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

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Michael B. 's Comment
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Thursday 29 September 2022 Day four on the pad/range. No driving outside the wire today, it’s all maneuver practice, all the time. But first, the pre-trip inspection!

True to her warning, April asked for my pre-trip inspection cheat sheet today so I had to work from memory. With no script to consult, I dove right in. I did well on the Approach section but ran into some knowledge blind spots at Engine Compartment Passenger Side, and Engine Compartment Driver Side. A little flustered but wanting to continue, I forged ahead. I closed the hood and tried to get into the cab for the next part of the inspection, but April stopped me. She told me to open the hood again.

We walked to the passenger side of the engine compartment and she asked me how many pre-trip inspection elements are on the passenger side of the engine compartment. A little embarrassed, I told her I did not know. She told me to hold up four fingers. I did. She asked me to tell her the elements I knew, and to put one finger down as I named them. Hoses and electrical, one finger down. Alternator, two fingers down. Frame, three fingers down. Then nothing. She asked me, what else do you see? I looked at everything I could see but drew a blank. Look to the front, she said. I did. Still nothing. Look farther to the front, she said. Looking. Nothing there but the hood. Oh! Fender mirrors! They’re on the hood! Four fingers down! A similar process happened on the driver side of the engine compartment. Nine fingers up. And eventually, nine fingers down. Did I feel like a dipstick when I realized I’d forgotten Check Oil Level? Yes I did. Thankfully, for the rest of my pre-trip inspection, April let me have my cheat sheet back. I read out loud and pointed at the items being described and it went very well.

After inspections, we moved on to maneuvers. We are all getting more experience with the three required to pass the CDL test. Straight backing is happening several times a day for each of us. Offset backing, both to the left and to the right, is happening a few times a day for each of us. And parallel parking is entering the mix, as we’ve all done it two or three times now. My straight backing was much better today. With my side mirrors adjusted to show only a sliver of the trailer on each side, it became easy to see when my trailer drifted, and what a discovery to see how an eighth of a turn toward my trouble resolved the issue in seconds. A great confidence boost! Adjust your mirrors!

We still have really great energy and positive attitudes in our class. The half a dozen or so instructors we’ve worked with keep telling us how pleasant we are. They like our spirit. It’s nice to hear that feedback. We are appreciated and we are making a great impression!

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.

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

Anne thanks for following and commenting. I look forward to hearing from you! The Grinch and I are working on getting together on Monday in Phoneix. Maybe we can post a selfie!

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While Erika took her turn, I sat in the back of the truck and had time to reflect on the day's experience behind the wheel, I was so happy. I can’t even describe it. I felt elated. I felt relieved. I felt hopeful. I felt content in a way I’ve never felt. I will remember this day for the rest of my life. I think today is the day I fell in love with the notion of being a truck driver.

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Excellent update, Michael; and not JUST this last paragraph; this one just POPPED. Nice wrap of an excellent entry; hold that thought/feeling!

REALLY hope you take Grinch up on a meet & greet. It will have such an amazing effect on you; can't have too many pals, allies, and compadres in this industry. Especially, fellow TT'ers. (I'm getting ready to call two of'em momentarily, myself!)

Keep on, good sir.

~ Anne ~

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Michael B. 's Comment
member avatar

Hi Grinch, I sent a text, watch for a 623 area code! It will be great to meet you on Monday!

Micheal, I will be there in Pheonix all day Monday doing a reset. Let’s get together with you and your buddy. I put my number in my bio. Shoot me a text when you see this so we can connect up.

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

Anne thanks for following and commenting. I look forward to hearing from you! The Grinch and I are working on getting together on Monday in Phoneix. Maybe we can post a selfie!

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double-quotes-start.png

While Erika took her turn, I sat in the back of the truck and had time to reflect on the day's experience behind the wheel, I was so happy. I can’t even describe it. I felt elated. I felt relieved. I felt hopeful. I felt content in a way I’ve never felt. I will remember this day for the rest of my life. I think today is the day I fell in love with the notion of being a truck driver.

double-quotes-end.png

double-quotes-end.png

Excellent update, Michael; and not JUST this last paragraph; this one just POPPED. Nice wrap of an excellent entry; hold that thought/feeling!

REALLY hope you take Grinch up on a meet & greet. It will have such an amazing effect on you; can't have too many pals, allies, and compadres in this industry. Especially, fellow TT'ers. (I'm getting ready to call two of'em momentarily, myself!)

Keep on, good sir.

~ Anne ~

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I'm enjoying the journey, Michael !! You really instill the verisimilitude within; I love it, my pleasure.

Anna, I have been here just lurking and falling asleep with the tablet some nights. Life of flatbed ya know. Honestly just been running a lot and training keeps me busy, most eves are discussing the day with the student cooking dinner and helping them study what they need to know. So usually I fall asleep 10 min after I start a show or troll the internet.

I hear ya, Grinch. . . our tanks and flatbed days are in the past (for now anyway...) the memories linger, haha! Training is a whole 'nother level, I bet.

Sure will be great to see some pix of y'all meeting up, for sure!

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

'Til then, stay safe, guys!

