TDA Training Diary - (TDA/ Central Refrigerated Federal Way, WA & Salt Lake City Utah)

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Rob ( A.K.A. CASE)'s Comment
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Hey Everyone. As promised and as a way to give back to the awesome support this website has provided me I wanted to give a detailed description of my experience as I muddle through training.

If any of you have followed my saga so far you know that just getting into this program took some serious jumping through hoops on my end. With the encouragement and support of many here on this website and some family and friends I somehow landed myself in Central Refrigerated's training program which for my local area anyway was run by TDA.

So lets get down to business.

DAY 1 - Day one started at 7a.m. Monday morning in Federal Way, Washington which lucky for me is just a few miles up the road from me. and after being briefed on what we could expect from the program. We were handed an enormous stack of handouts and paperwork to fill out and right about an hour later were sent to a local clinic to do our DOT Physical and drug and alcohol urine tests. The physical consisted of an eye exam, a whisper test, blood pressure check, reflexes, hernia check. (turn your head and cough while the doctor has your undivided attention if you know what I mean) and just your basic history and health screen. The drug/alcohol screen consisted of urinating into a cup - no hair follicle or blood test.

After returning to class and completing the rest of the paperwork we were given the lowdown on what to expect.

The phase one part of the class here in town will be four days long. We will be learning general knowledge about safely operating a CMV with a primary focus in three areas - General Knowledge, Combination Vehicles and Air Brakes.

The third day of class we will be given a series of "preliminary exams" in three different combinations of answers with a "hope" of scoring 85% or higher on all three sets.

The fourth day of class will be the final exam, one test which will combine the previous answers from Wednesday's preliminary test - so one final test with a REQUIREMENT of scoring 85% or better. If you pass you are given a confirmation number to get your ticket to phase 2 training which will be in Salt Lake City Utah. The greyhound bus will leave the Saturday following class.

Phase 2 will take place in Salt Lake City and consist of 3 weeks of driving practice and more general knowledge training. Upon successful completion of Phase 2 training (I am not entirely certain exactly what will constitute successful completion of phase 2 as I am not there yet) you will move on to Phase 3 training.

Phase 3 training will consist of being out on the road for one on one training with your instructor delivering actual loads for 28 days. After completing this phase you will return to the Salt Lake City terminal and test out at which point you will be issued your truck and dispatched for your first solo delivery and you will be a real truck driver.

The rest of day one consisted of watching some videos and going over some of the handouts we received.

End of Day 1

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.

Combination Vehicle:

A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.

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.

CMV:

Commercial Motor Vehicle

A CMV is a vehicle that is used as part of a business, is involved in interstate commerce, and may fit any of these descriptions:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Rob ( A.K.A. CASE)'s Comment
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Day 2 Training

Day two consisted of going over some of the stuff we learned in day one with some pop quiz material thrown in.

We focused pretty heavy on learning how air brakes systems worked and basic principals of combination vehicles including coupling and uncoupling trailers, tandem axle adjustments, cargo, and safety safety safety.

Towards the end of class today we watched a series of videos that I can only describe as making me break out in a cold sweat. There were several dash cam videos that showed actual accidents as they happened. One video from one truck dash cam captured another semi passing on the left and traveling way two fast for conditions, the driver switched lanes too quickly and the trailer rolled pulling the tractor with the driver inside off of the right shoulder of the highway and off of a 180 foot cliff obviously killing the driver instantly.

Another dash cam video showed a vehicle up ahead of the truck traveling in the same direction but a little too fast for conditions. It was snowing and the roads were clearly becoming dangerous. The vehicle in front of the truck started to slide and veered from the left lane to the right lane bumping into another car that was in the right lane. The vehicle then over-corrected its steering and accelerated which caused the vehicle to cross over the divider into on coming traffic right in the path of another semi coming down the mountain. The out of control vehicle was instantly demolished and smashed into about a million pieces...again...obviously killing the driver of the out of control vehicle and injuring the driver of the semi that struck it and I am sure traumatizing him for life even though there was absolutely nothing he could have done to avoid it.

It just really shook me up, this job is NO JOKE!! Things can go terribly wrong the blink of a freaking eye and you can never be too careful. To anyone taking any of this lightly...stop now and look for another line of work. This is not for you. This is not to be taken lightly, this is serious business and you could get yourself or somebody else killed if you get complacent for even a damn second. Please....always pay attention, always be safe, always know what is going on around you at all times.

The truly sad part about all of the videos we saw is EVERY single one of them could have been avoided. Almost all of them were caused by driving too fast for conditions. Slow down. Speed DOES NOT save time.

End of Day 2

Combination Vehicle:

A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.

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".

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Rob ( A.K.A. CASE)'s Comment
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DAY 3 TRAINING

So day three began with more safety videos. Learning about rollovers and other hazards that come with driving an 80 thousand pound vehicle.

The general idea here is that for the classroom portion is all about the basics but focusing specifically on three specific areas - General knowledge, Combination Vehicles and Air Brakes.

After finishing the safety videos and one more on shifting we were set to take our "pre-tests".

The preliminary tests were made up of 50 questions in the general knowledge category, 20 questions relating to air brakes and 20 questions relating to combination vehicles. We were going to take a series of three tests for each category, so nine tests total.....all today.

Having started The High Road Training Program, I felt pretty confident in my ability to test well, however I had not quite finished the sections on Air Brakes or Combination Vehicles.

So we did the first test and I missed a couple on the general knowledge part and a couple on the combination vehicles and totally fell apart when it came to air brakes.

