Well done! One thing to keep in mind is that they are going to paint the overall picture of trucking with rose colored glasses. I took a refresher course with Swift out of SLC after being off the the road for 4 years and my jaw was hanging open through most of the class. There was great info, but alot of fibbing going as well. Most training companies will pay for your schooling with a contract of you working x amount of wtime with them to pay it back. @ years sounds really excessive but it has been a while since I have dealt with trainers so maybe I'm out of the loop.
My 6 months with swift was extremely easy. Most of my loads were drop and hooks or were at DC's(costco,WalMart, Ect) that Swift had a dedicated presence at or at the numerous yards they have all over. It was usually pretty easy to find a place to sleep either at a DC or a terminal. Maintenance was a nightmare, I have never seen a one part of the company hate the other part as I did the Mechanics and drivers. But seeing some of the slobs, I can understand. I averaged 10,000 paid miles per month give or take 500 miles. My DM gave me a monthly report for me to look at that logged my progress and performance. This listed miles driven vs miles paid, any overspeeds, complaints, log violation, ect.
The Miles driven ALWAYS exceeded the miles paid by at 1000, with one month Me driving 12800 and getting paid for 9800. This was always following their routing. Which, if they can, will route you through a terminal to use their fuel pumps. That is when I left them
Most of the terminals do have showers and bathrooms, though there may be a big line there and they are not always clean. Some of the smaller terminals have just one and it's up to the driver to clean it himself after he is done. Most have a smaller breakroom with some vending machines.
When you are in the yards ALWAYS KEEP AND EYE ON YOUR TRUCK and don't leave your cell phone,wallet,money, in the cup holders or where someone can see them by opening the door or standing on your fuel tank step. There are only a certain number of keys made for all the trucks so just one style key can open multiple truck and I have seen other drivers walk around seeing which trucks they can get into. The same goes if you take the truck to a Shop, whether it be Swifts or a dealer. Always keep your money and personals with you.
A Laptop is your best friend on the road! Google maps is a fantastic resource for checking out a route or address before you get to the Shipper/consingee. It's always irritating to pull onto a customers Lot and immediately get yelled for pulling the wrong way onto the property even though there was no sign stating such. It is also invaluable for places like LA where they don't have Proper on/off ramps like 98% of the rest of the country does. You get off the freeway and there is a good chance you can't get back on where you came off.
Invest in a tool kit. You don't need to have a full shop on the truck, mind you. Have a full wrench set, full screw driver set, Knife, Duct tape, Wire, Pliers, Adjustable pliers, Adjustable wrenches, Small sledge hammer for stuck pins. Always makes sure you have have airline splicers. Try to anticipate what items you will need to make minor repairs so you can keep moving instead of waiting 2-6 hours for a road call or mobile mechanic. When I was with Knight, I would always find the Springs that hold the trailer airlines, in front of the Tandems, broken or damaged. So I always kept 2 spare in the truck. Make sure you keep some fluids too! Oil,Coolant, window washer fluid.
You are going to have some of the crappiest days you have imagined. You are going to be working for less than minimum wage alot of times. You are going to be ridiculed and teased constantly because of the who you drive for. This is going to come from both truckers and DOT. Just turn the CB off or just smile and walk away(IF It's a DOT cop,,,,wait until you're sure he's done talking with you LOL) You will spend alot of time waiting. Getting used to living life off of a log book is one of the hardest things for new drivers to deal with. You have stop looking at how much you make weekly and look at what your monthly performance is. Those are the numbers you want. You may drive 2000 miles one week and then 3000 the next. Keep things in the truck to entertain you when you are sitting and turn the CB off if you can if people are ########. It's like a poison sometimes. My Phone has a Kindle app so I always have fun books to read. My Laptop plays movies and video games. I had weights and am currently trying to see if there is enough room in the truck to play cello.(I'm not OTR but am thinking about going back)
Do not let the negativity build up inside you. As I said before, it can be like a poison sometimes. Make sure you take some time off to get out of the truck for a few days. I was like you. I had no other commitments and just stayed out all the time. And then got burned out quickly. Take a few days off, rent a car and go do something and relax. Then come back and burn rubber for a few weeks and then come back and relax. you are in a great postion to save alot of money in a relatively short period of time. Save it and either invest for your future or save it for paying cash for a Truck if you decide to go Owner/op.
