(Very long read... )
I've been lurking, reading, posting, thanking, researching and generally living on this forum off and on for the past 6 months or so. I can't begin to say thanks to everyone on here that has contributed in providing their opinions, knowledge and experience to us newbies. It is interesting to see the range of opinions on every single aspect of this industry and the variation gives a diverse perspective on it all. All the info and insight has been invaluable.
A LITTLE HISTORY...
So, a little background about me going back about the amount of time Swift will most likely inquire. Ten years ago I was driving a cab in Jersey City, NJ. The job was rough but interesting. It was a bucket list item unlike most everyone's bucket list items - those dreams to one day skydive, see the Taj Mahal or knock over a casino Oceans 11 style - this was not the typical item. This was my bucket list item and I successfully checked it off. Some time later I had the opportunity to move out to Washington State at the urging of an ex-girlfriend out there whom I was having a long distance relationship with. One of my buddies that worked for a competing cab company had just been almost robbed and shot in the face, died there in the cab still clutching a $20 and a couple of singles I'm guessing he was handing over to these scumbags, and that was the proper catalyst to get me moving away. Having been born and raised in Jersey, Washington ("Not D.C.!" - as I have to constantly tell people from back east) could not be more different. In the past and for different reasons I've lived in Chicago, Boulder, Phoenix and Houston but after being reacquainted with the dirty, gritty life of J.C., the green and clean of Washington State could not be more shocking and more welcoming. Tacoma felt like true "country" to me at the time.
I've lived here on the wet side of the mountains for 9 years, mostly in the Tacoma area. I now live on the sketchy east side of Tacoma renting a bedroom from a friend that owed me a favor. I do not own a car as the STBEW (herein STBEW refers to "Soon To Be ExWife") took the 'ol trusty 5 speed Cherokee. For transportation, I have one of those silly crotch rockets parked safely in the garage, 1000cc of pure sex and happiness in the form of my two-wheeled mistress. And before you think it, no, I'm not one of those hooligans racing down I-5 doing wheelies. I'm pretty lame as I like to live for the next time to ride. I even have a nice neon yellow day glow backpack cover. I keep the speed on the track and even then have to keep it safe and kosher. Riding has been my life for more years than I care to remember. Nothing is going to change, she can keep the Cherokee.
So for the first 4 years of living here in Washington I worked at a major home improvement retailer as a Safety, HazMat and Loss Prevention Manager. Not a bad job, payed pretty decent, benefits, stock, etc. but I was just working a job. I tried to put as much passion in it as I could, always giving 100%, but it wasn't something I loved. I tried. So, 4 years later I lost my job there. Went on unemployment, benefits ended, worked some temp day labor, worked an at home semi-legit computer job, tried to start my own photography business and then did some more temp labor. Five years later, here I am.
I've always loved driving, I've always wanted to drive a truck but for some reasons not even known to me it's an idea I always kept in my back pocket. I probably should have exercised this option a long, long time ago but for some reason I did not. My mistake. I've done the desk and cubicle thing, played the office politics, played the academic role, and so many others over the years. Those jobs were simply just that - jobs. My favorite jobs were the ones that paid me the worst, were usually when I was younger from about 15 years old through 22 years old, before things got too serious and before money really mattered. As it shouldn't when it comes to happiness. From then on I've just been working...
For the past few months I took this notion out of my back pocket and started to go to work to achieve this. I have been preparing for this new career since. Getting all my documentation together, CDL permit, researching companies, getting statements from people, motor vehicle extracts, losing weight, getting a sleep issue dialed in and documented for DOT physical purposes, etc. It has at times seemed like a long process but worthwhile. I think the last time I had to prep for this kind of career move was sometime back around '96 when I was preparing to enter law school and subsequently applying to the bar association. And that was pretty insane preparation. Turned out to not be worthwhile in a sense as it's not a career I wanted to pursue further. This endeavor tho probably has me more excited as now I am older. Now I have a better idea of what makes me happy, of how I like to work and what I want out of my life. Trucking for me is the perfect career and I'm sure it will be my last. That is a good thing. I'm not doing this because this is the only thing I can do. I'm not doing this for the wrong reasons. I have other options but none of them appeal to me. This appeals. I'm going in with an open mind, ready to learn everything, ready to absorb what I can and apply it later when I'm on my own. I know it won't be easy, I know things never go as smoothly as we plan and I know there will be speed bumps along the way but I'm ready for it. I'm just excited to finally be starting and taking that first real tangible step.
