CDL Training Journal - Suncoast Trucking Academy

Discussion in 'Trucking Schools and CDL Training Forum' started by VinceBlack, Nov 7, 2021.

  1. Goldenfan

    Goldenfan Heavy Load Member

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    Is floating gears allowed? I've had a little driving time and where I was they floated gears. Upshifting was easier than downshifting for me. I know I need more time before I'd be good at it. My problem with the clutch is pushing it in too far when double clutching. I get pissed at myself easily and found floating a bit easier.
     
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  3. RoadSideDown

    RoadSideDown Light Load Member

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    VB, great write ups! Glad your school is going well for you. I came to the same conclusion on pretrip. Memorization may be helpful in the beginning to get familiar but it is much better just to know all the parts, how they are secured and what sort of conditions to note based on its construction.
    Sounds like you are on a good path with the shifting and backing. Way to go!

    Goldenfan, it may vary by state but the Oregon manual specifically states not to float the gears in the exam. Although that would just be a couple points off for not using the clutch, it isn’t an instant fail. The experienced drivers say when we get assigned to a route trainer he will teach how to float gears as that is all that is used in most real driving.
     
  4. VinceBlack

    VinceBlack Light Load Member

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    As @RoadSideDown mentioned, in the state of FL you are required to double clutch for the exam. The instructor showed us how to float the gears and told us that’s what we’ll be doing in the “real world” but for our training and the exam we’re required to double clutch for shifts. I don’t have time now, but later today I’ll share the exercise we did to help with not pushing the clutch too far.

    Thanks, and yeah, I was much happier when he said we need to show proficiency, not memorization. I can easily do it either way, but it seems pointless to just memorize words and not know what you’re actually trying to do. I am very satisfied with the school so far.
     
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  5. VinceBlack

    VinceBlack Light Load Member

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    Ok, so since you know you can float the gears you know the clutch is not needed to shift gears on these vehicles. So unlike a passenger vehicle, you're just pressing and releasing the clutch at the minimum amount needed to smoothly shift out of and again into the next gear. The farther you push the pedal, the more you are moving the clutch the farther the parts are traveling and the more distance they'll have to slam together. The more you push in the pedal the less smooth it will be when releasing the pedal, especially if you release it too fast.

    The exercise the instructor had us do was find the "sweet spot" which is where you want to depress the pedal to in order to shift. To do so we had the trailer and parking brakes on and went to first gear. Then we slowly released until we felt the slightest movement and depressed the pedal one inch. That area, pushing in one inch after feeling movement, is the sweet spot and all the further you need to depress the pedal. On this vehicle it is about 2" after taking up the free play. We then practiced trying to move the pedal as little as possible to make the slightest movement and stop moving.

    Hope that helps. He provided a lot of additional information, especially on the timing of double clutching, but that was the meat of it.
     
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  6. Lonesome

    Lonesome Mr. Sarcasm

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    Years and years ago, when the CDL first came of age(had chauffers license before that). I was required to take a road test with a 3rd party, to obtain a CDL. I've always floated the gears, so when we left on our 20 mile round trip, I was floating the gears all the way. As we were pulling into the testing yard, at the end of the trip, the tester told me...."well in the manual it says you're supposed to use the clutch".....DA**ITT, I think, now I'm screwed, when he addds " but I drive the same way you did, and when I see someone can handle floating the gears, I don't mark it down"....
     
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  7. Waterman_99

    Waterman_99 Light Load Member

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    If you were in the military and have the post 9/11 GI Bill, you can use jt during your 'apprenticeship'with a trucking outfit and get extra money every month. I know TMC is one company that pariticpates with the GI Bill program.
     
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  8. VinceBlack

    VinceBlack Light Load Member

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    Day 10 Video:

    Day 10 recap: Today was a little different. We started with the pre-trip inspection like normal. One of the students had to go back over to the classroom for the day to make up some tests. After we knocked out the pre-trip inspection we started practicing straight line backing. After the first student was done he was pulled by the range manager and moved to the automatic class. The student had requested to do this and the school was able to work it out. Our class size is now 4 and for the day we were down to just 3 of us. After the second student did his straight line backing he went home for the day since he was sick so now there were just 2 of us. The next student did his straight line backing then it was my turn. The instructor said since I already have the straight line backing down he didn't want to hold me back and was going to teach me the offset backing.

