Hello everyone! Sorry for the delay in getting a new post up. Thursday and Friday of last week were really good days for me. I'm really starting to feel much more confident in my driving skills and the rest of my class is improving greatly as well. It's really fun to see how quickly we are improving! Although Friday was a bit of a mixed bag as far as my driving was concerned.
On Thursday, I received another pre-hire! I'm continuing to apply to as many places as I can. I already have a pre-hire from my first choice company, but I want to continue getting pre-hires. Since the economy is bad, it's nice to have some backup companies in case my first choice doesn't work out for whatever reason. I'm not too interested in the last company I got a pre-hire from, but it's nice to have it as insurance.
Thursday started off with more on pre-trip quizzing. They wanted us to study the trailer brakes section and get it down pat. I did very well on it and studied it pretty hard. One of the toughest tests we have with the Secretary of State is our pre-trip knowledge. You must have a general knowledge of the mechanics on a truck so you can safely identify problems when checking the truck out before you drive. I'm not too mechanically inclined, so it's a bit of a challenge for me. But I'm just taking it one step at a time and really studying as best as I can.
After our pre-trip, it was time to hit the road. I drove extremely well! We went on all the roads the Secretary of State will take us on for our driving test and my instructor said I would have passed if it were an actual test. The butterflies are still there, but driving is becoming much more enjoyable. The more I relax, the better I seem to do.
I also went into the yard for a bit so I could go on the obstacle course. I'm getting better! My first time around on Thursday I would have failed the test by 1 point, mostly due to my 45 degree backing. I scored a lot of points because I didn't stop at the right spot (points are bad). But my second time around I would have passed with a few points to spare. I had to do a pull-up (pull forward and reposition) on my 45 degree back but I still would have passed. We will be allowed one pull-up on the exam.
On Friday, they really hammered us hard on the pre-trip stuff. After doing the pre-trip, I felt pretty bad because none of us did a real good job on it and my instructor seemed pretty dissapointed. It's really hard to learn all of this. They seem to want us to know everything overnight and it's just not possible. So that kind of sucked, but it's something I can improve on as long as I put in the study time.
We took a nice little "road trip" where I got to drive for about 45 minutes. This was awesome and really got me more comfortable behind the wheel. We went on some very busy roads, lane changes, merging, higher speeds,and dealt with intersections I've never had to navigate yet. On one left turn, there was a car way out in the intersection so I had to swing really wide to miss him. My instructor said I handled it perfectly!
Unfortunately, the last run I had on Friday wasn't so great. My first mistake occurred on my first right turn pulling out of the school parking lot. Traffic was clear in both directions, so I pulled out into the oncoming lane so I could swing the trailer wide. Well, a speeding vehicle came over a hill and was coming towards us at a quick rate, so I went back into my lane as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, this made the trailer ride up on the gravel shoulder. My instructor told me that would be an immediate fail if this were an actual road test. I went to shift into the next gear and missed it. I had trouble getting it into gear again after that and started holding up traffic behind me, which would also be an automatic fail for obstructing traffic. I was real flustered at that point.
My instructor pointed out that if I make a mistake, I need to forget about it right away. If you dwell on it for too long, then more mistakes will follow. That's exactly what happened. This effected the entire rest of my trip. I was grinding some gears, forgetting to switch the shift selector from low to high gear and vice versa, and overall a very poor performance. It really sucked ending my last trip on the road on that note going into the weekend. I told my instructor I want to go with him on Monday first thing so I can redeem myself. I had so many great trips in a row before that. It killed me to screw that up so bad. It wasn't a horrible trip and is still a vast improvement from my first couple days of driving, but it was still pretty dissapointing.
On a positive note, after driving on the road, I did outstanding in the yard. My first run I passed by a wide margin. I had to do a pull-up on my 45 degree back, but was still pretty happy. My second run is where I totally rocked it! I got a perfect score! I'm the first one in my class to do that. My 45 degree back was nothing short of beautiful. No pull up required, perfectly between the cones, not slanted at all, and I stopped exactly where I was supposed to. I got zero points (remember, points are bad). When they shouted out that I got a perfect score I had to lay on the air horn in celebration. YEAH! Thank God I was able to do well in the yard after my poor experience on the road. I needed something to uplift my spirits after a bad pre-trip and a bad performance out on the road.
A former student of the school and a current driver for Werner Transportation came into the lot with his truck. He was in the area and thought he'd stop by. I'm glad he did! I was able to pick his brain a bit and take a little tour of his truck. It was nice being able to talk to him about what it's really like out on the road and see how his home on wheels was set up. I talked to him for a good while and before I knew it, the day was over.
All in all, I can't believe the progress I've made. I think my last run on the road on Friday was a complete fluke. I'm anxious to go back on Monday so I can show my instructor that I can do better (and I have done better!).
One message to those of you preparing to go to school or thinking about going to school, get ready for some serious studying. I'm sure it varies in each state, but here in Illinois this is no cakewalk. It isn't just hopping in a truck and learning how to drive it. There is a lot of book work that has to be done. I expected some studying going into this, but not nearly the amount I've put in. I started studying my pre-trip stuff around 2 pm today and didn't stop until about 9:30 pm. I only stopped for some short breaks to catch up on the Super Bowl. I have a million index cards that I've turned into flash cards to help me remember everything. I still don't know everything as well as I'd like, so more studying on pre-trip will be happening through this week.
When I first decided to go to a CDL school, I figured that I have a college education and some of the truckers I see out on the road don't look like the smartest people in the world. You know the stereotype; missing teeth, dirty looking, hick accent, etc. Well, I have a whole new respect for those guys if they have had to do the same thing I'm doing. This isn't easy! It's definitely obtainable by just about anyone, but it isn't effortless. So be prepared for that. There isn't one night during the week yet that I haven't put in at least an hour or two of studying since my training started. First my studying was to pass my written tests, and now it's studying all the different parts on the truck and how to check them. Even the things you think would be easy to check, like the tires, are more detailed than you think. And if the Secretary of State examiner asks about the tires, you can't just say "they have to be inflated to X amount of pressure with Y tread depth." He'll fail you on the spot with that response! There are certain things you must say for each part of the truck. So these phrases must be memorized.
So hopefully tomorrow I have a better time out on the road and pre-tripand continue my success out in the yard. Wish me luck!
Until next time, drive safely.