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

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Michael B.'s Comment
member avatar

Aww, thanks Old School! I'm reading a few of your posts about how drivers can be proactive instead of reactive w dispatch to get more miles. I'm appreciating your wisdom. Nice to meet ya!

I'm enjoying your diary Michael. It's really well done so far.

Sandman J's Comment
member avatar

Michael, here's my observation from recently going through the permit testing. I like what Charles has taught you, read each question twice, think about what questions have to be wrong. I'm in Illinois so your experience could be different, but at the computer, I had to have headphones on and a robot voice read each of the questions. This threw me off at first because I was trying to read at a pace normal to me but which was not in line with the voice. So I waited for her to finish her script, then I read the question myself and pretty much did what Charles told you to do. I think that helped me a lot.

Swift is high on my list so I'm eagerly following your journey. Anyway, if you happen to see this before your test, hope it might help. Good luck!

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

Michael B.'s Comment
member avatar

Thursday 15 September 2022 Day Four

I arrived early at Swift so I could stop by the driver appreciation week circus tent and get a soda as a pretend breakfast shake. Diet Pepsi has lots of protein and fiber and vitamin C, right? So refreshingly healthy at 7 am!

There are new trucks (tractors) parked outside the tent, and I was admiring a shiny new 2023 Kenworth when a woman walked up from behind the truck and said, “This thing is brand new! Never even had a trailer on it!” I wanted to know how she knew that, so I asked. She pointed out that the fifth wheel was greased but under that, clean as the day it was installed. And the catwalk was spotless. No grease, no grime, no rust. Perfect. That made sense. New truck! I asked if she was a driver and she said yes. I told her I was on day four of the academy. She said she was in my shoes back in June. So she’s really new!

I asked if she was getting the miles she hoped for and her energy changed completely. She said no. Then came a list of additional disappointments she’s experienced since getting off her mentor’s truck. It was a little depressing. Swift’s trucks don’t go fast enough (governed at 65 mph, but everybody already knows that). Academy tuition reimbursement doesn’t REALLY happen until the end of your second year (yep, I signed that contract!). Backing is still such a nightmare that when a yard dog offered to park her trailer for her yesterday, she gladly dropped it and left (That is a major fear for me, but I am trying to make that less major for now, since I’m not even driving yet). The electronic communications device used for dispatch in her new solo truck often does not work, and once when it did, she was sent the wrong address for a receiver (not that hard to double check on your own if you take the time to plan your trip). Her driver leader/manager apparently takes hours to return messages, and when they do, there is little to no empathy for what the driver is going through (Only you can manage you!). I felt her pain, but man, after five minutes of that, I excused myself and went to catch my shuttle bus to the academy. Doom and gloom first thing in the morning on the day I get to take my CDL learner’s permit tests? No thanks!

We got to class and Charles, our instructor, made us take out all the documents we needed to have at the DMV (Arizona calls its version the MVD). We all had what we needed, so we loaded up in a 15-passenger Ford Transit van and set out for testing. We tested West of the academy, in Goodyear, Arizona, at a MVD that only offers Commercial Driver Licenses. What a great idea! No appointments needed, just show up. Walk in, take a number, present your documents when called, pay your twenty-five bucks, and boom, you are testing.

While we waited for our numbers to be called, I figured I would click through a few practice tests just to keep the info fresh in my mind. But the lobby was noisy. Lots of loud ringtones, followed by shouted private conversations happening in a very public place. The one screen of practice questions I answered about air brakes, I failed. Now I was getting nervous about the real tests. I put my phone away. Stick to the plan, man. All you gotta do is read every question twice. Read all the answers twice. Eliminate the wrong answers and choose the best one from whatever’s left. Stick to the plan.

My number was called, I presented my documents, paid my fee and was assigned a testing station. It’s all digital these days, and I took a seat at Station 8 as directed. No mouse. No keyboard. And nobody told me the computer monitor was also a touch screen. So I sat there for a minute wondering what the heck I was supposed to do. Finally, I poked the monitor and it welcomed me with a list of names, only one of which was mine. I poked my name. Then it welcomed me by name and told me what was gonna happen. Did I want to take a practice test before the real thing began? Nope, let’s do this. And so we did.

Having spent three days listening to the CDL manual as presented by Charles, it was a shock to hear a robotic female voice saying things I’d only heard from the silky smooth baritone of my trainer. Completely devoid of emotion or expression, Electric Barbarella read the question and the three multiple-choice answers on offer, then expected me to answer. No eye contact. No empathy. She could not care less whether I passed or failed. I wanted Charles! Charles cares if I pass or fail! It took three or maybe even five questions before I just tuned out the robot and read the questions and answers myself. In the voice of Charles, of course.