~ Anne ~

ps: See, Grinch ?!?!? You've been missed ~!!! Do this more often :)

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Michael B. 's Comment
member avatar

Friday 30 September 2022 We started the day by firing up the trucks and connecting them to trailers. Today was Erika’s turn to do the pre-trip inspection while I followed along. She got a lot further than I did yesterday before our instructor, April, stopped us and handed Erika’s cheat sheet back and told her she could read the rest. I would not have gotten as far as Erika did had it been my turn to perform the inspection. I am reading the cheat sheet, I am listening to my voice recording of it on my commute to and from school (about 45 minutes each way). It’s just taking a while to come together for me. I will get there.

Today was spent almost entirely outside the wire. I’ll note here that just getting to the wire takes a lot of time. The speed limit on the pad where we couple/uncouple the trucks and practice our backing maneuvers is 2 miles per hour. The speed limit on the loop around the pad where we practice throttle and brake control is 5 miles per hour. The speed limit in the gigantic parking lot that leads to the exit of the Swift terminal property is 8.5 miles per hour (‘because 8 is too slow, and 9 is too fast!”). Depending on how deep we are into the pad, it can take 10 minutes for us to clear the pad, clear the loop, clear the lot and arrive at the Swift exit gate on West Durango Street near South 75th Avenue.

Left turns were the curriculum today, and we made many, many, many left turns, with a right turn thrown in here and there to make sure we could still do them. While Wednesday’s right-turn drive on city streets started out stressful, it quickly became more comfortable, and by the end of my drive time, I felt confident I could safely execute a right turn. Today’s left-turn driving experience was not as pleasant.

I drove for two hours and 15 minutes. Only during the final 15 minutes did I feel like I had a grasp on what I was doing. During those first two hours, I took a lot of deep breaths. I constantly reminded myself to remain calm. My level of discomfort proved I was in territory that was all new. In my experience, discomfort is what learning feels like.

It didn’t help that it was a Friday afternoon, and traffic was a lot busier than it had been on Wednesday’s right-turn drive. Also, some of today’s left turns started in a far left lane, but some were from the right lane of two left turn lanes. Another detail to note, there were sometimes one, sometimes two, and sometimes three lanes to land in, and I never felt completely sure where I was supposed to aim.

I knew where to begin my turn (when my left shoulder got to the double yellow line of the lanes I’m turning toward), but how much deeper I needed to go and how sharply I needed to turn the steering wheel seemed a constant mystery. I just wasn’t getting it.

For some reason, it took a long time to register in my mind that after my trailer tandem wheels cleared the apex of the turn, I needed to quickly get into the far left lane. I’d forgotten the message of “close the door,” or block the lane I’m ending up in so other drivers would not sneak in behind me. On Wednesday, I was efficiently blocking them from sneaking in on my right. Today, I was taking way too long to block them from sneaking in on my left. With about 15 minutes of driving remaining, I finally figured that out. Hooray!

I’m happy it’s Friday. I’m ready for a couple of days away from the academy to recharge mentally and emotionally. Three weeks in and I never really felt stressed until today. I can count myself lucky!

Next week will be five days of practice for our pre-trip inspections, our three backing maneuvers and our road test. I will continue to do as I’m told and to trust the process.

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.

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.

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".

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Anne, We forgot the selfie.. Mike found me this morning as he was walking to the range. While I was getting a replacement tarp, since one of mine decided to shred this week. Chatted for a few hen and we had lunch on his lunch break. We had a great chat and he got to meet one of my mentors as well that ran a similar load here as well.

Michael B. 's Comment
member avatar

Monday 3 October 2022

This is our final week of class and I’m starting to feel the pressure.

My pre-trip inspection went OK this morning. I missed some things, but my instructor April looked at my sheet of what I covered and what I missed and said I likely would not fail had that been an actual test. So as long as I do a little better every time for the next few tries, I should be OK when I test early next week.

The backing maneuvers went well for the most part. I am pretty solid on the straight back, since April does not have me practice that anymore. Offset went well two out of three times today. For the one that went badly, I completely lost track of the steps I needed to follow. I was turning the wheel the wrong way, so it was obvious I did not know where I was in the process. April had me get out of the truck. She asked me to tell her the steps for offset backing, no looking at my cheat sheet. For the life of me I don’t know how I got it right earlier in the day. I spent several very uncomfortable minutes trying to remember the steps. I could not get them all, and I could not get them in order. After that she let me go get my paper and study the steps. I was embarrassed but I learned a lesson. I can always be more prepared for what’s ahead of me.

This morning before class, I met up with Eric, a Swift mentor who I first encountered here on Trucking Truth. He is from Virginia and drives for Swift’s flatbed division. He had just delivered a load from Chicago to Nogales, then scooted up to Phoenix so he and his student could reset their clocks someplace nicer than a drop lot. We met up again for lunch at the driver lounge, where Eric introduced me to another flatbed driver who was his mentor! It was great to sit with them for a while and hear their stories of mentoring. They gave me good advice on how to approach the mentor/mentee relationship. I’m glad I have Eric’s info in my phone if I ever need to call him. We were supposed to get a selfie for Anne and post it here, but I had to hurry back to class. Next time!

