Thankfully I had Labor Day off and a day to recuperate from the weekend! Slept in and then spent my day studying pre-trip and watching some more backing videos. Looking forward to getting back in a truck next week!
CDL Training Diary - NC Truck Driver Training School
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I kinda rushed through the Day 3 update. (Stupid day job...)
I forgot to add that with all the spotting we had to do on the course, by the end of the day I had walked almost 9000 steps and almost 4 miles! I felt every bit of 49 years old when I got home that night. These old knees and feet were not happy! I had bought some new boots last week and I wore them this weekend not thinking I was going to be doing a lot of walking! Rookie move....
Day 4 - Friday, September 10, 2021
Nothing much tonight, all classroom stuff. We went over a couple of thing from last weekend and then spent the rest of the evening going over shifting and driving a 10 speed manual. Discussed RPM ranges on the different trucks they have, how/when to upshift/downshift, etc. Then watched some videos about shifting as well.
Tomorrow we hit the road and drive!
Day 5 - Saturday, September 11, 2021
Started the morning going over some class safety rules for the yard and while driving the road trucks. Our instructor split us into 4 groups and gave us our truck assignment. Since the same guy that didn't show up last night was a no show again today, there were 9 of us. So 3 of the trucks had 2 students each and the 4th truck had 3 students. I was assigned with the group of 3. We went to the yard and met our instructors that would be going out with us. Went through a quick pre-trip on the truck and then the instructor went over some stuff in the cab with us. Just reiterating the shifting stuff we went over the previous night, some safety stuff, etc. We buckled up and off we went with the instructor driving first.
We made our way out of the parking lot and out to the road and the instructor was showing us the way to shift, watching the tach, etc. If there was a camera facing us in the truck all you would see was 3 noobs with terrified looks on their faces! It's real now!
The instructor drove for about 30 minutes or so demonstrating double clutching, upshifting/downshifting, etc. and then pulled into a gas station for us to take a quick break before it was our turn. The other 2 guys and myself were deciding who was going to go first. Nobody wanted to, so I was going to volunteer but one of the other guys beat me to it. I said I would go next. The 3rd guy was perfectly fine with that because he said he wanted to go last.
First student drove out of the parking lot and hit the highway. We were on a 4 lane highway with a grass median/divider out in the middle of nowhere with very little traffic, so a good place to have our first drive. He did well, missed some shifts here and there as expected. The instructor was very good at explaining, teaching and helping when needed. He made us feel comfortable and calmed us down quite a bit. We drove for a little over an hour, then pulled into another gas station to take a break and switch drivers. It's my turn!
I got in the driver's seat, adjusted my seat and mirrors and was ready to get this going. I drove out of the parking lot thinking we were going back to the same highway we were just on. Nope! Instructor has me turn the opposite way to head into this little town we were in. My first big turn in a tractor trailor was a left turn across a four lane road with cars coming from what seemed like every possible direction! Not really sure about how much time and space I would need to pull out, I let the instructor be my copilot and tell me when to go. Pulled out and didn't hit anyone and nobody hit me, so I guess it was a success. Drove through this little town trying to get a hang of double clutching and shifting. Definitely going to take some time to get it down, but I think I did ok. The intructor took me to a back country, curvy, two lane road that I swear was the exact width of my truck. I got up to about 45-50mph and was just cruising. All my focus was on keeping it in my lane. Had to make some turns at a couple of stop signs. Getting used to air brakes is something I need to learn for sure. No matter how light and soft I thought I was pressing the pedal, I would end up giving everyone in the truck whiplash when I came to a complete stop. Definitely need to work on that!
