Ah, week two. The magical week that separates the truck drivers from the…well… not truck drivers? This is the week that we actually get out of the desk and behind the wheel. The week where you probably will be doing all the basics. If you're like me, you're probably scared to death, and if you're not, then your nerves are made of barb wire and I envy you. I was completely horrified of down shifting for some reason, so when it came time to take a tight curve, I kind of tensed up and almost hit a guard rail. So here's a little advice, calm down. It really comes natural when you get the hang of it. You're going to probably start off slow. Snail slow.
We started off the day with idle shifting in the morning and straight line backing in the afternoon. Everyone in my little sub-group caught on pretty well. Straight line is kind of like backing in a gigantic boat - you "turn into trouble". And if you happen to be on a white rock parking lot like I was, wear sunscreen. The Texas sun turned me into a walking blister. Day two was by far the most frightening. We got onto the access roads and went in a gigantic circle the whole day. We were driving an eight speed Freightliner, driving along pretty empty streets, with three students and our trainer, which is a seventy-three year old Australian cowboy named Kangaroo. Kangaroo is a hilarious guy that hits you on the hand with a ruler if you click the gears. He has tons of over the road stories and really likes it when students panic. You should really hope for an old-timer for your training. Out of all the trainers I've had this week, he was probably the best.
By about eleven o'clock it started to get a little congested on the freeway, so everyone was pounding the access roads. Be prepared to be cut off by just about everyone. Four wheelers see "student driver" on the side of the trailer and think it's awesome to pull around you and try to slam on the brakes. Another hazard is rock haulers. Rock haulers are the shorter trucks on the road that you will almost definitely see if you're driving around quarries or anywhere in Texas in general. These people get paid by the load, not by the mile, so they drive as fast as they can and scare the crud out of you, slinging dirt and gravel in their path. If any of you happen to be said rock haulers then slow down for a student. After you get used to the double clutch shifting, down shifting, and basic road hazards, you'll be on the right road to finishing this thing.
Day three and four we did parallel parking and alley docking. I know what you're thinking - "Parallel what?" It's actually really easy, and you feel completely confident in your driving abilities when you nail it, and if you don't nail it, give it some time. I have a hard time parallel parking my car, and I got this on the first try. Alley docking I flopped on, which is backing in the trailer at an angle. I kept running over cones, and my trainer told me to think of them as puppies and maybe I won't hit as many. I hit the same two cones and then felt bad that I plowed over so many puppies.
Week two is also the week where if you're not already going to a company school, you start getting pre-hire letters. That's a great feeling, with the economy so jacked; these companies are sending you letters trying to get you fresh out of school. I received my pre-hire letter from my first choice company and spazzed out in front of all the instructors. I'm going on as a team driver, so they offered us a really nice split mile package and a promise of at least five thousand miles a week. Yee-haw! This week is also when, if once again, your not in a company school, that your class is going to start to thin out. At the place I'm at, if they can't place you or finance you, you're out. So all these little speeding tickets and things come back to haunt you. My classes started out with nineteen people, and now were down to seven. Basically, if you relax, practice, and repeat, you're going to be ok and you'll do just fine.
See you next week.