I got through all three tests, only missing a couple of questions on each. Yay hooray! It made my day! In fact, just like I predicted last night, everyone in our class passed. What a great feeling!

I’ve accomplished one of my goals related to earning a CDL. I passed the written exams for the learner’s permit. I realize today is just one small milestone in a long journey, but it matters to me that I celebrate this.

At the end of the day on my way to my car, I stopped again at the circus tent to get some dinner to take home. And I saw that dreary driver I’d met first thing in the morning. She’d slept. She’d spoken with her driver manager , and she was about to head home to Tucson for some days off the road. She seemed 100 percent better, was smiling even. Just a reminder of how bad days don’t last forever.

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.

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.

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.

Driver Manager:

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.

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.

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.

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

Still following as well, Michael~!

See? Told ya so !! Yep, you lost a few... always happens. That 3 days grace is actually generous; many training companies/schools DON'T do the same.

Educator told you that you exceed expectations/excel. Told ya; knew you would!

That exhausted driver you saw at the tent; let THAT be a learning experience for you, also.

You're doing awesome; diary is great!!!!

~ Anne & Tom ~

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Michael B.'s Comment
member avatar

Friday 16 September 2022 Day Five at Swift Driver Academy

Today our instructor Charles told us our schedule for the next three weeks and three days. September 19 through 23 (Monday to Friday) we will attend what Swift calls its Entry Level Driver Training in the academy’s other classroom. September 26 through 30 (Monday through Friday) we will be outside on the pad to learn what we will need to know to pass our eventual pre-trip inspection , basic vehicle control and road tests. October 3 through 7 (Monday through Friday) we will be outside to practice the learned skills to pass those three tests. The next week, we will take our CDL tests on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, which are October 10, 11 and 12.

Charles had some suggestions about how to study for and pass the pre-trip inspection test. He emphasized it is an oral exam, then said this: “If you don’t hear your voice when you read that pre-trip inspection, you’re gonna have problems.” He meant two things. First, he wants us to read it out loud – actually hear our voices – when we study the material. Second, it’s gotta sound like WE are the ones who came up with the narrative. It needs to really be OUR story we are telling to the test proctor.

During our breaks from class, we often sit outside and watch students who are ahead of us in this process practice and or test on basic maneuvers. That’s basically backing, be it straight backing, offset backing or parallel parking. Those are the only skills on that part of the test. Today we watched a student who was struggling to parallel park. Charles gave commentary while we watched. “The agreed upon process does not change,” he said. “Things go wrong when we insert ourselves into the agreed upon process. Follow the process. See how that works out for you.”

The academy teaches backing in a specific way. The student was not following the process. Their resulting failure was predictable.

Inserting myself into an agreed-upon process is a habit I’ve been working to break since I met Charles on Monday. My opinions, my experiences, my emotions, and even my curiosity, have absolutely no bearing on what Charles needed to teach me this week so I could pass my permit tests. On day one, we agreed to a process for our first week at the academy. The process was we would be taught and discuss nothing more and nothing less than what was required to achieve that goal. I kinda laughed when in our first hour together Charles told us, “I’m not here to tell you trucking stories. I’m only here to give you correct information so you can pass your test.” He absolutely stuck to that. And we students learned not to ask questions about anything but the material in the manual. The agreed-upon process produced the result we all wanted. We all passed. Imagine the instructional time we might have lost if Charles had not strictly observed our agreed-upon process. Hearing trucker stories can wait. He knows that much better than we do. Smart man.

By the end of the day, the circus tent was halfway down, and the driver appreciation week party was done. I felt pampered, spoiled and appreciated during my first week in the Swift family. I look forward to more agreed-upon processes so I can learn the things Swift wants me to know so I will pass my CDL tests in October.

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Michael B.'s Comment
member avatar

Sandman, that computerized voice was not helpful! Thanks for the heads up, I was warned by you!

Michael, here's my observation from recently going through the permit testing. I like what Charles has taught you, read each question twice, think about what questions have to be wrong. I'm in Illinois so your experience could be different, but at the computer, I had to have headphones on and a robot voice read each of the questions. This threw me off at first because I was trying to read at a pace normal to me but which was not in line with the voice. So I waited for her to finish her script, then I read the question myself and pretty much did what Charles told you to do. I think that helped me a lot.

Swift is high on my list so I'm eagerly following your journey. Anyway, if you happen to see this before your test, hope it might help. Good luck!

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.

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

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

Michael;

So glad to read you're still plugging away, awesome!!

The academy teaches backing in a specific way. The student was not following the process. Their resulting failure was predictable.

Yessir. Many companies have 'their' way, for their reasons.....and success rates. Read any & all you can, by G'Town. Threads, posts & Diaries ~ G'Town !

Errol V. began his career there as well, and became an instructor for them (after leaving a 'classroom!' ) He did truck hauling/piggyback/driveaway down the road, also. He's another proof that Swift puts out some awesome folks.

