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  1. #1
    Heavy Load Member Swaps's Avatar
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    Riverland Community College, Austin, MN

    chicken kickin suggested that I do a write up of Riverland's trucking program.

    I just started yesterday so I'll log my experiences as frequently as something interesting pops up.

    Firstly, as of this semester, spring 2010, the tuition is approx $6000. You also need to come with a Class A permit, DOT Physical and UA before the first 2 weeks are up. The head instructor, Nolan McConnell has been a friend of my family for about 2 decades now. He has over 50 years driving experience and has been teaching the course for 21 years. So he is very qualified to be training the class. Cost of the books is about $60. Including the main text book, two smaller "pocketbooks", and the newest version of Rand McNalley's trucking atlas. You also need to have a Logbook with a DVIR that you can get at any truck stop for around $2.

    So far the classes have been mostly #### chat, and a couple videos. Most of the first few chapters a person will need to know before getting their class A permit, so today (2nd day) we talked about the driver logs for 90% of the class. Yesterday's homework was read 4 chapters and do the 10 question quiz at the end of each chapter, and tonight's homework is read the next 5 chapters.

    I'm assuming the classroom teaching will continue like this for the rest of this week and next week, the following week sounds like will be hands on instruction in the truck, going over the pre and post trip inspection, general information and layout of the trucks. So, unless something changes in the next couple days, I'll just skip the rest of the class work and wait for 2 weeks.


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  3. #2
    Heavy Load Member Swaps's Avatar
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    Hmmm, that censored bit is supposed to be "c hit chat" not 'poopie chat'

    I didn't know that c hit was going to censored...

  4. #3
    Heavy Load Member Swaps's Avatar
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    The first two weeks was a bunch of videos and book work. We were supposed to get into the trucks today. But the afternoon class that i'm in, 12:30 - 8:00pm got snowed out. The morning class was able to get some work in but they had to deal with blowing snow. The class I have is kind of a rotating student thing. Every month they get 7-10 new students who go through the 2 week course work. Then they get into the trucks with the guys who started before. And students "graduate" after they get their CDL, but we're able to stay on and practice in the trucks until we get jobs, I'm sure there is a deadline, but nobody is close to one. It's a great course with great instructors. We get about 2x the hours that other drivings schools put in.

    We had a recruiter from Roehl come in and talk with us. Made Roehl sound like the best company in the world. But that's their job. Roehl is my #1 choice for a LARGE company right now. Not my #1 choice overall. But if I have to go to a Large national company, Roehl is first on my list. I'd much rather go with Eskimo's company!!!! but we'll have to wait and see on that one!!!

    There are a few other companies in MN and Iowa I'm looking at. I have a friend at Decker/B&T in Iowa. And I have a friend at Buesing in Minneapolis.

    Most companies hiring want at least 1 year experience, and I can't blame them. But it's hard for a noob to get a job with one of these terrible companies like CR England, Prime or Swift and be forced to stick it out for a year before they can try to move to a better company. And you wonder why so many new drivers just can't make it.

  5. #4
    Heavy Load Member Swaps's Avatar
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    Been in the truck practicing the basic skills for the last 3 weeks.
    Passed my skills test on Thursday. (first in my class to do so)
    It consists of stopping the truck with the front bumper in a small "box" formed by 4 cones. A 100foot straight line back up. A reverse serpentine. And an Ally Dock making sure you can get the trailer in the space available and stopping with the DOT bumper in a box formed by 4 cones again like the stopping test.

    With my skills test passed I'm able to drive around town now. A little experince with that and I'll be able to go on "trips". The school shuffles trailers around for a local trailer dealer in Albert Lea. Plus the school has a training trailer for municipal and volunteer fire departments. So we take that to small towns all around Southern Minnesota.

    I can't wait! Because I've been slowly driven insane by driving around a parking lot in circles for 3 weeks!!

