4 Week CDL Training Program @ Alliance Tractor Trailer Training In Fletcher, NC

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Hemingway's Comment
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See also: Alliance Tractor Trailer Training Center Review

Hello all. I spent a fairly long time trying to determine what my best options for training would be (i.e company sponsored training vs. private schools) and decided on a private school here in Fletcher, NC. I’ll be keeping this diary throughout my four (4) weeks (or 20-10 hour days) of schooling. I plan to be fair but honest for anyone considering attending the Fletcher/Arden, NC branch of Alliance Tractor Trailer Training School.

October 22, 2014

Interview with Recruiter and GM:

I spent a few hours with Mr. James (my recruiter) and Mr. O’Neil the schools GM to discuss everything from expenses and curriculum to first employment and the schools lifetime placement program. At just under $5,000, it’s neither the cheapest nor the most expensive school I came across in my research. I was pleased by the experience levels of the instructors (two of which had more than 35 years behind the wheel). I was not impressed by the facilities themselves. The building the offices and classroom are housed in is old, unadorned, and shabby. One of the biggest values seems to be the contacts that the GM and recruiters have with trucking companies. If you have criminal problems or driving violations in your background, Mr. O’Neil almost always has a company willing to work with you. For me this was unnecessary being that my background on both those fronts is clean.

I left and took a few days to consider my options. I eventually returned to the school and wrote them a check. I was enrolled in the November 3rd, 2014 class with a tentative graduation date on November 28th, 2014. All new students are given a pack of ten lesson books and an answer sheet. There are roughly 100 questions in total and you must achieve an 80% to pass. The thought is that if you can’t pass these ten tests with the open books. You will never make it through the permit process. I passed.

Company Sponsored Training:

A Company-Sponsored Training Program is a school that is owned and operated by a trucking company.

The schooling often requires little or no money up front. Instead of paying up-front tuition you will sign an agreement to work for the company for a specified amount of time after graduation, usually around a year, at a slightly lower rate of pay in order to pay for the training.

If you choose to quit working for the company before your year is up, they will normally require you to pay back a prorated amount of money for the schooling. The amount you pay back will be comparable to what you would have paid if you went to an independently owned school.

Company-sponsored training can be an excellent way to get your career underway if you can't afford the tuition up front for private schooling.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Hemingway's Comment
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November 3, 2014

Day 1 @ Alliance

Classes start at 7am. I met my new “incoming” class (3 other guys) of four students. Day 1 is mostly hurry up and wait. By 10am we had all met with the GM, Mr. O’Neil, to review our employment file and discuss what we wanted to do with our new CDL once we had it. Of the four of us, I’m the only one interested in OTR. The other three are getting them for companies they already work for or as a requirement of employment. We were sent out for our drug tests and physicals. Pretty basic stuff. The four of us are fairly healthy and apparently drug free! After lunch the introduction and orientation from our lead instructor, Mr. Carpenter. The last four hours of the day consisted of the instructor reading to us from the NC DOT Commercial Drivers Manual. I have already been using the CDL Practice Program here on the site so it is a little boring.

Days 2, 3, and 4 in the Classroom

Same as Monday afternoon. Practice tests covering each section of the manual. The purpose of week one is just to get you through the CDL Permit so you can get out in the field. Very BORING! That being said, if I had not studied though this site, I would be in great shape to get my permit regardless. The training is solid.

November 7, 2014

Day 5 @ Alliance

I passed all three (3) permit tests and now have it in my hot little hand!!!

Recap: There are things I didn’t mention above. A week before I started school, a sponsor class (from C.R. England out of the Atlanta Terminal) started with 14 students. By my day 1 they were down to 11. On my day 2, one of the road trucks broke down creating panic among the C.R. England group. Apparently their class is supposed to be 3 weeks (unpaid) but, if they don’t get enough hours behind the wheel….they stay until they do. Me and my three other classmates have shared some concern that our training in the field will suffer as this larger class gets backed up. Also, this coming Monday (my day 6) 14 more C.R. England students are arriving. This is going to make our relatively small training center feel even smaller. I’ll post again when I actually get within spitting distance of a real truck!

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.

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.

Hemingway's Comment
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It took me all week to get a chance to sit down and type this weeks diary up. I'm at school during the day and working at night so the little free time I had has been devoted to sleep. Today was my last day of work so should be able to keep up with this better.

Monday 11/10/14:

In the classroom at 7am for assignments. Myself and three classmates were sent out to the field to learn how to back up and maneuver a tractor and trailer. As expected, my performance was average. I seemed to struggle with training my brain to turn the wheel backwards. Also, over turning. Everything was far too much. I need to work on small movements and give the trailer time to react. All day in the field. Told we will be out on the road tomorrow. Everybody is equal parts nervous and excited.

Tuesday 11/11/14:

Assigned to the field for more backing practice until lunch. It's coming along. The highest praise I can give myself is that I was better than the day before. This is a victory as far as I am concerned. I was called in to see the schools GM before lunch. He had seven pre-hires for me. This is comforting since my last day of work will be this Sunday.

