Fox Valley Technical College In Appleton, WI

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David R.'s Comment
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Hey all! My name's David and I've got a school date of 2/23/15 for the Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, WI. That's tomorrow and I'm pretty excited. I got my syllabus and the first day is listed as orientation at the transportation center. I've been told that Fox Valley Tech has got the biggest Skid Pad in Wisconsin (which we get to use) and a pretty large range where we will be practicing. Can't wait to get going.

I hired on with Schneider who will be paying my full tuition for this program, nice. Don't receive any pay, but then again, I'm not paying for school either! I'll owe Schneider one year of driving after I graduate and get my CDL. I didn't get any endorsements when I took my written exam for my CDL driver's permit (gotta do this on your own prior to going to school) thinking I need to learn how to be a driver for the first year, then I can specialize. After four weeks with Fox Valley Tech and after getting my CDL, I'll go to Schneider where I'll get their training for an additional three weeks.

I'm 59 years old, retired from the U.S. Air Force after 24 years, been in law enforcement the entire time as a patrolman, flight sergeant, was on one of the first SWAT teams in the Air Force (our team was established before Lackland AFB put their's together), became a major crimes investigator with the Air Force Office of Special Investigations where I was a general crimes investigator, narcotics agent, and a counter-intelligence agent. Done many things that most people only see on TV, gone places that most people have only heard about, and all I can say is, I'm getting ready to live my boy-hood dream . . . to be a driver.

Been studying with the TT CDL preperation material (which I HIGHLY suggest for those of you who are thinking about getting your CDL) and am ready for school. On one hand, I can't wait to get there and begin driving, but on the other I've never back a tractor trailer, shifted with so many gears, or double clutched, just to name a few new things, that I'm a little apprehensive.

We're gonna do it and it all starts tomorrow. I'll let you know how it goes. If you have questions about the training just shout em out to me and I'll let you know how it happens with me and Fox Valley Tech.

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.

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.
David R.'s Comment
member avatar

Day one under my belt. It started off in a classroom at Fox Valley Tech College where about a dozen students had gathered for training. There was only one other new guy besides me, the others were at different weeks in their training. During the first part of the class, students were "dispatched" with instructors to different areas (straight truck, bus, and combos). Me and the other new guy stayed back and did some initital paperwork. The other guy did not have his CDL permit yet and he was from Tennessee. He now has to get residencey for Wisconsin, surrender his driver's license from TN, and then take the CDL test to get his permit. So, before you get to school get your CDL learners permit at the DMV. Until that time, we've got to stay in the yard and drive the course there. I'm pretty okay with that, I don't want to go on the road and run anyone over!

After the paperwork we got right into a 10 speed Freightliner. The instructor demo drove then asked who wanted to be first. I didn't hesitate and jumped right into the driver's seat (FINALLY! I'M GOING TO DRIVE A REAL TRUCK!) and off we went. Well, not quite like I thought it was going to happen. As I let out the clutch (in 3rd gear) we bucked and bounced about 10 feet. Tried again and we lurched forward and before I knew it the instructor was telling me to shift. Now I've always been a pretty good driver with a car, but what's with this double clutching stuff?! Wow what a difference from a car. And the RPMs, and letting out the clutch then gasing it to get the RPMs up to the "sweet spot", pushing in the clutch again and shifting into gear. Whatever you learned about a stick shift in a car (or civilian truck) forget most of it. If you've never driving a car with a stick shift, you're probably better off than those who have. I thought I'd never get it, but after about an hour it slowly started to come together. It's not perfect, but at least now I feel that I can do this. It's not impossible. It will just take practice.

Also have a hugh book to read (each night one chapter). Lots of info to get, but after studying with TT I feel relief knowing a lot of this info already. After lunch the instructor had us hook up a 53' trailer and we went through the course again (and again) with the trailer attached. I was more than just a little apprehensive about driving with a trailer so soon, but I tell you, with the trailer attached I wasn't "Bandy the Rodeo Clown". The bucking was all but gone and the shifting even seemed smoother.

At the end of the day the instructor let me back the trailer between two other trailers. I've never back any type of trailer up before, but with his instructions it went right into the slot like I knew what I was doing. Man! I can do this! Can't wait for tomorrow to practice more. I've got to get good at this, and I will.

Having fun in WI!

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.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Family Man's Comment
member avatar

Hi, David. Thanks for sharing your experiences. Your enthusiasm is infectious.

It sounds like the hardest part of the initial training is already behind you. You've already gotten so much done in a single day. If you continue to focus on safety, driving on the freeway is not so very much different than practicing on the yard.

Continue to kep us updated about your progress.

David R.'s Comment
member avatar

Family Man - Day 2 is done and what a great day I had. Got out on the road with traffic. I was excited to be there, but I'm still grinding gears and missing some downshifts, but my instructor said I was doing well (my mouth was as dry as the Sahara when I stopped). Shifting is better than yesterday, but there's still a lot of improvement to be had and more to learn. Got to back the trailer up today as well. Not bad for my first try. Just have to remember turn in the direction of the problem. Had only one pull up with three different types (90 degree, off set, and straight).