So I've been preparing all the logistics of this and that's been the most interesting. So when I moved out of the STBEW's house out in Federal Way I put everything I don't have here in this bedroom with me into a storage unit. Its mostly about 1000 books, some boxes of clothes, some posters and art type things, an antique desk whereby the desk portion is actually built behind the seat - as they did way back then, and a few miscellaneous unmentionables I stole from the STBEW (joking...kind of) when I moved out. A few weeks back I spent about 7 hours restacking everything to make room for my motorcycle. So, once I leave this little rented bedroom I will be somewhat homeless. There really is no other way for me to do it as this bedroom I currently sleep in will be rented as soon as I move out. Everything, other than what I'm bringing with me to training and subsequently to orientation and then on the road with my mentor is going into storage. Everything that is not in my duffel bag or bookbag will be stored. My bills once I'm out will consist of my storage unit, cellphone, student loans and some outstanding debt including credit cards and others. I'm hoping to pay most of this down, with the exception of student loans, within the first year. Money has been super tight so that is going to be part of the experience when I begin this new chapter of my life. I'm going to be scraping by but that's ok. I've done it before and it is 100 times better than being in the situation I am currently in. I don't need to give details on this, you will have to trust me. So, this should be quite the adventure coming up and as much as I plan it seems like I'm still walking into the dark to some degree.
I'm lucky in that I do not have kids. Not knocking the little rugrats but I don't have them. If I did I would be happy that I did. But as life has unfolded for me I"m without kids and I'm separated waiting for the STBEW to file the papers already and set me free. There's worse things than being single I guess. No complaints here. So I live in Tacoma but my immediate family is in Virginia and other family is in N.J. Little bro is in the army down in San Antonio, Fort Sam Houston. Trucking is probably the only way I'm going to get to see them a few times a year as that is where I will be taking my hometime. As is has been for the past number of years, I have only seen my family once every three years and that is not often enough. Not even close...
I have the freedom to stay on the road indefinitely, not that I would want to, but I no longer have any obligations to the old dirty #####, I meant STBEW. She has the dogs too so I'm free.
This Sunday morning at 5:15 AM I have the STBEW meeting me here at my buddy's house. No, she's not doing it to be nice. I'm paying big time for this. I will load up all the possessions I have had in this little bedroom that I have rented since August 1 and load them into her car. She's going to follow me as I ride my motorcycle over to storage, park the bike inside storage, load the rest of my possessions and she will then drive me to the Tacoma Greyhound terminal for a 12 hour journey out to Lewiston, Idaho departing at 8:00AM. I am set to arrive at the hotel on Main St. in Lewiston 12.25 hours later at 8:15 PM Sunday evening. I guess I will meet my new roommate at that time.
So the bags are mostly packed at this point. I have a large duffel that could be classified as a carry-on if I was flying, a bookbag and a sleeping bag. I've been reading the threads on what to bring. I'm sure I'll never be 100% but hopefully I brought all the important things that I will need. On Saturday I'm going to put everything out on the front porch to be picked up by STBEW on Sunday morning and I should be on my way. I'm not sure how I'm going to work the gaps between orientation, the time during orientation and then the gaps between orientation and getting on a truck with the mentor as I'm going to be somewhat homeless once I leave this weekend. I'm hoping the STBEW will find it in the hollow and charred black recess where her heart used to be to allow me to "crash" on her couch during those times when I will be between training and actually on a truck with my mentor. Once I get going on the road I will be fine.
Either way, it's going to be an adventure and a new experience for me. If you haven't fallen asleep so far, feel free to tag along...
Swift - Starting the New Year training with Swift 1/7/13 - A long read...
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What's the reason you didn't go with a Tacoma company like Interstate Distributor or another nearby like System Transport? They're both connected to the same CDL school. Are you just ready for a big change and get out of Washington? Interesting story you have; enjoyed the read. I predict you will do well in your new endeavor.
One thing you may have to do as I had to, is go back to your home state to take the road test for your cdl license, then to your DMV/dps or whatever it's called there, with the sealed envelope you'll receive when you pass the test. After you get your cdl, contact your recruiter and tell him/her that you're ready for the next available orientation date, you may not even have to have a time period inbetween training and orientation. Unless that's what you decide you want when you get to that phase. Same thing for mentor training. Making sure you are ready to go with him/her is a faster way to getting to solo status. Hopefully you are fortunate enough to be one of the ones who go out with your mentor the last day of orientation but if not like me,( had to wait a few days, my mentors truck was in the shop, then I was given another mentor after a few days) if they tell you they have to send you home, you don't have to tell them of your situation but ask them to put you in a hotel if you can, I was put in a hotel.
