Swift Academy, Memphis, TN

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Errol V.'s Comment
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First day with Swift Academy today about 22 potential drivers showed up, 10 days before Christmas. What I wished I had known was that almost nothing was done this day! The class started at 6am. Nothing happened other than we were supposed to wait in the classroom. Around 8, they started calling us for the drug test. Also, some clerks checked & copied our DOT physical papers. Swift bought lunch at their snack bar. (We're on our own for all meals after this.)

Some people were weeded out of the group for lacking in various requirements, the students without a CDL learners permit were taken to another room.

Hints for people heading for the next class: Don't forget to drink water or coffee in the morning, and hold it till the pee test. It's not listed in things to bring, but the instructor asked everyone to have a 6" ruler to draw straight lines in our driver logs. Bring something to read/do while you're waiting. Bring your cell phone wall charger. Make friends - you'll be spending a lot of time with your new friends over the next three weeks!

Being the week before Christmas, we do have one adjustment to the schedule: Christmas day off. The rest of the time, including New Years Day, we'll be studying and driving.

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.

David L.'s Comment
member avatar

First day with Swift Academy today about 22 potential drivers showed up, 10 days before Christmas. What I wished I had known was that almost nothing was done this day! The class started at 6am. Nothing happened other than we were supposed to wait in the classroom. Around 8, they started calling us for the drug test. Also, some clerks checked & copied our DOT physical papers. Swift bought lunch at their snack bar. (We're on our own for all meals after this.)

Some people were weeded out of the group for lacking in various requirements, the students without a CDL learners permit were taken to another room.

Hints for people heading for the next class: Don't forget to drink water or coffee in the morning, and hold it till the pee test. It's not listed in things to bring, but the instructor asked everyone to have a 6" ruler to draw straight lines in our driver logs. Bring something to read/do while you're waiting. Bring your cell phone wall charger. Make friends - you'll be spending a lot of time with your new friends over the next three weeks!

Being the week before Christmas, we do have one adjustment to the schedule: Christmas day off. The rest of the time, including New Years Day, we'll be studying and driving.

Thanks for the heads up! I'll be starting in Millington on 1/5/15.

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.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

I had planned to drop a line every day. I found out that's not possible. Tuesday was more paperwork. Wednesday was all different. Out to the range and trucks. Roll call is 6am. Generally we practice skills all day (two breaks + an hour lunch) It's not on the list of things to bring, but bring a 6" ruler/straight edge to fill in the driver logs. You're outside, so dress for the weather. This is December, so lots of heavy jackets, wool caps & gloves. I'm local so I don't stay at the hotel. But from what I've heard, the kitchens have _some_ eating utensils, but you might bring some. There's a Kroger close by. 4 students to a 2br 4 bed suite. The schedule is 7 days a week, the holidays you get off mean extra hours so you get the legal training time in.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

On the Range

At the Swift Academy Range, all day long (except for breaks & lunch) you are either standing around a tractor/trailer or sitting in a driver seat. You are outside, rain/shine/hot/snow. It is not easy. You are under time pressure to learn your stuff, get evaled and move to the next thing. If you have been in military basic training, you know how it feels - including the instructors barking at you. There is no slack in safety discipline or practicing. You get back to the hotel dead tired with only a few hours to relax/eat/study. Because you are on the bus again at 5am.

Just like climbing Mt Everest, the trip is exhausting, dangerous (think safety all the time!) and long, but you always keep in mind your goal - the top of the mountain. Is it worth it? for most of us in the class, it is. A few have made their decisions and dropped out. I wish them all the best. I'm writing this at 4am on Sunday morning. No, this is not a "day off", we get into the classroom today (a break from the range practice). This course is non-stop - seven days a week. We need to get our 20 days, and drive time in so we can get on the road and start making money. Until next time ... :-)

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Frustration? You don't know frustration till you try backing a 53' box with the tractor! The tail end isn't going to go where you want it to. There is a 10 foot lag between you turning the steering wheel and the back wheels changing direction. The skills we are working on (90 degree backing turn, parallel parking left & right, offset backing ("shift" over one trailer space) are not for the faint hearted.

Just remember what you are there for. And that nearly 2 million other truck drivers do this several times a day. And they all got their start with frustration, too! We have three days to practice - 'from zero to sixty' in three days. Testing is on Wednesday - two days away!

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

One more thing - the Swift Driving Academy will be moving from Millington (20 miles north of Memphis) to near the Swift terminal in south Memphis sometime at the start of the year. All new facilities, all new driving range!

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.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

double-quotes-start.png

Frustration? You don't know frustration till you try backing a 53' box with the tractor! ...double-quotes-end.png

Well, I did not pass the backing test. But then I found some interesting things about Swift Academy that make it pretty good. I am officially on Academic Probation. That means I have one more week to practice. Then I take the whole evaluation set - Pre-trip, skills, map & logs - again. No extra charge, even for the hotel. (I still need to pay my own food expenses, and have one more week without income.)

The instructor informed us of the Swift Academy policy should a student fail again: said student needs to come up with $750 cash, and either the the whole course again, or you get an additional week - i forgot which. But I do remember the $750 simply goes as payment toward your $4400 you owe - meaning the additional time is no charge, but you need to show you are planning to complete the course.

One more limitation: you only get the one Academic Probation week. When an A.P. student moves to the road training, they don't have that cushion any more. I have no idea how a pay-for-it school handles the first failure, but Swift's extra week is pretty sweet.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Passed the Skills part. A new instructor explained tings in a different way, and that 'took" in my mind. Done by the end of 2014! I still have thew written Logs and Maps tests, then I should be road training next week. I stay local, since I'm local, and my friends will be going to their "home" terminals for their road training and DMV practice.

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.

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.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Today (Saturday) is the last testing. I passed - all the rest in the class passed, too. dancing-banana.gif Sunday is a travel day and everyone will either move to a Swift terminal in their home state, or go home till there's a trainer available. Tis next week is road training - still honing the back-up skills, shifting and moving in traffic. Of course the grand finale is the DMV test, and a real CDL license on Friday!

At that point, I move to Swift for orientation and that 4-6 week orientation ride.

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.

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.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Monday three of us (all from Mississippi) rode with our road trainer. (For confidentiality, I'll call him "Bob".) Bob took us out to an area they call the "shifting range" - really some country roads that are straight & have light traffic. First all three of us each did a full pre-trip. That was one of the three evaluations we need to pass before we can go to DMV. For the rest of the day, Bob demonstrated double clutching , turning at intersections, and stuff like that. We will need to pass Swift's evaluation for Skills (that's the backing park) and road driving before our DMV on Friday. He is confident that we will all be ready for our State road test in three days.

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.

Double Clutching:

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.

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.

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