Pre-inspection started today as well. Oh my goodness! There is a ton of things to remember. I was a backyard mechanic when I was younger so many of the engine parts I already knew. Tried to do a complete pre-inspection on my own and it wasn't too bad. Making flash cards now for the different areas to remember (in-cab, driver's side fuel area, engine comparment, coupling area, trailer, and lights).

It is so great to be in that big truck. Tomorrow's going to be even better!

Family Man's Comment
member avatar

Hi, David. I'm glad your day went well. You sound like you've got a winning attitude.

Here is a link to a video that I have found helpful over pre-trip inspections:

http://youtu.be/EfW615ZnELE

I had a great instructor who went into a great deal of detail during a mock pre-trip inspection , and the instructor in the video breaks down things in a similar way.

I hope you are getting the rest you need. This program is moving fast isn't it. Hang in there and keep having fun!

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.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

I'm reading too. 59 years? Several people have questioned whether they are too old for trucking. I just point out I've just finished Swift training, I'm 63, and I'm making it happen. You're to old when you (or the DOT doctor) say you're too old.

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 R.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks Family Man, I'll check it out. And you're right Errol, as long as you can pass the medical you can drive.

Day 3 at Fox Valley Tech College was another great day. We went through a complete pre-inspection then I did one while the instructor watched and listened. After I was done, he said I would have passed the CDL exam, so I guess I'm on track. Also got on the freeway today for the first time and drove through a bunch of small towns where the speed limit drops from 55 to 35.

Some advice learned from experienced instructors: Keep your eye on EVERY intersection, look WAY ahead for stop signs, bridges, traffic circles, stop lights . . . I could go on and on about what to be aware of. Another big thing to remember; when you come to an intersection in a car it doesn't take much to slow down, but the big rigs are a different story. You need a lot more time to slow down. Also, don't be in a hurry to get out of the other motorist's way. What I mean is, don't hurry yourself though a turn, take your time and watch your trailer.

When I got done with my hour plus drive, I needed to back the trailer into a slot and got it done with two pull ups. After I finished everything, my mouth was as dry as my throat and had to down a half a bottle of water. Nervous, but loving it.

It's awesome driving the big truck. While I'm in the driver's seat there is SO MUCH to do I never get bored; check mirrows, gauges, looking ahead for possible trouble. As I drove home in my car (a Chev Cruze) today, I felt as though I was in a go-cart. Tomorrow shall bring new adventures and learning! WooHoo!

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.
Rick S.'s Comment
member avatar

Keep your eyes on EVERYTHING.

Very common (in some states MANDATORY) for the examiner to ask "what did the road sign you just passed say?". To see if you're paying attention.

If you look around places like youtube - you'll see plenty of drivers that miss the "low bridge" sign (and took the roof off their trailer), or miss "No Trucks" signs, or Bridge Weight signs and the like.

Always scanning ahead, to the sides, and in your mirrors.

Rick

Family Man's Comment
member avatar

I thought a lot today about what you said: "don't be in a hurry to get out of the other motorist's way." My trainer expresses it this way: "Hold your speed/Hold your lane."

In my mind, I liken my vehicle to a train. Other motorists ought to pay heed and accelerate or decelerate accordingly. In reality, many do.

I hope your classes continue going well!

David R.'s Comment
member avatar

Days 4 and 5 were much the same. In the morning I did a pre-inspection with a Training Engineer like they would ask for the CDL. They tell me there are three inspections that you must do and then a few they will choose to give you (read that from here on TT from one of you vet drivers before). I believe you must do the In Cab, Coupling, and Lights, then the examiner will give you others to do. Got to know them all no matter what, cause I'll be driving one of these one day and it's my hiney in that seat. I don't want to break down on the road, loosing time. Nor do I want to cause damage or injury to anyone, so I'll do all the checks each morning. In "real life" we will do what we practice, so we should practice what we need to do.

I ran over my first curb on Thursday (day 4). Actually I nicked it, but that's the same thing when it comes to your CDL exam. My instructor is taking me through some tough areas (at my request) and talking me through the truns. It's really building up my confidence, but when I'm done I let out a hugh sigh of relief. Got real close (about 6 inches) to a stop sign once too. Each time going real slow.

Next week we're going to concentrate on backing and then going into some more tough areas in the city. Oh, on Friday we pulled a 48' instead of the 53'. Can't tell if it's much easier or not, I'm too new at this, but I'm thinking it was to boost our confidence when making our turns with that 5 extra feet of room. When I say we, there are two students in the cab with an instructor and for the last 2 days a Training Engineer who is like a student trainer.

Loving it even more today than yesterday and can't wait to get back on Monday. Got a tip from a vet driver about backing and using mirrors. He reminded me that when I can't see out of my right mirror to power adjust it so I can, then power it back in place as you (slowly) straighten out. Also, I'm having a difficult time with my visual check during a turn in the direction opposite of the turn. I do my intersection checks, begin my turn then as the tractor begins the turn I'm suppose to check to the opposite side of the turn for traffic again. I'm blocking the entire intersection and don't believe I can do anything about someone coming down the road anyway. I might be able to stop for example during a left turn for someone turning right into the same lane I'm turning into to. Guess I just have to keep doing it and reminding myself to make that check. If any of you vets out there have any tips, I'm more than happy to hear about em.

Thanks drivers for being as safe as you are!

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.

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.

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