I know every place is not the same but it's worth asking, if they won't hopefully you have funds to get a room for a few days. I only say that because of your situation. A lot of people are sent home to wait and it's no harm done but I didn't want to feel like I was out of the loop and was ready to go train. First things first though, in training learn all you can, look over maps learn what you can before you go, look over paper logs, yeah we are still taught paper logs even though we have paperless logs on the truck, watch videos about backing, it's not the same as actually backing yourself but at least you'll have the idea down. Straight line, 90degree, offsets, parallel, alley dock. Have to have some of the fundementals down so you'll at least have a edge going in. It'll be a lot but luckily you already put in 6months of preparation. Wish you the best!!
Good read. I wish you the best of luck man. I'm a mentor with the company. If you have any questions, I'll be happy to help you out. I'm confused about something. Are you going to swift academy to get your CDL? or do you have it already?
Finances. I can't afford to pay for a school up front and my credit is currently in bad shape. Fixing it once I start getting paid is my priority. Before marriage, credit was awesome. After marriage, credit is shot.
Plus I guess the more I read the more I want to start out with company provided training. It just seems like it will work better for me.
And, yes! I am ready for a huge change. I need a big change so bad. I'm really excited about this. It's not something I have taken lightly and its the first time in many, many years that I have been actually excited about doing a particular job. I've worked jobs in the past because it seemed like the right thing to do or it seemed like it would be a good career move or it was something along the lines of my college major but all those times passion was absent. This endeavor I am passionate about and I'm hungry for it.
Not sure what I'm going to do as far as staying somewhere during orientation etc. I spoke to the STBEW (soon to be exwife) and asked her if I could crash at her place. Hell I'll stay in the garage in a sleeping bag if needed. She said maybe, depending on whether she has these new roommates or not.
I guess either way, it will be an adventure and I will ultimately be fine. I figure worst case scenario I will just sleep in a seat at the terminal here in WAshington if they allow me to while I wait for orientation and go through it. For now it's an unknown.
I told my recruiter that I would prefer to get into orientation immediately after training. So if we finish training in Idaho on a Friday, take the bus back and hopefully start orientation that Monday. I'm hoping. Same thing with waiting on a mentor. Hopefully that will be really quick as well. I don't have any specific requests of a mentor, I'll take anyone as long as they are safe and they teach me. The sooner the better with that. My recruiter mentioned something about putting me in a hotel if my home was more than 50 miles from the terminal. I don't think my current address is more than that but I won't be living here once I go off to training. I'm hoping they will put me in the motel and I can just pay it back out of my paychecks. Otherwise it might be a few uncomfortable nights sitting up in a chair in the terminal trying to sleep.
I will learn everything I can in training and ask as many questions as needed. I'm not shy but I'm humble. This career means more to me than anything so I will do anything to succeed. I plan on putting the work in.
I may have questions. I've been picking the brains of a few trainees here for months via private messages and questions on their threads. I still come up with questions but I know some of it will be addressed in training and then later on.
Yes, I'm going to the Swift Academy to get my CDL. I currently only have the CDL permit, per Swift's requirements. I am going through the full company training starting Monday 1/7.livinglifenatural Thanks this.
Thursday....1/3/13 --- 2 more days and I'm on the bus. 3 more days and I will be starting the first day of training and my new career.
It's nice to be able to finally see this thing on it's way. I have been putting my training off for months now. Originally I had to clear up some issues with my sleep apnea and getting my CPAP machine issues squared away. I was also trying to lose some more weight and continue hitting the gym as I thought the weight might be an issue at the DOT physical. So that took months. As I got closer, earned my 1 year DOT physical card, I tried to save up money while still paying out cash for bills.
I have been working day temp labor and that is the more recent reason I delayed my start date. However lately I haven't been getting work so it was kind of pointless as far as saving up goes. I have been going through the routine of getting up at 4:15 AM, getting dressed, making my lunch, pulling the motorcycle out of the garage, warming it up, riding to the temp place, sitting there from when they open at 5:30 AM and then leaving at 9:30 AM without work. That has been the routine. Don't get me wrong. I'm glad that there are these temp labor places out there for when you just need a quick paycheck and you're not looking to start something new. But, to put it nicely, working at this type of place in the past gives me a new found appreciation for a real paycheck. These temp places can be a savior when you need them but they are also the headquarters for the disenfranchised, the paroled, the addicted and the hustlers. These people mixed in there with the honest, decent people looking to earn some money to get by. Ill be honest, I hate doing that kind of work and I was always relieved it was temporary. I will not shed a tear saying goodbye to these temp labor places forever.
