CRST Van Expidited- My Experience so far...
by, 01.13.2011 at 07.10 PM (1248 Views)
Well I figured I should post my experiences so far with CRST for those who want to know the details of the process. I have been off work now for about a month due to a non-work related injury at a truck stop but should be back on the road soon and will go into details on this at the end of this blog entry. I would have posted sooner but didn't have access to a computer on the road.
I chose CRST for only 2 reasons:
1. They were one of 2 companies that were hiring people who needed their CDL out of Florida at the time.
2. Swift was the only other company that could get me started without a CDL but they couldn't get me started till the end of Nov which my last day of employment was the 29th of Oct.
I have over 12 years experience in the IT field but could not find work in FL after a conflict of interest was brought to my attention at my last place of employment. So without any other options I decided to get into trucking. I attempted this before but had some issues with my knee so I could not finish training back in 2005 like I would have wanted to.
Nov 2010 - CDL Training
Since I didn't have my CDL yet, I was hired on to CRST as a contract student. I flew out to Oklahoma City from Florida on OCT 31st to start training that week. CRST does offer to pay for your bus ticket out there but they require you to reimburse them after you start getting normal pay. You will also reimburse them for the hotel cost. You will also need money for food during your stay.
Week 1 (Oct 31st to Nov 6th)- I arrived on Sunday this week. I called the Econo Lodge to get a ride from the airport. I was picked up about 30min later and was taken to the hotel. The rooms aren't too bad and most of them had refrigerators in them. There is a TA near by and some fast food type places across the highway within walking distance. The Braums has a small market if you need some "real" food the first day. The hotel also runs a shuttle every few days to Walmart. They are not very well organized however so if your roommate checks out you may have to move to a different room.
Monday we went down to the lobby to get a shuttle over to the CRST Terminal. This is more of a terminal than a training/orientation place. The space is lacking a bit so with having 50+ people it was a bit cramped.
You will go through paper work the first day and start studying for your CDL permit if you don't have your CDL yet.
When I say study, I mean you study with some other people that need their CDL as well. There was no formal class to go over this at all so you are pretty much on your own. They have 4 computers in a room to help your test but several of the power points they had available had wrong information on them. We used
http://www.cristcdl.com/otc/ to take practice tests before we went to take the written tests for the permit.
You will also get your drug screen and physical done this day as well. Lunch was provided for us at no cost other then a drink from the vending machine.
*NOTE If you do not have your CDL yet you will start at Roadmaster the second week NOT day 1. I sat outside in the cold thinking I needed to go to Roadmaster first because I was given the wrong information.
Tuesday was more studying for the permit tests. We also went over some "how to be safe" things outside on a truck in the parking lot.
Wednesday they will take you down to take your CDL permit test. You will need money for lunch on this day since you will be down there most of the day. The OK DPS was crowded which took some time plus you stick with the group so no one leaves until everyone is finished. You can take all 3 tests the same day and if you fail on you will need to come back the next day and take the one you failed.
*NOTE Do not bother getting your permit in your home state unless it's for studying purposes. Oklahoma requires you to transfer your license over before you can take your CDL permit test and you need to have your CDL permit from Oklahoma to get your CDL in Oklahoma. This was an extra $26 cost to transfer my license over. I had to list the terminal as my residency in OK. You have to go to a separate office to get the actual license from OK when you switch it over.
Thursday I had to go back and retake a test. The good thing was one of the other people in the class was local so I got to ride with her down there so we didn't have to wait for the shuttle all day.
Friday is also available if you need to go back to the OK DPS office. If not there is not much need to go to the terminal since they are trying to get new drivers out on the road this day. There is a lounge to watch TV if you want to go however but you wont be doing anything.
Sat-Sun nothing to do but hang out at the hotel
Week 2 (Nov 7th to Nov 13th)- You will get a ride directly from the hotel to Roadmaster. You will need to bring your License, Permit, Medical card and SS Card with you for Roadmaster to copy. You will also need a log book with you. You will need to bring a lunch or money for lunch. There is a bingo place right next to Roadmaster that has decent food other then the vending machine food at Roadmaster.
This is an accelerated course so you will not be doing any classroom work just driving/maneuvering. You will start out the first few days getting your shifting down. Depending on what you are doing in the AM you will do the "opposite" in the PM after lunch. In other words if you were out on the road shifting/driving in the AM you will be on the yard in the afternoon maneuvering/backing.
You will be driving on Saturdays and Sundays as well. Roadmaster had one 9 speed truck. The rest were 10 speed old Freightliners and not too old Volvos.
Week 3 (Nov 14th to Nov 20th)- You will be at Roadmaster again the 2nd week. You will be doing the same things as the previous week with the difference that you will be out on the road longer and taking more challenging routes that will help you with your driving skills. It's the same as before with the morning/afternoon schedule I mentioned before. You will be going over pre-trip as well during this week. They were supposed to do this as well the 1st week at Roadmaster but it was not communicated to us.
Week 4 (Nov 21st to Nov 28th) - I practiced more on Sunday and took my first CDL test Monday. I passed the pre-trip test but failed the roadtest when I hit a curb. The backing and roadtest are one test so if you fail the road portion you have to do your backing again. Since I passed the pre-trip I didn't have to do that again. Since the DPS does not test at Roadmaster on Tuesdays they took a few of us to a DPS testing site to test instead. I failed the parallel this time on backing so I didn't pass this day either. Since the DPS was closed this week on Friday and Wednesday was full for testing, I had to wait till the following week to take my test again.