Errol V. ~ Teaching, to Trucking (to TEACHING!) Re: Swift ~ PLEASE take note of the photos on his opening page; G'Towns, as well. The DIAGRAMS are priceless.

Another SWIFT success story that's still around and sharing his experience(s) is Pianoman... aka: Paul W. ~ He actually embedded a Y/T video of him, playing the piano; prior to trucking. He started Swift quite young; in his 20's.

The EPIC Pianoman! Swiftie, AFW, Skateboarder ... and on & on !

Not like you aren't busy enough, good sir . . . .

Sometimes, 'Captain Obvious' entries CAN be of help!!!!

Carry on, good sir. Best to ya~!

~ Anne & Tom ~

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

22Younggun's Comment
member avatar

I was originally going to go with SWIFT. However, after being told that I can do the training in my home state of Oklahoma and stay at my house, I found out that I would still have to pay back the cost of a hotel room as well as the training that will becoming out of my check weekly for the first year.

I decided to join CFI, and I am currently in Neosho, MO about to take my skills test in 2 days.

Good luck!

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.

Michael B.'s Comment
member avatar

HI Youngun, thanks for commenting. The luxury of staying local and sleeping in my own bed during driving school is what kept me here in Phoenix for my training. Ultimately I'd like to leave Phoenix, as it (for me) is uninhabitable for several months of the year. Too darn hot! I've had my eye on Colorado and West Texas as places I'd like to live in the future, but for the next year or two, I imagine the Phoenix terminal of Swift (company headquarters) will be my home base. I want to learn to excel at long haul, over-the-road trucking. With that as my goal, I won't be "home"in Phoenix very often, and I am OK with that.

Best of luck to you! I will watch for your posts.

I was originally going to go with SWIFT. However, after being told that I can do the training in my home state of Oklahoma and stay at my house, I found out that I would still have to pay back the cost of a hotel room as well as the training that will becoming out of my check weekly for the first year.

I decided to join CFI, and I am currently in Neosho, MO about to take my skills test in 2 days.

Good luck!

double-quotes-start.png

23 August 2022

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.

Michael B.'s Comment
member avatar

Monday 19 September 2022 Day six of 20 at Swift Driver Academy in Phoenix, Arizona.

The academy here in Phoenix is four weeks long, and today was day one of our second week. This morning we took a complete tour of the Swift compound. It included a stop at an on-campus medical office, where we all had a urine drug test. There was no advance warning, and it seemed odd to me the company would pay for another one of these after doing one a couple of weeks ago at my DOT physical. They must have their reasons. Maybe some students think since they cleared the initial drug test, another could not soon follow. Surprise!

Part of our tour was spent at the Driver Center or driver lounge. Inside is a semi truck set up as a coffee stand. I asked one of the drivers seated there if he likes to spend time at Swift terminals across the country. He was pretty blunt with his "not really." He likes the Phoenix terminal , and that's about it. Other drivers chimed in with high marks for Lancaster (near Dallas, Texas) and West Valley City (Near Salt Lake City, Utah). The ones they were especially critical of I will see for myself soon enough. No need to spread negativity about things I've not yet experienced. Suffice it to say for now, in the Swift universe, it may be hard to beat Phoenix for driver amenities.

As we made our way through the Driver Center, we encountered a couple of other drivers who recognized our trainer. He asked them how things were going, and the responses were not good. “There have been several times I’ve just about left the truck on the side of the road,” one said. Hmm… Not what I would say in front of a group of people I know are academy students. Another obviously had similar concerns but would not voice them in front of students. He told the trainer he’d just switched assignments at Swift, and will reach out to the trainer in a week or two to let him know how things are going. While I was surprised by the answers from those two drivers, I’m also kinda proud of them. Some days are diamonds, some days are coal. But they are still here, gutting it out for the diamond days. That will be me very soon. I’m glad they are hanging on. So many others just quit.

We spent much of the day learning about daily logs and how to fill them out, just in case our digital logs ever betray us. We were shown several examples of logs drivers tried to fudge. Not really smart considering all the ways the company has to track your movements. The takeaway here, is don’t try to cheat the systems that are in place. They are more consistently reliable that your subterfuge.

Toward the end of the day, we talked a little about the mentor matching process. That’s for the trainer truck we will be on for four to six weeks after graduation. We were told we get to specify whether we prefer a male or female trainer and whether that person is a smoker or a non-smoker. I don’t really have preferences based on gender or tobacco usage. I want a mentor who is the right blend of patient and pushy. Patient enough not to jump all over me for minor mistakes, but pushy enough to show me what running as hard as I can legally and safely looks like so I actually know it is possible. At least that’s what I THINK I want. We’ll see how much that changes if I actually get one!

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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