    He walked me through all of the steps, having me stop the truck after each movement and getting out and showing me multiple reference points as well as having me get an idea of what it will look like in the mirror since a lot of it is perception. After he guided me all the way in I got out and wrote down my notes as the other student continued practicing the straight line backing. Then it was my turn again and the instructor had me go through offset backing to the other side and he was there to tell me if I was doing something wrong. He also intentionally guided me in incorrectly and showed me how to do an S maneuver to straighten the truck and trailer where I want them to be. After finishing that he said to back it to the other side again but I was all on my own. I was allowed to GOAL and encouraged to in practice and real life, we're limited to number of GOALs and pullups on the test. Everything was going fine until the last portion where I would be straightening out. I got jacked up and stopped and looked at everything and determined I didn't maintain the proper space between my trailer tires and the inside backing line. I made an S maneuver to pull up and realized I was even more jacked up. I tried to back it up now and started getting even more jacked up lol. I realized I was making my movements/corrections way too fast on the S maneuver so the trailer really wasn't going anywhere. After backing up and being all jacked up I did an S maneuver properly and got everything to where I could handle correcting the trailer angle and straight backing in. I visualized everything I wanted to do and then did it. When I got back to the parking stall I was lined up perfectly parallel and had the 1 foot gap goal we were given.

    The instructor and other student met me at the truck and I explained what I did wrong and the instructor said "now you got it" and said I did great. I'm really glad he let me screw it all up and then let me figure out how to fix it too. It was a great learning experience. The other student said he was walking him through what I was doing and what I did wrong etc. while I was doing it. I was getting kind of flustered while trying to figure it out, but I just took a few seconds to think about how to fix it and then taking action on that instead of thinking about how I messed up or how I didn't know what to do next lol. The instructor started showing the other student how to offset back and then we went to lunch.

    After lunch we went back to the "Cow Pasture". The other student got about an hour to an hour and a half working on his shifting and downshifting to get him up to speed. Then it was my turn. I did a quarter of a lap or so and the instructor had me do a controlled quick stop as if a car was pulling out in front of us. Everything went fine. I'm getting much, much better with the brake pedal and coming to very smooth stops now. My shifting is very smooth as well now. I still have to think about it from time to time so I'm in the "Consciously Competent" zone but moving into "Unconsciously Competent". Anyways the instructor told me to keep going straight instead of making the right turn to stay on the "Cow Pasture" and away we went.

    I ended up driving us all the way off to Arcadia on US 17. All I have to say is F four wheelers lol. People do some crazy things out there. I also learned that I apparently don't pay attention to any signs on the road while driving either unless I specifically look for them. The instructor was quizzing me about signs that we had passed and I found that I was not even noticing them. I started paying attention to them in my passenger car now too to get in the habit. I was doing a good job of paying attention to vehicles that might enter the roadway etc. but he helped me take that even farther by asking me stuff like what color shirt was the driver wearing etc. to drive home the point that seeing them isn't enough, you need to see if the driver is paying attention or playing with their phone or whatever as well. He'd also ask stuff like "what color was X vehicle at that intersection" after we passed it. There is not only a lot with the truck to pay attention too, but a lot of stuff on the road as well. I felt like I was already doing a good job watching for traffic and playing "what if" from my motorcycle riding days, but I certainly have room for improvement.

    Next the other student was able to drive us back to Punta Gorda and then over the bridge to Port Charlotte. Once we got over there he pulled over and I was put back in the driver's seat. I drove around Deep Creek, Port Charlotte, and then back through downtown Punta Gorda before heading back to the school. The other student is making amazing progress and I really hope everyone else is able to get up to speed too.

    I didn't feel overwhelmed or nervous or anything, but I did feel uncomfortable I guess would be the best way to describe it. There's a ton of things going on and with it all being so new I am simply missing some things as I'm rolling but I'll catch on quick. I did miss a shift or two going into 7th gear, not sure why that gear gave me trouble but when it happened I was usually focused on something going on in the traffic flow near me and I was able to quickly recover by going back to sixth gear and shifting again. I'm going to chalk that up to not having the shifting completely down without thinking about it so when I was focused elsewhere I ran into an issue. Not sure why it was only seventh gear but I'll get there. It was my first drive in traffic (on a Friday afternoon no less) for more than a 5 minute trip back from the cow pasture so I'll cut myself some slack lol. When we got back we went home for the weekend.
     
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  9. VinceBlack

    VinceBlack Light Load Member

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    Week 2 Recap Video:

    Week 2 Recap: Week two was awesome. We got to finally hop in the truck and go! We started off focused on learning all of the pre-trip info and then learning how to drive/shift the truck. Then we started to learn straight line backing and making right hand turns as well as downshifting. We kept working on these items until the end of the week where two of us were driving in traffic and working on our offset backing.