Near the end of the day, we had a dust storm blow through the terminal/academy grounds. We were out on the pad, and anyone not in a truck ran to one and hopped in to get out of the blowing grit. The trucks and trailers rocked back and forth, all the cones on the range were knocked over, and even the porta potties toppled and went for a wind-blown ride across the lot. What a crazy thing to see! Everyone was safe and we made it back to the academy building to clock out and go home.

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.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Michael B. 's Comment
member avatar

Tuesday 4 October 2022

Today was Erika’s turn to do the pre-trip inspection. She did really well! I am proud of her. Tomorrow will be my turn again.

After the pre-trip inspection , we spent the morning on the range, practicing the three backing skills that will be on our CDL exam. Straight backing I feel I understand, and I can perform that skill with no need to pull up. All thanks to well-adjusted mirrors! Offset backing is getting better. I’ve done it once without assistance, but all other times have required some help. Parallel parking I have not yet done without assistance. The academy teaches six simple steps for offset and six simple steps for parallel. Well, it’s simple on paper. While we continue to get better at offset and parallel, sometimes we get lost in the six simple steps, and the trailer does not go where we want it to go. Constant practice brings more familiarity, and eventually, I know the steps will “click” for us. Our instructor, April, said some students don’t “get it” until the final day. We hope to impress her before that.

This afternoon we took a truck outside the wire. We practiced our commentary driving, our right turns, and our left turns. For the first time, we got on the freeway. Has anybody ever been Westbound on Interstate 10 between Phoenix and Los Angeles? Well, that’s where we were, Westbound and down! Man, that was amazing! But only for a couple of exits. We soon took the junction to Arizona Loop 101 Northbound and got off that freeway at the very first exit, Thomas Road. But that freeway time was great while it lasted! I think I’ll like freeway driving more than city driving. Today’s trip outside the wire was much less stressful than Friday’s on-the-road episode. I remembered to “close the door” when my tandems cleared the corners. I think it’s that familiarity thing I mentioned earlier.

While Erika drove, I studied the air brakes portion of my pre-trip inspection. Here at Swift, missing anything on the air brakes portion of the pre-trip on exam day is an automatic fail. I don’t wanna do that. Their study aide for the air brakes is ALSAPS, which identifies the six tests we must perform: Air Leakage Test; Low-Pressure Warning Test; Spring Brake Test; Air Gauge Test (then, after you remove the wheel chock); Parking Brake Test; and finally, Service Brake Test. ALSAPS. Knowing the six tests is my first task, and memorizing the verbiage will come second.

I feel less worried today about my ability to master what I’m learning in time to test early next week. We have three days to practice what we’ve learned. I believe I will be ready in time.

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.

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".

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.

Interstate:

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

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

George B.'s Comment
member avatar

Wishing you the best of luck. Dont overthink it. Just relax and go with it. You will pass. Keep us in the loop, Driver!

Michael B. 's Comment
member avatar

Wednesday 5 October 2022

Today was pre-trip inspection , range time to practice backing maneuvers, and even more pre-trip inspection. I was up first for the pre-trip inspection, and I did better than I ever have. I am starting to understand all the systems I am checking and how they relate to each other. I now feel confident I can do the pre-trip inspection without missing any “parts” of the truck, and I couldn’t really say that yesterday. I like the repetitiveness of the suspension, brakes, tires/wheels on the steers, drives and tandems. Three cheers for five axles, but only having to talk about three!

During maneuvers, I was hit and miss again. Straight-line backing is still solid, thank goodness. It’s a relief to feel confident about one of three backing skills. Offset was going well when one instructor helped me set up, but went south when another instructor took over for them and obliterated my train of thought with their different expectations of how perfect a lineup should be. My efforts to start over failed over and over again, and eventually, the instructor gave up, told me exactly how to back it into the box, and we broke for lunch. "Go study your paper," they said. I felt just like I did during the first two hours of the left-turn road driving: Horribly stupid. Lunch was a much-needed break to reset mentally and emotionally. It worked.

After lunch, I did the maneuvers with a different instructor and it was not perfect, but I had a chance to see what I was doing wrong and received instruction on how to fix it. I know I am not as far along with offset and parallel as the school wants me to be, but I will get there. Not everyone learns at the same speed. Some in our class are already doing all three maneuvers completely on their own. Some are still getting there. I’m with the latter. Frankly, my immediate concern is the pre-trip inspection, because if I don’t pass that, the skills and road test won’t even happen.

Our test dates and times for early next week were posted today in the break room. Some of us will test Monday, and the rest of us will test Tuesday. I am scheduled for Tuesday morning, just before lunch. I was surprised to see my name on the board, because in all previous weeks I've not known a single name written there. And I was even more surprised to not feel panicked about it. I felt relaxed and relieved, like this is finally coming to an end. All the hard work will pay off on Tuesday morning, or more likely, early Tuesday afternoon. And I'm gonna really tug down on that air horn when I get word from the test proctor in the passenger seat when they say, congrats student, you are now a driver!

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.

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".

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