It may be extremely difficult, but try to remain a Professional at all times. You will never win an argument with a cop on the side of the road, A Shipper or Consignee on their own dock, or with your dispatcher sitting at his desk. Protect your license, Your Reputation, and your Career at all times,,,,,,then go beat the crap out of your steering wheel when you are back in the truck. If you cannot legally do a load then spell it out, in no uncertain terms, on the quallcomm or whatever they use now. Take video of it with your cell phone in case they try to convince/threaten you to run illegal. If right after you say you can't run it legally and then you get a phone call, make sure you can record it or tell them that you are recoding them. Protect yourself at all costs! Swift was really good about trying to keep me legal. Some Companies afterward(*cough*Knight*cough*) not so much.
Be respectful and carry yourself with pride and again be and look professional. It will go along way with interactions and will help your self esteem too! You make not always be able to shower every day. I keep a gallon of water and a big bowl for sponge baths if I get filthy at a load or unload or if I cannot find a shower at the end of the day.
Jesus, I wrote a book and probably didn't say a thing. LOL
Swift - Starting the New Year training with Swift 1/7/13 - A long read...
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Wow, that's a lot of great info. You definitely helped with a lot that I did not know.
I understand them trying to paint with rose tinted glasses. I agree. I take everything with a grain of salt but after reading so much about disgruntled drivers I just try to keep a positive attitude so I don't stress myself out more. I probably take a much more positive attitude and approach then I would otherwise but I don't want to go into this with any real reservations.
I'll take your advice and look at the monthly proceeds versus what I'm making a month. If you knew where I was coming from, my recent experiences over the past few years, there's not much they can do to really make me too bitter. If anything, I'll put my time in, hopefully a couple of years and if at that time I want to move on I will. If anything I'm going to save and if I can work long enough to get my schooling paid off I'll take a leave of absence for a while, route out my motorcycle trip, budget and head to either Europe or more likely down to S. America for six months of some adventure riding and living on the cheap. Then I'll come back and drive.
Ill keep my laptop with me and keep in mind those wandering hands at the terminals. I'll probably stay pretty entertained with just my laptop and maybe my acoustic guitar in the downtime. I'll watch my paychecks as well so I don't get cheated and I will take that advice on video or photographing the Qualcomm for safety issues. It seems Swift is pretty strict with safety just seeing how they train us on the yard and with other safety issues in driving/logging etc.
I'll have to pick up some of those tools when I can. Most likely when I go solo. Good advice and some things I haven't thought about. I'll definitely take that time off so I don't get burned out. Maybe like a few days every 4 or 5 weeks. I won't know until I get out there and do it. I'm looking forward to getting some home time back east and being with my family. I never see them as it is.
I agree about protecting your license as it's the money in your pocket. I won't mess it up for anyone or anything. I agree about holding yourself out as a professional. It makes a huge difference in self pride and also in how people talk to you and treat you.
Thanks for all the help.
Day 2 --
We had a different trainer today. She spent the first half of the day going over paper logs and had us practice some. We took some quizzes as well. It was interesting and I heard some interesting stories of people cheating their logs. Although Swift uses electronic logs we are responsible for learning paper logs and using them while we are in training and again during our OTR training.
Our class consists of those from WA, OR and ID. Apparently the WA CDL test is more strict and requires more detailed pre-trip inspections. We are writing them all out to commit them to memory better. After logging we went out onto the range and were walked through a proper pretrip inspection. We were then broken into groups based on home state and practiced out pretrip inspections.
It was the first time I have ever been up into a rig so it was kind of new and exciting for me. Trying to remember how to do everything right is nerve racking but it was exciting for the most part. Weather is ok. Cold and snowing off and on. Temps are probably hovering around the freezing mark or slightly above. I was kind of surprised with all the thinking that goes into the design inside the trucks that the driver's legroom, at least in the one truck that I sat in, was cramped. I was trying to get the seat to slide back as I felt my legs were kind of crunched up and was surprised when it didn't. All the trainers have been excellent and you get the feeling they are there because they enjoy what they do and not there to just get a paycheck. That helps a lot.
