Just Got Hired By Swift!

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Matt S.'s Comment
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I'm so psyched up to begin my trucking career! After 11 long, fruitless, and miserable years in Information Technology I decided I could stand it no longer. I became sick of the increasing demands and stress with decreasing pay so I came here to trucking truth to learn a little bit about the career field. Lots of IT jobs are disposable and contract only. For every IT job posted, there are like a hundred or so applicants - fierce competition. They just love to lump responsibility on you until you cannot handle any more. One look at Craigslist literally shows pages and pages of truck driving jobs available. At 37, newly single (my girlfriend left me but I don't blame her for it), and with no children, I figure now is the time to explore what I want to do when I grow up :-).

Reading the fascinating stories about good days and bad days got me absolutely hooked. Since paying for CDL-A school is not in the cards and the trucking company that has schools in my area is Swift, I went for it. I realize the first 6 months to 1 year of driving will be challenging but any job has it's challenges for at least that long. I applied to Swift and got called back 30 minutes later from a very friendly recruiter, Joan. She said, "Everything looks good on your application. When would you like to begin?" We worked out a start date of October 20th. On Oct. 20th, I'm supposed to go to Swift's school in Richmond, VA. I realize that there are pluses and minuses to Swift but I'm going in with a positive, can do attitude. I'm going to treat this as a new experience and adventure.

Now, I've got a dozen and one things to do which include some CBT (computer based training), studying for my permit test, and getting my DOT medical card. I will try and make periodic updates and tell you the good, bad, ugly, and funny! I'm only concerned about two things related to truck driving: shifting and backing. If I can conquer those, I'll be good to go. Here's to a new life for the coming new year!

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.

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.
ButtonUp's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

There are three things really that make me wonder if I am cut out for this.

1. Backing up in extremely tight spaces like some of the youtube videos I have seen. 2. Driving in New York City 3. Driving in extreme weather and being forced to do so.

Other than that, I think I would love the job.

Still on the fence.

Hey, man! Congrats on moving forward, whatever direction you choose. Spending most of my adult life in retail management, and about a year longer as a programmer, I can tell you that I am no stranger to changing careers, it sucks, but it is very exciting as well.

No one likes backing up into tight spaces. Backing is one of those things you just get better at with experience. A good trainer can go a long way in that regard. The school will get you skilled enough to get your CDL , at least, more if you're lucky, but the trainer is the one that is supposed to spend the one on one time with you to work out the kinks and teach some techniques. Trust me, I feel ya, it's taken me 2 years to get where I am teaching myself to back, and I still get nervous backing into some spots in truck stops. The key is to just take your time, pull up as much as you have to, get out and look, and don't hit anything. Other drivers may stare at you, but they'd rather you take the time you need than hit their truck.

I have been to New York once, and New Jersey. No, it's not fun. But, by the time you have to go there, you'll either have a trainer with you to help you out, or you will be able to take your time and not get too frazzled. And, some companies do let you refuse loads there, and a lot of those companies will pay more to drivers that will go. Trip planning goes a long way. Call ahead and get directions before you're in a situation that leaves you stumped.

Extreme weather. Slow and easy. If you feel it is not safe to drive, YOU DON'T HAVE TO. Find a safe location to shut down, and let the dispatcher know it's not safe to drive and you're shutting down until you feel it's safe to continue. Driving in it can be a challenge, but you are NEVER FORCED to drive your truck if you feel it or the conditions make it unsafe.

Hope that helps some.

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.

Dispatcher:

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.

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.

ButtonUp's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

Oh and a big shoutout to Brett's training material! I love the way the tests are structured to repeatedly reinforce all of the critical concepts needed to pass the exam and more. Definitely feeling like the first time will be the charm on the written.

Indeed, this site has awesome resources!

Heck no, I've never used a runaway ramp! On steep grades, I slow down and get it in a lower gear early, and manage the brakes just like I was taught in school. Using them as lightly as possible slowing 5mph below the desired speed, then I repeat the process when I get to that speed, or a little above it, depending on how steep the grade is, and how heavy I am. Also, I use the engine brake a lot anyway, so I definitely have it on going down a grade. Also, staying in gear and not trying to shift while going down is good advice since you can miss the gear and then you're in a tough situation, although I will admit I have gone ahead and dropped a gear before, when I felt it was safe to do so, but that wasn't very smart.

