So, finally I got into the school on 4/20 and started the classroom phase. My school required that we have already gotten the CDL permit and all five of the required endorsements (combination vehicle, doubles/triples, air brakes, tanker, and hazardous materials). That said, the school did provide two days of review over the general knowledge and endorsements to help those that were struggling. That took care of Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday kicked into high gear (figuratively) with one of the most boring things a trucker has to deal with... but also the most important: your logbook. This, as they explained to us, is your lifeline and the piece of rope that will hang you if you're not careful. Could there be anything more boring than drawing lines to explain to someone what you were doing? (The answer, if you're wondering, is 'yes'. Sitting on the side of the road due to an hour of service violation could be quite boring.)
After the log book and summary explainations were done, then we did a series of practice logs in the log books provided by the school. After lunch, we came back and did a bit on map reading using a trucker's road atlas. If you've never seen one, it's quite a bit like any other road atlas, except it tells you where all of the truck routes are, where the weigh stations are, and even will tell you about road restrictions in certain areas. We finished out the day with a practice run to Houston using both our road atlas (to plan the trip) and the log books (to make sure 'we' didn't go over the HoS rules).
Thursday... ugh. Thursday sucked, and not in a nice way. It was eight solid hours of videos. Yes, they were on important things, I won't argue that. Just sitting and watching videos for eight hours can really wear on a person. I wasn't the only one fighting sleep, I'll tell you that! Friday was a half day of videos, a quiz on the videos from Thursday and Friday, then some classroom training on left and right turns, as well as freight management (that is to say, loading/unloading and securing the cargo). The class was definitely more interesting in the second half. It didn't hurt that our instructor kept giving real life examples from when he was out driving flatbeds.
Today, Friday 4/27, saw us back in the classroom for 5 hours. We did a quick review of Friday's material, then spent a goodly amount of time on shifting. I don't care what anyone tells you, double clutching is very different from driving an every day standard transmission. The school explained the three types of shifts: flatland upshift, flatland downshift, up-hill upshift, up-hill downshift, down-hill up-shift, down-hill down-shift. I was keenly interested in the theory behind how it worked, and it made sense to me. After the classroom phase, we started working out in the yard.
Now, my class isn't very large. It's a grand total of 18 guys from two states. Since we weren't driving, they split us up into three groups of 6 and let us have at. My group started with the couple/uncouple station. There we went step-by-step through the process, and even learned about sliding the 5th wheel and tandems. None of us did anything yet... that starts tomorrow.
Next, we went to the shifting simulator. It wasn't a high-tech piece of equipment, but it does help train you in double clutching. I did fairly well, according to the instructor. We'll see when I get to drive tomorrow afternoon. Finally, we went to the Pre-Trip Inspection station. Guess what we did there? Actually, we only did the in-cab inspection. That is, we did everything that you do once you get into the cab before you drive for the day.
I must say I had fun in the yard part today. It feels good to be learning a new set of skills. I am looking forward to driving tomorrow, and I hope I don't break anything!