Ethos recommended I document my experience, so here goes. Maybe someone else might also want to start their career in tankers. I picked tankers because it seems to have the best earning potential...I hope that's right!
Today was the first day of orientation in Tampa. I'll be working out of the Savannah terminal. I am the only one in class this week, so that's both good and bad. Good in that I can get personal attention, bad in that it would be great to meet some fellow new driver co-workers.
Started the day with getting a DOT physical, including drug testing (urine and hair follicle). We then did some Power Point presentations on various things along with taking a few written tests, and then it was off to do the agility test. I'm thankful I work out, because it wasn't easy trying to lift 75 lbs. to shoulder height. I can't imagine someone who doesn't work out doing this. The other tests were fairly easy. It was then back to the classroom for more presentations and paperwork. I signed my name so much today that now I know what celebrities must go through on some days.
The people who work there are very pleasant. One thing that I liked was Comcar seems to have a very driver-oriented culture where they take what we say seriously and make reasonable accommodations for the driver. There isn't much about CTL on this forum, and one former employee didn't like the low pay. Well, all I can say is they are starting me out pretty decent and the miles should be there, so I am hopeful to make the "low" $50K threshold that Chinatown mentioned for first-year drivers.
I don't know if I'll report every day but I'll try to do this journal regularly and hopefully some of you will find it worthy to read.
Diary of a New Tanker Driver - Comcar CTL
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Second day, more learning, more tests, and also had my road test. I passed and thought I did pretty well, but my orientation trainer told me I was going too fast! I never strayed over the speed limit and started and stopped real slow (at least I thought so), but mainly I was going around the turns too fast. So obviously tankers are different than flatbeds or dry vans. Going back to the yard, I failed miserably at backing into a space, so we went around to the other side and I backed into another one. Took me three pull-ups, but I did it. I still need work on that.
The automatic transmission was a real adjustment. It was tough mentally at first getting used to the fact that you could just apply the brakes and not kill the engine or lurch forward. Overall, the truck ran much better than the ones we had in school. During our pre-trip, I discovered a gouged-out area in one of the drive tires that my trainer said would not pass a DOT inspection, so I did at least one good thing. She also caught a couple of other things about the truck that needed attention (hissing brake chamber and potential radiator fluid leak). The trucks we had in school had nothing at all wrong with them except for the time I discovered grease on one of the brake drums, but that was obvious. Oh, and also the fifth wheel's air hose was pinched somewhat, and we had to move the sliding fifth wheel, which I did successfully (somehow).
I was asked to climb on top of the tank, so I did. I stood there and asked what I should do now. My trainer just said she wanted to see if I would do it, that's all. I didn't have a problem with it, but walking back and forth on the catwalk seemed a little intimidating, so I didn't do that. I guess I'll have to if I want to continue, obviously, but I don't anticipate any problems. I'm not really afraid of heights, but this does give me some pause.
Finally, there are so many valves and stuff on a tanker that I have no idea how anyone remembers any of that or what they're supposed to do, or what procedures and when. I guess it boils down to repetitions...but I'll need a lot of them.
Kind of surprised that they don't make everyone get up on the tanker and catwalk first off to check them out since it is a different view.
And maybe a note book for all the info that gets thrown at ya.
I am making notes for me now so I hope to not be surprised by anything in orientation.
I was wondering if it is allowed to drive 2 footed in a automatic truck?
1 covering the brake and the other on the go peddle?
Do the automatics slow down at all when you lift off the fuel peddle?
Thanks in advance, W-K-N
Golfpro, thank you for doing this. These threads are usually the most informative on the site. They will really help out future drivers.
I hope you keep it up, it takes work but so few members take the time to do these. It's a lot of energy, lol. Again, thank you and good luck!Last edited: Jan 10, 2016
*deleted* you should learn their way and not the way my company had trained me.
Your equipment could be different. Your trailers could be entirely different. Your customers could have much different procedures and policies.Last edited: Jan 8, 2016
Orientation complete, did one day of the Advanced Driver Training Program, and I passed! Very happy about that. The Advanced Driver Training Program was scheduled for four days, but since I was the only one there instead of the maximum of six, I completed it in one day.
Since I did a crappy angle parking back in the yard after my road test, my trainer decided I needed a lot of extra practice backing up. Now, at CDL school, I had absolutely no problem doing any of the backing skills. Trainer showed me a new method of offset parking, so I tried it her way and needless to say I made a complete mess of it - initially. Once I got the hang of it, it actually made sense to have a system of doing it. It consisted of turning the steering wheel one complete revolution and then waiting until you saw the V from the landing gear in the mirror. You then turned the steering wheel all the way the opposite way until the trailer and tractor were straight, and then it was easy.
I also spent a lot of time backing into spaces in the yard, and again, once I got the system down, it became easy. I then went through a series of driving skills in the yard that basically gauged my awareness of my tires and vehicle - it was much more intensive than in CDL school. Well, although I was not perfect, I did it well enough to her satisfaction.
I have to be honest - there were times during the orientation I was questioning my decision to do tankers. It seems so involved and frankly complicated, and also dangerous. It didn't help we saw a video of a real-life situation where a guy got almost blown up by an explosion as he was doing something with the manhole cover and the last haul was fresh water in it. Real sobering. But in the end, I figure that I made this decision for a number of reasons: A higher earning potential, being active and doing more than just sitting and driving, and the challenge of it. I also figured if others could put their minds and do it successfully, so can I.
My next step is to contact the Savannah terminal after a weekend home and then go on the road with a trainer for four weeks. So far, my impression of CTL is that it is a very good company, committed to safety, safety, and more safety, and doing things the right way, while respecting the driver and what we do.
Oh, and I was also wondering why more drivers don't do tankers, since I hear some of them complain about driving dry vans and the lack of pay, poor working conditions, etc. Well, now I can see why. Driving a tanker is extra work and a LOT of extra responsibility, so I can't blame someone if they don't want to go that route. We all have our comfort zones, and I've been guilty in the past of not wanting to get out of mine. This looked like a good opportunity to change that.
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