Thursday was thanksgiving and those that did not go home for the holiday were given a voucher for a free meal at the Pilot restaurant. I took Wednesday, Thursday & Friday off then went back to Roadmaster Saturday and Sunday to practice.
The benefit of not passing the first few times is I did get more practice time in. I was able to drive the whole day Saturday and put in about 100 miles
November 29th- I finally passed my test! A few others passed too so we took one of their cars down to the DPS and got our CDLs.
*Note - In Oklahoma you have 3 chances to pass your tests, both on the permit and actual CDL test. If you fail all 3 you have to wait 30 days before you can try again. There is a small fee every time you fail which bumps up your cost of the CDL a bit. Mine was around $80 due to the one failed permit test and 2 failed CDL tests.
Overall I'd say Roadmaster was good and the trainers were fantastic. My only complaint was the size of the lot. It would have been nice to have a 3rd and/or 4th spot to back in. This would have given us more time due to the class sizes.
*Roadmaster had talked about closing this site in OKC the last week we were there. The guy who owned the land said that he would probably open up a school in a different name if Roadmaster corporate decided to go through with this
CRST - Contract Student Driving Period
This next section will start to cover everything after my CDL training starting Nov 30th 2010.
I went back to the terminal on Nov 30th. The rest of the week was a partial repeat of my first week at the CRST terminal. They did not have separate classes so some of the paperwork I did already and some of it I didn't yet. This whole week was paperwork and and watching some of the safety videos again. Lots of people had to get more stuff faxed to CRST such as previous employment records and whatnot. My official hire date was Dec 2nd.
On Friday this week we hung out in the lounge and wait for our names to be called. We were given our Condata cards, driver number, driver ID card and given our fleet managers number.
I called my manager and was told my trainer would be calling me when his truck was fixed. he had it in the shop for some minor repairs.
If you don't have experience you will be put with a trainer or possibly multiple trainers (if your trainer takes time off) for 4 weeks. You are paid $50/day as soon as you are marked as being on a truck, even if you are sitting. You will be paid Thursdays during this time. After 28 days you will team with someone else and get paid the normal starting pay. As far as I know this starting pay is 22 cpm with the miles being split.
My trainer was sick an additional day so did not call me till the 6th. I was able to get free hotel vouchers for the weekend. You can also at this time ask for some of your paycheck early if you haven't been paid yet. Due to the longer than anticipated stay I took one out for $75 to cover food costs.
When my trainer called the 6th we had a load but it was canceled. In any case he picked me up and we went to the terminal to wait for a load. We didn't get out of the terminal till Wednesday evening.
Out on the road - Training week one
On Wednesday the 8th we relayed a load from OK City to Sacramento. I didn't drive this late in the day. I drove for about 9 hours on Thursday morning till the afternoon.
We picked up a load heading to Columbus, OH from Woodland on Friday the 10th. I drove till Winnemucca, NV. We switched drivers and my trainer drove till James Town, WY.
We had to wait a few hours for the roads to clear. I drove on Saturday till Big Springs, NE with some slow going in WY and we switched drivers. My trainer is a bit anxious to drive so I only got to drive for 6 hours again on this leg. By the time we were 50mi outside of St. Louis we had real bad weather and stopped about midnight Sunday.
Here's where the madness started:
I had stayed in the sleeper and rested so I could start driving again early Sunday morning. Around 2 am I went to the showers. I got all my stuff, walked in, got a shower number and went to my shower room. (For those new people out there, most showers are private and come with a code you enter to get into your private shower room)
I bent over to put some stuff in the shower and experienced what can only be described and a knife in my back. I pulled something real bad. So much so that when I sat down from the pain I passed out.
I woke up on the floor and the pain was still there. I got my self partially showered after getting off the floor and was able to get dressed despite the pain. I called my trainer in on the phone and he came in to see what we needed to do. I was able to call CRST and have them send me part of my paycheck for the week. Since the weather was bad I had to pay a lot for a cab to get over to the emergency room but it was less than an ambulance.
The doc at the hospital didn't do much other then say it was a pulled muscle in my back and gave me pain meds. He stated he had the same problem before and almost passed out as well from the pain. I should have asked for an MRI but didn't thinking he knew what he was talking about.
I got back to the truck stop and when the weather cleared we were able to leave. Once we got to Columbus, I figured I needed to get home so the next day I called CRST Safety to see what needed to be done. Since I was away from the truck they didn't consider it workman's comp. They also would not pay for a bus home so I asked for another advance from my paycheck. With what I had left, the advance and the generosity of my trainer I was able to get home for about $130 by plane.
After a few weeks home I still had pain in my back and now my leg. I got an MRI done and it appears that I have a herniated disk. It will take a few weeks to get healed up with the traction machine and chiropractic adjustments. Hopefully I can get back to work this month or early Feb at the latest.
CRST is still OK with me being off due to my injury but stated that if the time were too much longer I might have to reapply. Other then some miss-communication here and there, and not at least buying me a ticket home, I'd say so far I'm my impression is positive about CRST.
I will post again when I'm about to get on the road. I'd really like to put all of this out there for everyone to see so they can get an idea of what goes on with a CRST driver.
If anyone has questions or comments please let me know.