I recently moved my start date back one more week because I have been sick since quitting smoking. I rarely ever get sick. Two days after I quit smoking I got all stuffed up with cold-like symptoms and it has been like that until about today. So almost 18 days of being sick. Odd that it lasted so long. I think by tomorrow this thing should be gone but I didn't want to start last week at Swift, going into a classroom of people and spreading my sickness around. So I stayed here another week, tried unsucessfully to make some more money to hold me over in training (slow week apparently due to the holiday I was told) and now I'm antsy to leave and begin this thing.
Today I took my duffel bag that will be used for the Swift training and then used on the mentor's truck and I emptied it out. I filled it with my last load of dirty laundry to be done before I head off to training and I bungied it to the back of my motorcycle. My STBEW texted me earlier this afternoon and suggested that I come over today and say my last goodbyes to our dog Scooby because he will be put down during the time that I will be off in Idaho training. It was a tough day as any of you know that have pets and have had to see them put down. I won't be there, although I wish I was, for his final moments but I had to say goodbye one last time today anyway. I rode over there, put my loads in the washer and dryer and just sat and played some of his favorite games with his tennis ball Kong toy. I procrastinated as long as I could because, I'll admit, I'm a ##### when it comes to these things. I"m just not as strong as I would like when it comes to dogs. I don't have kids so my dogs are always like my offspring and they are family as far as I'm concerned. It was tough to give him that final kiss as I walked out that door knowing I won't ever see him again. Miserable.
I came back home and still trying to keep my quit and not smoke, after almost 20 days smokefree. I tried to keep busy. I emptied out my duffel, got my list of what I'm bringing to training, selected a movie to watch off Netflix on my laptop to have something distracting in the background and I repacked my bag. I think I have it ready other than my gym sneakers which are in the saddlebag on my bike so I can hit the gym one last time tomorrow before cancelling my membership. What a day.
2 days until I leave....3 days until I start class in Idaho.
Quick update. I take the 0800 bus tomorrow morning from Tacoma out to Lewiston. Estimated time of arrival is 20:15. Apparently the bus is going north to Seattle then Everett, then heading west on Hwy 2 through Monroe out to Wenatchee, stop over for an hour in Spokane, then continuing south with a few more stops ultimately ending up in Lewiston. Total bus time is estimated at 12.25 hrs.
I guess at that point of arrival I am to call a cab and catch a ride to the hotel on the east end of Main Street Lewiston. I'm thinking I wont in the hotel until about 20:45 at which point I'm going to need to quickly meet my roomie, take a shower, and prepare for a quick departure in the morning as our shuttle picks us up at 0445 AM for a 0500 class start.
Supposedly the hotel as wifi so I will update my experience in class as I go along. I'll try to remember as many details as possible from the daily activities and temper it with my own personal observations and experience.
Got a few more things to get together and then I'm off to bed...
So, I'm at the hotel in Lewiston, Idaho. We are supposed to have wifi service but the hotel has been having trouble with their provider. Not bashing the hotel at all since it's actually really nice. I got my own room too so it's even sweeter although typically you are roomed with at least one other person. I got lucky but that's another story. Hotel has been nicer than expected.
Yesterday morning I got to the bus station early. I almost didn't get on since the actual bus ticket window was closed on Sundays. The bus driver did let me on with just a confirmation thankfully.
But ride from Tacoma to Lewiston was 12.5 hours long with an hour layover in Spokane. I have never been on Hwy 2 before so I saw a lot of WAshington that I had never seen before. We went north to Seattle then Everett, west out past Monroe over the other side of the Cascades to Spokane then south to Lewiston. We caught the cab to the hotel and checked in. The clerk behind the desk said this was one of the larger Swift classes she has seen in a while. Apparently due to the holidays.
The only issue is the internet here. I don't know if I am going to be able to post up my experience like I had originally planned. I don't know when I will get internet service again and my recollections of the experience will get stale without constant updating.
There are a few great threads already out there whereby some of those farther ahead of me in the whole Swift training process have posted up. They did a great job. If there is anything I can add then I will do so. Otherwise, feel free to ask me questions as I go along. I will answer anything I can. Otherwise I probably won't post much and will concentrate on studying and sleeping when I'm not in class. Feel free to ask me anything if you come up with something.