    Overall it was very fun, and there was a ton of info we learned. Our temporary instructor was great and our permanent instructor is awesome. I wish we didn't have the different instructors as it felt like we were restarting, but that's just how it was due to the holidays messing up the schedules. I feel like they're doing an excellent job teaching to the different skill levels as well as working with our larger class size. I still highly recommend the school, even more so now than earlier. My other complaints about the study guide eventually became a moot point so that's cool too.
     
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  10. VinceBlack

    VinceBlack Light Load Member

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    Day 11 Video:

    Day 11 recap: Well today started off with the pre-trip inspection the same as always. I was give the in-cab portion and once we finished that part the instructor had me start backing the truck and he was giving me instructions on how to turn the wheel and before you knew it we were backed into the alley dock area. Then he had us all get out of the truck and walked us through the different parts of the alley dock backing maneuver. He had a few other students go and try it and then walked me through it again stopping at each point and discussing what we were doing and why and what to look for. Then some other students backed and then he had me back on my own. I wasn't quite ready for it as I wasn't understanding how to control the arc while backing as well as what I was even looking for out of the arc. He explained it in a different way that I understood and then, with a few pullups, I was able to back it on my own.

    As a sidenote, one student ended up quite frustrated with the instructor and walked off. The school was good about getting him into another training group with a different instructor. I could see it from both sides and understand why it got to that point as well as why the student was upset and wanted to make sure they were learning since they paid good money to be there. I felt the school did a great job in coming up with a resolution. Again, I'm in no way sponsored by the school or anything, just calling it like I see it so far.

    Also, at lunch one of the new students came up to me and told me he had been watching my YouTube videos and they were the reason he decided to pull the trigger and go to school at SCTA. There isn't really a lot of info about the school online outside of a few promotional videos from years ago and their own website, so I'm glad to see (in person) that people are finding the info beneficial already and I'm only halfway through the school lol.

    In the afternoon it was just me and one other student since we've now had two drop out and one is still sick. This student got a bit over an hour to continue practicing how to shift. I commend the instructors for their patience. There's no way I could continue to tell a student thousands of times how to do something and have them completely ignore it each and every time. After their practice time ended I got about 90 minutes of driving in traffic on US 41 through Punta Gorda to Port Charlotte and then back again. This gave me a ton of opportunities to manage coming up to red lights and handling spacing in stop and go traffic as well as trying to determine when to stop for a yellow and dealing with stale green lights etc. It was more comfortable than Friday afternoon just because I had already kind of experienced it. There's still a few things for me to work on, but they will improve with more exposure.

    I'm looking forward to tomorrow. I hope to get more time to practice the offset and alley docking backing maneuvers.

    Oh, I also got to back in between two trucks at a Waffle House when we took our break. There was a lot of space so it wasn't too intimidating, but it was cool to have already backed in between two trucks (it was pretty much just a straight backing maneuver). I went back a bit far but at least I got in there straight!
     

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  11. VinceBlack

    VinceBlack Light Load Member

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    Day 12 Video:

    Day 12 recap: Today started as usual, one person missing and going over the pre-trip inspection. Afterwards since the range was completely filled we went out driving. The student who has been missing the last few days was there today so they were able to practice shifting for a bit on the "Cow Pasture". After about 30 mins or so they went out on the road for the first time driving out to Arcadia and back to Port Charlotte and into Punta Gorda stopping at the Waffle House. I drove us back to the school which was about 10 minutes or so and then it was lunch time.

    After lunch we were doing alley dock backing practice. I went first and nailed it on my first attempt. The instructor had me go again and problems began to arise lol. I couldn't recreate the magic but I'm able to get it in the spot with a few pull up attempts. I'm starting to understand it. I keep waiting too late to unfold the truck and I am then coming in very tight and continuing to turn in to the cones as I'm not unfolding soon enough and sometimes I don't turn all the way fast enough. I have two weeks to keep at it although I'm sure I'll have it down by the end of this week.

    Then I went out on the road going through traffic light heavy routes for about 2 hours. I can't wait until the other students are able to shift well enough for us to get into a nicer truck. The newer trucks have hydraulic clutches. My leg was pretty tired from holding the clutch in at red lights constantly lol. I am less tired after running for 10 miles than I was from the backing and driving this afternoon. After coming back to the range in the afternoon we had enough time for me to practice the offset backing maneuver once. I need a bit more practice on that as well but I'm able to perform it successfully. I can complete the alley dock most times too, it's just still requiring 2 or more pull ups from me and occasionally I'm getting jacked up enough to touch a cone. It's a learning process and I'm coming along.

    Most of the rest of the days will be just like today was. I'll probably just drop down to only doing updates when there is pertinent new information or doing a recap. Thanks for reading.
     
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