Flying J program allowed me to register online. The Love’s one requires you have a physical Love’s card in hand before you can register because what you actually have to register is the number printed on the back of the card. So I drove about a half hour to my neighborhood Love’s on I-10 South of Phoenix and got one. The building seemed really small compared to other Love’s I’ve seen in the Western United States. I walked through the tiny displays of trucker stuff for sale. Seems like just about as much space was dedicated to GPS units and wireless headsets as there was to ratchet straps, engine fluids and hi-viz clothing. Drivers paying for their diesel spoke at least three languages while I was standing there. I liked that very much. Made me think there is room for everyone in trucking if you’re willing to put in the work.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

PackRat's Comment
member avatar

double-quotes-start.png

Following along.

Get through the schooling part, then the training, then go out solo. You'll see as many miles, and get paid the same. Team miles the pay is split. Plus, all you have to worry about is yourself. The truck is small; even smaller with two on board.

double-quotes-end.png

Hi PackRat, thanks for the guidance. I've read a little more about team driving in recent days and I'm kinda leaning toward what you are saying: 1) Learn what is taught in the academy so I can pass all the tests. 2) Ride and drive with an experienced trucker until the company greenlights me to go solo. Then boom! 3) I am on my own!

I saw your phone number and invite for texts in your bio. OK to text you the first time I am in a panic? I suspect the truck will be in an awkward, near jackknife position, and either in or very recently in reverse!

Sure. If I'm awake I'll reply. Otherwise, just post it on the general board. Don't be bashful about asking questions no matter how trivial they may seem. Nobody started off as an experienced driver.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Ryan B.'s Comment
member avatar

This is a career that is equal parts aggravating and fulfilling. Your best days you will feel liberated that you are in a position to make your own choices in how your day will proceed in getting the job done (within reason), but your worst days you will feel a crushing load as you try to answer, "How do I manage this?" For most new drivers, the biggest challenge is figuring out how to problem solve when decisions must be made definitively because there is no one to give direction once solo in that truck. A driver can reach out to resources to get feedback, but ultimately the decision is made by the driver.

There are aspects of trucking that can be really frustrating, especially for people who are not used to how the industry works. It's a steep learning curve for a new driver and the failure rate is quite high. Being a successful driver takes a certain amount of humility, but it also requires a level of self-confidence.

You are entering into a training program with a company that has a long and successful track record of producing thousands upon thousands of successfully safe, reliable drivers. You would be hard pressed to find a company that has a more proven training program.

Wish you the best.

Michael B.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks Ryan, I appreciate the advice.

This is a career that is equal parts aggravating and fulfilling. Your best days you will feel liberated that you are in a position to make your own choices in how your day will proceed in getting the job done (within reason), but your worst days you will feel a crushing load as you try to answer, "How do I manage this?" For most new drivers, the biggest challenge is figuring out how to problem solve when decisions must be made definitively because there is no one to give direction once solo in that truck. A driver can reach out to resources to get feedback, but ultimately the decision is made by the driver.

There are aspects of trucking that can be really frustrating, especially for people who are not used to how the industry works. It's a steep learning curve for a new driver and the failure rate is quite high. Being a successful driver takes a certain amount of humility, but it also requires a level of self-confidence.

You are entering into a training program with a company that has a long and successful track record of producing thousands upon thousands of successfully safe, reliable drivers. You would be hard pressed to find a company that has a more proven training program.

Wish you the best.

Michael B.'s Comment
member avatar

30 August 2022 My recruiter at the driving academy told me the next step in the process is to wait and see if Swift Transportation itself is willing to offer me a job after I graduate from training. Today I received a “Student Prehire Letter” offering me a job with Swift Transportation once I complete my training and pass my tests. Of course there are contingencies, but basically I am one step closer to being enrolled in the Swift Driver Academy. It’s exciting! Now for more “next steps.”

There is a second interview with my driver academy recruiter, which she says we can do over the phone. The soonest she can do the second interview is two days from now. If that goes well, and it should, I will be enrolled in the academy at that time and assigned a time and place to get my DOT physical. Apparently there is a 24-hour clinic near the Phoenix airport where I can go get that done after work, also on Thursday. Once the school has the results (assuming I pass!) I will be assigned an academy start date. Right now those start dates would be Tuesday Sept 6 (the day after Labor Day) or Sept 12, the following Monday. I’m good with either, though I feel a little bad about giving my current job basically no notice of my decision to leave. It’s a small, family-owned company that specializes in doors and door frames for commercial construction. I am primarily a delivery driver and do some light metal fabrication, MIG welding metal door frames together, cutting out window holes in steel doors, etc. Work is a little slow at the moment, so maybe they won’t mind me being off the payroll sooner rather than later. If they feel they need me I will work another week and start training Sept. 12.