  6. #5
    Heavy Load Member Swaps's Avatar
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    The Instructor took us off the property on Wednesday on to a seldom traveled stretch of highway. There we were able to practice up shifting to high range (we're limited to low range on campus.) and downshifting from high range. Plus maneuvering with the trailer on city roads.
    Since I was the first of my class to pass the skills test, on Thursday I was able to take a trip! Which is a great thing! Because you slowly go insane by driving around the parking lot practicing your skills test week after week!!! We took a fire trailer to the Wabasha Fire Department. One of the other students, drove there with the trailer and had to park it along side the building. And he did a great job of backing the trailer up into a pretty tight space. I got to bobtail back to the campus. Which eased some of the anxiety away that I didn't have to worry about driving with the trailer, I could just focus on shifting properly, keeping a safe distance, and working around the "4 wheeler" now. (I'm proud I can talk about 4 wheelers, rather the just being a 4 wheeler! But it was a great way to build confidence on the road. Next week I'm sure I'll be able to drive with the trailer more often.

  7. #6
    Heavy Load Member Swaps's Avatar
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    Not a whole lot new this week.

    Had my fill of bobtailing... Just seemed wherever we went I was stuck bobtailing. Whether it be bringing the SCBA trailer to local small town fire departments or delivering trailers for Crossroads Trailer I always got the shaft... Oh well, it was 1 week. It'll be different next week.

  8. #7
    Heavy Load Member Swaps's Avatar
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    nothing really now to update with. Just driving trailers around. Getting more city driving practice.
    The instructor said we have a trip to Chicago coming up, that will be interesting!! I've never been there, so lets hope everything goes smoothly!

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  10. #8
    Heavy Load Member Swaps's Avatar
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    it's been a while since I updated this.

    Drove to Chicago a couple weeks ago.
    Left at campus at midnight, I drove the first 3 hours.
    I thought I was going to be exhausted and expected to drive about 1 hour before switching, but once I got into the driver seat my brain went into "driving mode" and I was as attentive and alert as if it were 3 in the afternoon. I probably could've driven 4-5 hours that morning but after 2 I kinda felt like I was hogging the wheel. We had 2 other drivers with so we knew we would be able to make it there and back with no problems. The other two guys were dead to the world as soon as they hit the bunks in the sleeper. Kinda pissed me off, because I couldn't get more then 30-40 minutes of sleep at a time on the road. I guess team driving isn't for me! I wore my Twins jersey and took some good hearted ribbing from the dock supervisor. He was a cubs fan, so all I had to do was mention our 2 world series rings and that kinda put him in a corner. We picked up 4 diesel engines for the diesel tech course part of the college. Never really knew how convenient the pre-pass toll programs were until we were stopping at the booths every 5-10 miles...

    Today we're driving up to the Twin Cities to get counter tops for the house that the school is building. They build a new house every year. Good work for the carpentry and electrician programs.

    Last week i did my 109 point inspection, the instructor said I had the finest inspection that he had in a long time and the first 100% in even longer.

    Taking my driving test on Tuesday. I told them my goal is to get the honor roll or bust. I'm pretty sure I can do it, but I need to be freakin' perfect.

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  12. #9
    Heavy Load Member Swaps's Avatar
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    taking my test today.

    EGADS!

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  14. #10
    Heavy Load Member Swaps's Avatar
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    passed with flying colors on Tuesday.

    Now the nerve racking job hunt takes off.

    Sent out a few apps today.
    Werner is #1 on my list right now
    They have flatbed, allow pets, have manual transmissions, and their fleet isn't completely freightliners. (i like a little diversity) They only have 9 speed trannys though. Not a fan of that. I want a 13, but I'll take what I can get I suppose!
    Other then that Roehl Flatbed and TMC would be next. Not too many flatbed companies hire students.
    I also sent an app to several van/reefer companies, Covenant, Con-Way, Schneider, yes, even swift. I hope it doesn't come down to that, but if it gets to that point, then there must be something wrong with me that I can't get a job at any of the better bottom feeders. (it's like having the best house in the crappy neighborhood)
    There are a couple 'local' companies in MN and WI I've found that hire students. I'm planning on giving them a call on Monday.

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