The time for learning is over. Well, at least as far as learning for the purposes of orientation. It's time for testing and (hopefully) graduating from orientation so we can continue onto the next phase of our training. After being around the trucking industry for a little less than a month, I don't believe I will ever stop "learning". The trainers have watched us, they have taught us, and they have corrected us for the last week. Now it was time for us to show them that we absorbed what we had learned, that we retained it, and that we could execute it. The first thing our trainer told us before we were evaluated was that he is not looking for us to be perfect. We are students, and they are just looking to make sure we make good decisions, can drive the truck safely, and follow the procedures they want us to follow.
So, off I went for my driving test. Have you ever driven your car when it is 90 degrees outside, you have the A/C on but the windows are down so you can hear what is going on around you, you are nervous as all get out, and to top it off your hands are sweating so bad you're having trouble griping the steering wheel? Now try that in an 18 wheeler. Let me tell you, it is no small task!
I don't know why exactly I was so nervous, I knew I could drive the truck, I knew I was a safe driver, and I knew what my trainer was thinking. But, that guy in the back of your head, the one that is always whispering to ya, just kept saying "don't screw this up!" Well, needless to say, I did not do as good as I did the day before. My nerves got the best of me, but I did well enough to pass. My trainer told me I would be fine, that there is no reason to be nervous. He can tell I am a safe driver, and the rest will come with time.
After my driving tests came our written test. 50 multiple choice questions on everything we had learned the last week at orientation. We needed an 80% to pass, and it was all open book. There were questions on hours of service, correct turning procedures, pretty much a little bit of everything we had learned. Then at the end, we had to complete a trip plan and answered questions about it. It was not that difficult, and everyone in the class passed.
The rest of the day was going over some company policies and procedures. Typical things you go thru being hired by a new company. The safety director came and talked to us for about an hour. He said if we came away from his talk only remembering one thing, it was that if we ever had to come see him, there were 5 words he never wanted to hear: "I Was In A Hurry!"
After that came the best part of all - they gave us our new driver number and our COMDATA card! That is when we knew we had made it and were "officially" hired by the company. It was at that point that I knew everything was going to be fine as long as I did my 100% best, which is what I intend to do!
The next day was a short one, we filled out some paperwork, watched a video on benefits, filled out our first log book as a new company driver, and then had graduation! We all got certificates and congratulations from the instructors and others from the company. We were then told that within the next few days we would be given a call by our training engineer, the person who would be bringing us out on the road for the next 7-14 days, and getting instructions on where and when to meet them to begin the next phase of our training.
I headed out for the 170 mile drive home, more proud than I had been in a long time. It was a great feeling. I was off to a new, exciting career. But at the same time, I could not wait to get home to my family for some much needed rest and relaxation!