The good news is that is why they do their tests this way,..the prelim testing is just to give you an idea of what is going to be on the tests. The reason they do a series of three is to hammer the questions they seem to be certain are going to be on your actual CDL written exam and then give you as broad of a base of other questions as possible. There were many questions that were consistently on all three exams but I am certain there were also questions that only showed up one time on each prelim.

So I had to take the air brakes portion of the first round of tests and I passed successfully and moved on to the second series of tests.

The second series of tests went down just like the first, 50 general knowledge questions, 20 air brakes questions and 20 combination vehicle questions. We had to score an 85% or better and unfortunately THIS time I just barely missed passing the combination vehicle portion of the prelims so I had to take that part over this time, which I passed on the the second try.

The third series of tests was just like the first two and I passed but with my goal of getting 100% on everything I do I was a little down and to tell you the truth very concerned.

Tomorrow is the final test which will combine all three tests from today into one...in other words...tomorrow there will be 150 general knowledge questions, 60 questions on combination vehicles and 60 questions on air brakes. We don't get to re take any portions of the test and we must score an 85% or better or we do NOT move on to phase two training which means if I fail I do not go to Utah - needless to say FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION.

So tonight I am going home and going through the high road training program and going over combination vehicles and air brakes as many times as I can until I am certain I will pass finals tomorrow....

Stay Tuned...

End of Day 3

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.

Combination Vehicle:

A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.

Rob ( A.K.A. CASE)'s Comment
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DAY 4 TRAINING

Well if you have been following along this far it should be no big secret what today is all about. One word FINALS!!

So the final exam is administered which again is just a master test of all the preliminary tests that we took yesterday. It is basically the CDL written exam except it is not official.

So the exam was handed out and I am happy to say that I passed with flying colors. I am also very comfortable in saying that the only reason I passed is that somehow through the crazy things that happen in this world I happened to find my way to this website and to this forum and to the high road training program.

If I had not had these resources available to me, I am not sure if I would have passed...but I did....thankfully.

So I got my confirmation number for my greyhound ticket and will be on my way to Salt Lake City on Saturday....

Stay Tuned

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Jim M.'s Comment
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Congratulations Rob.

Rob ( A.K.A. CASE)'s Comment
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Thanks Jim I appreciate it - I am moving right along. Starting phase 2 now.

Rob ( A.K.A. CASE)'s Comment
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PHASE 2

Hey everyone - sorry I have been short on the updates but I have been up to my elbows in phase 2 training here in Salt Lake City. So let me break down how things are progressing so far.

So I think I can spare you all of the glamorous details of the 25 hour bus ride from Seattle to Salt Lake City but if you need to really understand this experience try this - find a week old, half eaten baloney sandwich - wrap it it a really old dirty sock, wrap that in cardboard throw it all in a pillowcase along with a hammer and then sit on that for 25 hours and only taking a break about once every two or three hours and you have a pretty good simulation of a trip on greyhound

DWI:

Driving While Intoxicated

Rob ( A.K.A. CASE)'s Comment
member avatar

DAY ONE OF PHASE TWO TRAINING

So after the greyhound trauma and arriving in Salt Lake City we were picked up by the central shuttle and taken to our hotel rooms it is early Sunday evening and first day of class is 7 am Monday morning.

So day one consists of paperwork and being shuttled to the DMV to take our permit tests. First you have to take the regular state of Utah drivers license test but considering it is an open book test it should not be too difficult having said that there was one guy in our group who failed. I am not kidding.

So anyway I am happy to say I passed my permit test on the first try and am now the proud holder of a state of Utah CDL permit.

The rest of the day is free so we are taken back to our hotel to relax

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.

Rob ( A.K.A. CASE)'s Comment
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DAY TWO OF PHASE TWO TRAINING

So welcome to day two of phase two training.

First of all let me say that Utah is absolutely beautiful. I mean I love Seattle and Washington State is pretty as well but I don't think I've ever been anywhere that is so clean.

Today consists entirely of learning how to drive a tractor in trailer in low gear and back up in a straight line. This all takes place in a giant parking lot with snow covered mountains just off in the distance. Central refrigerated is a actually located in West Valley City, Utah just about 15 minutes outside of Salt Lake City.

It seems to me they are a little short on training at least today. The truck we are learning in is a Volvo and right now there's are about 9 of us taking turns pulling forward and backing up in "lane 1" there is one instructor teaching two groups at the same time in lanes two and three.

I am immediately impressed with how little effort it takes to steer these things a little turn of the wheel and the trailer instantly reacts. It takes very little effort to get the trailer straightened out but also it doesn't take much to get yourself really crooked really fast - I experienced both today!

Rob ( A.K.A. CASE)'s Comment
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DAY THREE OF PHASE TWO TRAINING

Somehow it is already Wednesday and today we will actually be "driving"!!

There is a very long what appears to be some kind of deserted road that central affectionately calls "Rookie Road"! However it is absolutely perfect for today's lesson. We are just learning how to steer, accelerate, stop and the dreaded double clutch and shift.

There are four of us with our instructor barking out instructions. I'm not going to lie it is a little intimidating and we are all a complete disaster and for a minute or two I am thinking "what the hell have I gotten myself into"??!! But by the end of the day I am feeling pretty proud of myself because I can smoothly go from second to fourth with no problem!! Lol.

Then they have to go and throw a wrench into the system by telling us there are MORE GEARS! And you have to "switch" between the high gears and low gears with a little switch on the gear shift. Now I am starting to break into a cold sweat. All those years of bad habits of driving my car and coasting to stop lights with my clutch in are definitely coming back to haunt me.

I'm a little nervous - tomorrow we are going to practice turning!

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.
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