I completed my upgrade process this week, and thought I'd write down what my experience has been in case anyone is searching/curious about the process.
Post cdl training, but prior to orientation, you will receive a login to view 50ish videos. None of these videos are particularly engaging, most of the info will be stuff that you learned in CDL school (if you went to a credible one) and or common sense. Note - watch ALL of these before showing up for orientation or they will make you sit there in class and complete them all.
Orientation itself is very quick. Filling out a little expected paperwork, with the Driver Qualification team meeting a few of the terminal/fleet leaders etc. The mentorship program is discussed a lot, where you will be spending 200hrs (more or less depending on the mentors evaluation) with an experienced driver to learn the ropes. You can select a smoking/non preference, and gender preference. They make a big deal out of telling you not to discuss things like politics/religion, to take showers (I guess it is a problem they see) , what to bring on the truck. All pretty standard stuff. They also went on and on about how they have weeded out mentors who are only in the program to make money and push trainees to run as teams. If you think I'm specifically mention the last few things for a reason... you're right keep reading. Anyways, by the time lunch had arrived, I had already been hired and had a drivers code, and was good to leave. My 2 day orientation was completed in 4hrs.
I received a mentor a couple days later, for a scheduled start over the next weekend. (He was on hometime.) We met at a terminal, and before we got out of the yard he mentioned to me that he was only doing training for the money. I thought... well ok.. it doesn't matter as long as I learn what I need. We hadn't gotten 5 miles down the road and he was playing a podcast about conservative politics from a religious viewpoint. This was followed by pretty much non-stop right wing podcasts, sermons, and gospel music. one after another. Now look, I don't want to discuss politics OR religion in this post. I frankly do not care what someone thinks one way or another, just don't make me listen to it. So what do I do here? Tell him I think his religion is based on a book of fairy tales and that people who have bought into politics AS a religion (left or right) are idiots? The person that gets to decide how long I have to stay on this truck.... I decided to tune it out as much as possible and just try and learn what I needed.
Mentors are required to sit in the passenger seat for a students first 50 hours behind the wheel. Unless a load is late apparently. On day 4, about 35 hrs in, he said I was doing fine so we'd switch to teams, 12 on 12 off shifts. I expressed that while I felt decent driving, backing and stuff was still rather intimidating to me. He said to just wake him up if I need him and that was that. This always had mixed results... sometimes he would just make me move and he'd park... which pissed me off. I only did 5 alley docks the whole time I was with him. This guy would go in the sleeper at the end of his 12 hr shift, and not come out for 12 hrs. He pissed in half gallon milk containers. Even when we were at truck stops! He only took 2 showers over 3 weeks. Over the next week or so I learned a lot about what to do, and what NOT to do watching the way he did things. He was on his phone way too much while driving for example. In the end, 3 weeks in and well short of my scheduled 200hrs he signed off on my being solo. Am I truly as good a driver as he says I am, or did he just want home time. I'm not sure.
So look, why didn't I bail on this guy and request a different trainer? Well I'm old enough to understand that a new trainer may not have been any improvement. Also it would delay the entire process of me getting thru training. I also figure I'll have to do what I've done my whole life, learn to do the job on my own for the most part. I also thought I could tough it out long enough to just get thru it. And I did. All that said, only you can judge your tolerance for dealing with another persons stuff for that short amount of time in such a small space. If I had any feedback for Swift, it would be that mentors should be evaluated by their students too, and mentors should have to get a certain score on those evaluations to stay a mentor. Also, training pay should be much higher, but no team driving pay. Make the mentors mentor.... pay them accordingly.
Upgrade process. I told the guy in the Driver Qualification terminal I'd be working out of that I'd like some more practice backing before upgrading. He said "You'll be fine." (He's never met me)
I was then scheduled for my upgrade road test and written test. I passed them both fine and was assigned a truck.
So to you experienced drivers out there, if you see a Swiftie going down a mountain a little slower then you would, or taking a really long time to back up at the truck stop... please have pity on me I'm not trying to be a ####### I'm still learning on the job.
Sorry this was so long, if anyone has questions I'll try and answer them.
Newly upgraded driver - Orientation thru upgrading experience
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I'm not sure how many Swift office people (DM's TM's etc.) know of or read this forum. But they should.
Your post is a perfect example of some things they might be interested in seeing.
I'm glad you stuck with it. Maybe we will run across one another sometime.
Not just Swift.
But when the companies make mentoring/training more about the extra money the drivers will rake in... what is the outcome more often than not?
Mentors need to be a totally different class/division of driver. They need to be paid a good wage that is not based on incentives or on pushing/abusing the student.
It should be about training with the money already built in, instead of making money off the training.
Thanks man, that's my plan. First place I get to with a little space I'm gonna just practice on my own. If y'all see some weirdo backing into 14 spaces at the same Loves just point and laugh
NEVER be in a hurry. Not in anything you do in this job.
Once you feel rushed, mistakes start to happen.
Use that mac 9 to adjust the times on your loads so that you will always have enough time to do it without rushing and fretting about the time.
They may try to push you, but you have the power to say 'no'.
A similar story at Swift here lol. My trainer did do the required 50 hours next to me before switching to team driving and even THEN I did not feel that was enough. I just don't think the way the industry treats trainees is right. 50 hours is not enough. Team driving is not training -- any driving you do unsupervised is by definition not training! They should call the period after the first 50 hours "self-training" because that would be more honest.
I could also subconsciously feel the "cash cow" aspect manifest in how I was treated -- too much shouting orders, not enough time to really break down the steps, as if I'm supposed to be born with all this knowledge downloaded into my brain Matrix style, a lot of "just do this" and then not exactly how the "do this" is supposed to be achieved, just repeating the same instruction louder as if that would magically make me know.
I managed fine, and I don't want to make it sound like the trainer didn't do his job within the parameters of the requirement, but I do think I had to teach myself on a lot of things. YouTube was a great help, especially in breaking down the wide variety of different backing situations and setups.
Anyways hang in there! Don't worry too much, the first few loads they give you after you go solo will be soft-ball ones anyways, so you'll really be able to take your time and GOAL as many times as you want to solidify your "self-training" experience.Lonesome Thanks this.
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