After lunch, Mr. Maine gathered the four of us up for instructions and what he referred to as a pep-talk. Basically it consisted of the following: "If I tell you to do something, do it. We can discuss the why's and wherefores' later. Following my instructions immediately is for your safety and the safety of the other passengers." And the pep-talk: "You're going to suck. Don't worry about it. Who wants to drive first?" (I suggested having T-Shirts printed).

He was right. I do indeed suck! I can up-shift (kinda). I can maneuver the truck around turns not running over median dividers (sorta). I can watch my trailer off track in my mirrors (when I actually check them). Trying to do all three of the tasks at the same time was beyond me, however. I found myself vacillating between the urge to cry or vomit. Thankfully I did neither. Mr. Maine was a fantastic teacher and seemed genuinely unconcerned about how badly I did. He remained calm (which helped with the not vomiting thing) and cool the entire hour I bounced us around the back roads of North Carolina. All four of us got our turns behind the wheel and we made it back to school alive! That goes in the W column.

Perhaps tomorrow will be a better day.

Wednesday 11/12/14:

We are on the afternoon drive schedule (12:30p to 5:30pm) again so it's out in the wind and cold to work in the field. Repetition seems to be helping. Straight back was near perfect. Off-set back was good (with a pull up). The 90 Degree Alley Dock is a continuing struggle. I get the principal. I even understand the physics. Can't seem to get my hands and brain working together. One of my classmates, Marvin, had some constructive criticism for me. Perhaps that will help tomorrow. Spent the rest of my field time working on pre-tripping the yard truck. It'll get there. It's just a lot of steps to remember. Repetition. Repetition. Rep...well you get the picture.

Road Trip with Ms. Terbeek. We haven't had very much contact with Ms. T since she usually runs students in the road trucks. Her rules are similar to Mr. Maine's but she's a bit more vocal than he is. Picture something between Mr. Maine's mute fortitude and a banshee. Matthew, the only member of our little group with OTR experience, was chosen to drive first. He took us from the school in North Carolina down to a truck stop in South Carolina off of I-26. From there Marvin, my backing mentor, drove us through a twisting winding route (176 I think) up the side of a mountain. He was a bit white knuckled a few times but all in all did a great job. The winding route took longer than planned so there was only time for one of us to drive back to school. Kevin, the fourth in our group, wasn't feeling well and let me go. I got strapped in and started us on the hour ride back to school through back roads. We drove through some very small towns that left little room for error. Lots of up and down shifting. The last 20 minutes was through approx. 25 stop lights in Hendersonville. I swear on everything I hold holy, we hit every light. The upside, I got lots of practice in shifting (which I needed). The downside? You did hear me say I had to crawl through a town at 5pm hitting every stop light along the way, right?

Made it back to school without damaging or killing anyone. Another W!

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.

Pre-hire:

What Exactly Is A Pre-Hire Letter?

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

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

A Pre-Hire Letter Is Not A Guarantee Of Employment

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

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

Pre-hires:

What Exactly Is A Pre-Hire Letter?

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

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

A Pre-Hire Letter Is Not A Guarantee Of Employment

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

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

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Hemingway's Comment
member avatar

Thursday 11/13/14:

Once again we are on the morning field rotation. It is cold. I mean real cold. The wind is brutal. Seems to take everyone a bit longer on the course today. I'm sure that it has nothing to do with the fact that the truck has heat and the field does not. Today was a milestone for me. Got into the alley dock on the first try. The straight back was solid and even the offset back is looking better. All the guys in my class seem to be getting it at about the same speed. This is nice and doesn't leave anyone feeling like a dunce.

On the road with Ms. T again after lunch. I had a chance to review her notes regarding my last drive. Primarily she is concerned with how stiff and nervous I am. She saw me a few times yesterday relax and drive. This is the main thing I have to work on. Kevin didn't get to drive yesterday so he's the first one up to bat. He struggled but held it together. Second driver was a substitute to our class named Jackson. Jackson took Matthew's place in the truck to catch him up on hours he's missed while out for personal reasons. Aside from making a left turn in front of an oncoming car, his ride was fine. I was up third and Ms. T had us do some exploring of the North Carolina country side. She would just randomly say, "Make a right up there at the big tree". It was exciting and started to feel like a pleasant drive. All of a sudden it happened. I was calm. I was upshifting and downshifting without trouble. I had a rhythm for checking my mirrors. I was swinging out in each curve no matter how mild. All the things the instructors had been saying to us all just clicked at once. We returned to school safe and sound.

I don't need to tell those of you who remember that feeling early in your training where you are starting to question if you'll ever "get it". Todays drive told me I will. Big W!

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Friday 11/14/14:

Well it's definitely winter boys and girls. Today is our last 5 hours of classroom training after lunch for Map Reading and Log Books. In the meantime, we're all bundled up like Eskimos walking around the trucks (pretending to pre-trip them) trying to keep warm. Spent my 30 minutes on the course backing up. Did well. Still need practice. Especially on the alley dock. Not sure why I'm having such a hard time with it.

5 hours in the classroom feels like 2 days. Material is informative but very dry. Took last written test. Not difficult. Covered Map Reading, HOS , and General Knowledge. Weekend here we come. I must say I am starting to really look forward to my road time. Can't wait for Monday.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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