For now, I can tell you about the first day. It was a long day. Probably because I only got 2 hours sleep on Saturday night before the bus trip (nerves keeping me up) and then about 6 hours last night. I thought we were starting at 4:45 but those are the summer training hours. We got picked up at 5:45 instead and were shuttled over to the training in a very crowded bus. We met up with the "week 2" people in the lobby and you can tell they had some time to really get acquainted. The hotel here has a continental breakfast. There was dry cereal, some waffle mix (going to hit that tomorrow), coffee, hot choc., OJ and apple juice. Can't complain. Oh, one thing I can complain about but it's no ones fault. I used to think Tacoma stunk sometimes as it used to be joked "The Aroma of Tacoma" due to the paper mills down in Tacoma's tideflats. Well apparently they have the same paper mills here in Lewiston but the smell is much stronger and more frequent. At least I have smelled this smell for the past 2 days. I almost forgot about the mills and thought the smell was somewhere in my room until I went outside to get some ice and the smell ##### slapped me as I walked out. It's bad but nothing you can do so just a fair warning for future recruits.
We entered the training room and met our trainer, Tim. He was fantastic. He had plenty of driving experience and plenty of experience doing the actual classroom training. He made everything interesting and related fun stories of his own to the material to keep it fresh. He allowed plenty of breaks for everyone and it was expecially welcoming to smokers. I am an ex-smoker (23 days and counting) but I can understand how the smokers feel. Breaks were abundant since we spent 11.5 hours in the class. Here's the other thing that attracts me to Swift. You pay $3900 for training but Swift foots the bill up front including hotel charges. They pay for the bus out and the bus back and you don't have to pay it back. Nice. The bigger attraction is that if you were to work for Swift for 26 months by that time Swift would have paid you back for the training that they originally fronted for you. So, say what you want about the benefits of getting your CDL at a private school, especially when it comes out of your own pocket. I couldn't pay for a private CDL school myself but if I chose to stay with Swift for 2 short years (which I do) you can basically add an extra $4000 onto your annual salary as your training was now free. I think that's awesome and it definitely attracted me to Swift. I'm very pleased so far.
Today we filled out a lot of paperwork, contracts, forms, etc. Guidelines, policies, hotel rules, class expectations, payment plan for the training, etc. Ya know as much as people knock Swift I like everything I hear so far. Our trainer seems to have a genuine interest in getting us not only to pass and earn a CDL but to actual learn to be good, professional drivers. You don't feel like just a number in a big truck training mill. It just doesn't feel like that. Our class started with about 11 people. I think 8 smoke. I sit and look out the window longing but not really regretting my decision. See how everything comes back to smoking? I know I did the right thing in quitting but it was on my mind all day. I'm an nicotine addict I guess. So we filled out forms. Those who hadn't completed their DOT physical were sent to some mystery place to get it completed while the rest of us studied a Driver Handbook and Workbook.
Just reading this handbook I've learned a lot. I'm eager to put it into practice in the truck so I can see what it's really all about. Theres only so much you can read about transmissions and clutching before you want to go out there and just do it. But, it's the first day so it's expected that we would have classroom basics first.
Remember when you fill out your forms and have to verify other forms you check them carefully and fill them out correctly. A printout was passed out to all of us with your information such as name, address, soc sec number, etc. and we were asked to verify the info and then sign it. I signed mine quickly then noticed that my recruiter had mistakenly entered a "yes" next to the question about whether I had a felony record. I do not and luckily I noticed this. I let the instructor know, crossed out the affirmative answer, put a resounding "No" and initialed it. Glad I caught that oversight.
So total class time is 17 days and 170 hours total. We started on 1/7 and will finish on 1/25. I should have orientation the following Tuesday. We finish on Friday 1/25.
We studied and took some tests from the chapters and they were graded. I did get one wrong even though it was open book because I misread what I wrote on my notepad and transposed it incorrectly on my quiz sheet. #### but that's ok.
A Port of Idaho individual came in and explained what he does. He was interesting and kept it lively. He went over weigh station regulations and explained about vehicle weighing and staying within regulations. We reviewed a trucker's atlas and went over some of the differences in regulations from state to state regarding truck weight etc. My head thoroughly hurt just trying to figure out all the different regulations and how they differ from state to state. You don't have to memorize this info. but just reviewing it is pretty extreme. So much info. He went over CVSA (commercial vehicle Safety Assessment) and the various levels. He went over logs as well.
I believe tomorrow we go over logs again and I think after that as well. Tomorrow we do the drug test and have a different trainer. We have to handwrite the pretrip inspection as a method to memorize it for our test ultimately so I'm going to go work on that for a while.
Let me know if you have any questions. Otherwise I'll update the experience the next time I'm on and have wifi available.Last edited: Jan 7, 2013
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