We ended up on another 4 lane highway so I could practice downshifting. I found this to be a lot easier for me that upshifting. I think it's because you can do that at your own pace and you aren't racing the tach to shift in time like you are with upshifting. Just keep the revs up and steady and you can shift when you are ready. Anyway, it was time for lunch so the instructor guided me to where he wanted to take us for lunch. We ended up at the Kenly 95 | Truckstop on Interstate 95 in North Carolina truck stop. I'm sure some of you that have driven on the East Coast probably know about it. It's the largest truck stop on the East Coast. So I pulled into the truck stop and got to maneuver around the lot to find a good (and easy!) spot for me to do a pull through. Found one and pulled up to complete my driving for the day. It was a little over an hour driving, but it felt like 5 hours! That was fun, scary and intense all at the same time. Went inside and had lunch before heading back out with the last student driving us back to the school. He had a rough go at it though. Could not shift to save his life. He finally started getting the hang of it in the last 10-15 minutes of his drive. But he was really frustrated. Hopefully he'll get it figured out.
When we got back to the school, we went back out to the yard where and two of the instructors went over the coupling process with us. They did a demonstration and walked us through all the steps. I feel like I've watched enough videos on YouTube that I pretty much have that process memorized. Now I finally get to actually do it! We all rotated through the different "stations". The backing station, the obstacle course and now the coupling station. I was at the coupling station and I didn't have any issues at all with that. Got the tractor lined up perfectly on my first attempt. Made sure I followed everything on their list of steps. No problems at all with any of it. After I did that and the other guy in my group did it, it was the end of a day and I headed home!
Overall, I think I drove pretty well for my first time. I've been driving a manual transmission for as long as I can remember, but I think that actually may be hurting me. Completely different beast for sure. I need to unlearn some habits that don't translate to a big rig. Making sure I only push the clutch halfway when shifting instead of all the way down, making the shift at the same time I push the clutch, etc. But I was getting the hang of it and I'll get it down after some more practice. I definitely need to work on my braking. When slowing down to stop I was keeping it nice and smooth and then BAM! Every time. I need to get that last little part of stopping smoother. Can't figure out what I'm doing wrong, but it will come with more practice. The only thing the instructor dinged me for on my paperwork was that I needed to make sure I kept looking at the tach through the entire shift. I kept taking my eyes off of it after the first clutch in and not following it to see where it was before the second clutch. Again, just need more practice.
Back at it tomorrow!Last edited: Sep 14, 2021 at 1:16 PM
Reason for edit: spelling
Day 6 - Sunday, September 12, 2021
Today we spent the entire day on the yard. We now have 4 stations setup to rotate through. The backing, the obstacle course, the coupling and 2 trucks for pre-trip practice.
I started out at the backing station. Still struggling keeping that trailer straight. I think I may have done better than last weekend? But probably about the same. I get the concept, I know what I need to do, the trailer just doesn't want to cooperate! I think my main issue is after I make a small turn on the steering wheel, I'm either not giving it enough time to correct itself or I'm waiting too long. Just got to find that sweet spot and keep practicing.
The obstacle course was next, which I absolutely nailed last weekend. Got a dose of reality today as I didn't do as well. I may have felt too confident. I didn't do bad, just had a little trouble with the first section where you have to weave through the barrels. I had to stop and backup to keep from hitting a barrel. Had the same issue 2 or 3 times through the course. Again...just need to keep at it with more practice!
Went to one of the pre-trip trucks next. Not much to say there, you all know how much fun a pre-trip is. Just went through everything and working on memorizing it all.
The coupling station was fine again. I don't have any issues there. Unless I'm getting ####y about it and next week it kicks my butt!
That was literally the whole 11 hours today. Outside rotating the different stations. It was super hot and being on the asphalt made it hotter. My face and arms are sunburned and my feet are killing me. According to my phone I walked over 10K steps and over 4 miles today. I was TIRED! Home, straight to the shower and straight to bed!
More next week! Thanks for reading my long, drawn out updates
Make your updates as long as they need to be. Your school offers a lot more instructional hours than most and I'm looking forward to seeing how that extra time helps you.
Don't get into the habit of thinking pull throughs are easy, I've seen some nasty damage because drivers misjudged a pull through.
If I hooked up a trailer to a pickup and played around with that, would that offer any backing help whatsoever? Obviously it's not the same thing, but would I gain any beneift at all? Does any of that skill carry over to backing a tractor trailer? Or am I better off just not messing with it?
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