I will share something with you I don't think I've ever told anyone. I was coming out of Seattle, WA with a heavy load of apples when I was a student with my first trainer. Going up a steep grade. I downshifted from high gear, one at a time, and when I went to downshift into 5th (on a 9 speed), I couldn't get it in gear! I had to stop, set the brakes, put it in low, and start the process again, eventually going up the hill in 4th. The lesson I learned was, I should have got it in the proper gear and left it there sooner. One other time this happened in a different truck with my second trainer, but I was on a narrow winding road in Ohio that was heavily wooded at night, and I couldn't tell the road was going to get so steep so quickly, and there were no signs. Luckily there wasn't any traffic behind me on either of these occasions. But, lesson learned, it's never happened since, and it's been over 2 years. Of course, with experience my shifting has gotten a lot better than when I was a student.

Management sucked, but it was a job when I needed one. I also learned a lot about dealing with people, which has helped me tremendously in trucking! I miss programming, my first true passion, but... what are you going to do, it doesn't pay what it used to, and the jobs are all being outsourced, or at least the ones that aren't there's a lot of competition for, and I am over 5 years behind the times, although once a programmer, always a programmer, IMHO.

But, what read blooded American male doesn't want to drive trucks!? lol

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

Matt S.'s Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

I decided that I am going to get the Tanker, HAZMAT , and Doubles/Triples endorsements. I have the time to kill so why not just study and make good use of the time. I took the Tanker knowledge test today and passed, again kudos to the High Road Training Program and not having to open the PA CDL Manual.

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.

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

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

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.

Matt S.'s Comment
member avatar

I seem to have hit my first stumbling block today. I spent the past two days, Friday and Saturday taking Swift's online CBT training in preparation to attend their academy in Richmond. I learned all kinds of interesting stuff that I never knew about tractors and trailers. In fact it's downright fascinating. So, it's Sunday morning and I want to crank out some more studying and I cannot get logged in to resume CBT training. It's giving me and invalid username and password. I emailed my recruiter and I hope that this is just an IT snafu. I used to be an IT guy so I know all about things like this. Well, LOL, hopefully I'm not fired before I even get started. :-D

Matt S.'s Comment
member avatar

After that small snafu with the training website, I'm now back in business. However, I think I'll stick to Brett's High Road program because it looks better laid out and I'm fully planning to pass the written test on the first time. I have an appointment with the D.O.T for the medical exam on Thursday. I'm hoping to be ready for the permit test on Friday.

Russ D's Comment
member avatar

I will be following you. I am still considering whether this is the best choice for me, so please do fill in all the dirty details :)

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Matt S.'s Comment
member avatar

Hi Russ. Welcome and ask any questions you have and I'll try and answer. For now, my nose is to the grindstone studying. I like Brett's high road training program.

Russ D's Comment
member avatar

I am seriously considering Swift, and would love to know your experience as you go along. Please keep me updated. Good luck!!!

Matt S.'s Comment
member avatar

I am seriously considering Swift, and would love to know your experience as you go along. Please keep me updated. Good luck!!!

I think just about every company will have its pluses and minuses. I'm simply happy that Swift is giving me the chance to begin a trucking career with no experience and no CDL. I'm going into this with my mind open and my attitude positive. I want to see this as an adventure. I went with Swift because schooling and lodging is paid for, making this financially doable. Also, Swift has a terminal in Phoenix, AZ and I've got lots of friends out there that I can visit if I ever get a 34 hour reset there. :-)

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.

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.

Russ D's Comment
member avatar

An adventure for sure!!

I do not have my CDL yet either, but the cost of their school versus going to a private school is nearly 2k more ( I assume that is because of lodging) and I am curious to know if it is worth it with them taking it out of your salary over the next year. Especially since pay is already so low the first year. Our next CDL classes locally do not start til January 2015, and it may be worth it if I want to go ahead and get started. I have also heard of horror stories with OTR trainers (and dispatchers) and am anxious to hear of your experience in the weeks and months ahead.

BTW, Swift also has a terminal in Greer, SC which is only about 30 minutes from where I live which would be nice for me. :)

Good luck buddy!

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.

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.

OTR:

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.

Dispatcher:

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.
Matt S.'s Comment
member avatar

Thank you Russ! I've heard some horror stories for just about every company out there. There are two sides to every story. Plus, if me and my eventual mentor cannot work out our differences, there is always a polite request to the DM for a new one. The more I read about this career, the more I see it's going to be all about being flexible and adaptable. I don't know if I have what it takes but I'm sure gonna find out! LOL!

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.
Russ D's Comment
member avatar

YES! You are!

You have the right attitude for sure!

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