During today’s pickups and deliveries for work, I saw dozens of trucks like the one I will likely train in and drive after graduation. On city streets in Phoenix, all the drivers were doing well staying in their lanes, easily missing the sidewalk curbs on right turns, etc. On the freeway, they were also staying in their lanes, and giving plenty of room to the risk-takers who somehow think it’s a good idea to drive dangerously fast in rush hour traffic. I happy to have a chance to join the ranks of safe, efficient, competent drivers. It looks like this is really going to happen!

2 Sept 2020 Final interview w recruiter went well. It was essentially more questions about why I want to become a driver. She’s heard it from me before but needed to hear it again. When she was satisfied I knew exactly what I was signing up for, she enrolled me. Lots of paperwork hit my email while we were still on the phone. She walked me though what to do w the forms and I completed them while on the call. At the end she got the person who schedules DOT physicals on the line w me to set up my appointment. I got it for same day walk in. After work I went to the clinic and after a short wait got the exam and drug testing done. After that I got my DOT card (two copies) and was on my way. I planned to go see my parents in Idaho so I went home and showered and changed and packed and hit the road. Mesa, Arizona to Idaho Falls, Idaho, is about 13 hours. I planned to head for Page, Arizona and stop at the truck stop. I felt great when I got there so I pushed on to Kanab, Utah. Rolled in there about 2:30 am after 373 miles. Slept for a solid two hours in the back of my RAV4. Then did the rest of the trip today, 525 miles from Kanab, Utah to Idaho Falls. I love being on the road. I love watching trucks navigate busy traffic, like what we had this morning on northbound I-15 from Spanish Fork to Brigham City. A couple of drivers were piloting triple trailer rigs and having a good time trying to keep their miniature trains in their lane. Looks too sketchy for me to have much interest in triples… Lots of doubles on the road through Utah today. Two trailers looked much more manageable than three!

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.

Doubles:

Refers to pulling two trailers at the same time, otherwise known as "pups" or "pup trailers" because they're only about 28 feet long. However there are some states that allow doubles that are each 48 feet in length.

Prehire:

What Exactly Is A Pre-Hire Letter?

Pre-hire letters are acceptance letters from trucking companies to students, or even potential students, to verify placement. The trucking companies are saying in writing that the student, or potential student, appears to meet the company's minimum hiring requirements and is welcome to attend their orientation at the company’s expense once he or she graduates from truck driving school and has their CDL in hand.

We have an excellent article that will help you Understand The Pre-Hire Process.

A Pre-Hire Letter Is Not A Guarantee Of Employment

The people that receive a pre-hire letter are people who meet the company's minimum hiring requirements, but it is not an employment contract. It is an invitation to orientation, and the orientation itself is a prerequisite to employment.

During the orientation you will get a physical, drug screen, and background check done. These and other qualifications must be met before someone in orientation is officially hired.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Welcome Michael.

Have you read this: Becoming A Truck Driver: The Raw Truth About Truck Driving

You must stay positive; never allowing the lows get you too low and the highs getting you too high. Even keel, even temperament at all times.

I attended Swift’s Richmond Academy January of 2013… drove for Swift up until September of 2022. I was a Double Diamond driver on a Walmart Dedicated account in the NorthEast region. No regrets, would choose the same path if I had it to do over. Loved it.

What can suck is if you dwell on the negative and gravitate towards those who ooze of it. Stay away from the negative people who are there because they thought it was something to try. People fail at this because of both false expectations and a lack of commitment.

You will learn to back and it will frustrate you, possibly for months. But listen to the instructors and think about what you are doing. Use your freetime wisely by studying, even studying in groups with like minded students.

Check-in here frequently… we’ll do our best to help you.

Be positive my friend!!! You are embarking on a potential lifelong journey. Enjoy the ride.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

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.

Michael B.'s Comment
member avatar

Hi G Town! Thanks for the link in your note, I decided to go read the book. Ingested the whole thing in one sitting. Took a few hours... and I'm even more excited about this career path!

Welcome Michael.

Have you read this: Becoming A Truck Driver: The Raw Truth About Truck Driving

You must stay positive; never allowing the lows get you too low and the highs getting you too high. Even keel, even temperament at all times.

I attended Swift’s Richmond Academy January of 2013… drove for Swift up until September of 2022. I was a Double Diamond driver on a Walmart Dedicated account in the NorthEast region. No regrets, would choose the same path if I had it to do over. Loved it.

What can suck is if you dwell on the negative and gravitate towards those who ooze of it. Stay away from the negative people who are there because they thought it was something to try. People fail at this because of both false expectations and a lack of commitment.

You will learn to back and it will frustrate you, possibly for months. But listen to the instructors and think about what you are doing. Use your freetime wisely by studying, even studying in groups with like minded students.

Check-in here frequently… we’ll do our best to help you.

Be positive my friend!!! You are embarking on a potential lifelong journey. Enjoy the ride.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

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.

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