Tomorrow we go out on the range and begin practicing backing. I think it is mostly straight line tomorrow. I gotta get this pretrip down. I can't believe all you have to explain to the DMV tester when we go to test for our license. I was thinking that I understand what needs to be checked and why. I can see how that part isn't difficult necessarily, maybe a little time consuming, but its necessary. However regurgitating it back to someone else, describing exactly what you are looking for and why is the difficult part. Maybe this will change. I know it will get easier with practice but right now its going to be a lot to remember.
Tomorrow is going to be chilly but should be a nice break from being in the class for the past two days.
One of the things I have really been struggling with is I quit smoking 24 days ago. I've been struggling with it since but stayed faithful to my quit. I've been dying since I came out here since it seems everyone smokes all the time everywhere. After 30 years of smoking it's been really tough to be around all these smokers. There are a lot of smoke breaks, they smoke in the morning before the shuttle comes, they smoke after we get dropped off, the smoke all the time. Not knocking it but there's a huge part of me that wants to join them as it was such a long time habit I have had since I was 11 yrs old. I won't smoke again but I fiend like a true addict and it hasn't gotten much easier.
If I get internet tomorrow I will update.
You bet! I never thought SWIFT was all that bad. If it hadn't been for the way I was routed and the short miles(though to be fair, unless you are paid hub miles, you will always be shorted) and at the time the Low, I might have stayed. It was by far the easiest OTR Job I have had. And I also met alot of guys who had been there over 10 years. I also met alot of the trainers who were making a #### good living training the next Generation Drivers. That may be a good thing for you. I met alot of old timers who only drove during the spring, summer, and Autumn and then took winter off. If you put 2 to 3 years in there and have no accidents or tickets, you will be in a prime position to either go somewhere else to try something new or get a decent local job.scottied67 Thanks this.
Day 3 --
Not much to report today. We spent two hour in the morning and two hours at the end of the day practicing pretrip. At the end of the day they showed me how to unhook the trailer, etc. The rest of the day in between we spend straight line backing. So, excluding lunch and pretrips we spent 7 hours backing up in a straight line.
I believe we are practicing this same thing for the next 3 days. I gotta work on my pretrip studying as there is a lot of info. we get tested on here in Washington, apparently more than Oregon or Idaho. And you have to know what you are checking verbatim to what is in the book. No deviation.
The backing was repetitious but necessary to get it down. When I started out I was messing it up pretty bad since I was using the rear of the trailer too much to guide me instead of looking at the drive wheels or the front corner of the trailer. When I would mess up and start going outside my line I would get a little flustered and would then overcorrect making the situation worse. Once I realized where I should be looking, stopped over-correcting and made my adjustments much smaller I started hitting it more. In trying to back the rear of the trailer inbetween the cones I was using various methods to ensure I would hit the spot accurately.
More of the same tomorrow.
Let me first say, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your "Very long read". It almost sounds like my story. I'm set to start at Swift Academy (Corsicana, Texas) on Monday. But ran into a big bump as my recruiter (who's in Arizona) by the way said that I shouldn't have my permit because I haven't taken all the tests. This sucks because it took me 2 months to get this far. Which means, my start date will have to be moved once again. I, too, am divorced and my EX cheated on me and married my best friend. (Sucks, but I'm better now). I have kids who i either ooVoo or talk on the phone with everyday. I'm doing this for them...me too. But I am technically homeless with all my belongings in storage and need a new start. I've always loved driving....and respect the truckers who keep this country moving. So I figured, why not give it a shot. I'd been thinking about it since July of 2011. With a boost from a new friend who is also O/O, I figured, why the hell not. So hopefully everything falls into place before the end of this week or next week at the lastest and I can get to school and get started on my new career. I hope all is well with you and wish you the best of luck, DocWatson.
Quick tip for backing up- grab the bottom of the steering wheel. If you want the trailer to go left, move your hand left. If you want it to go right, move your hand right. Once I got the hand-eye part of that practice down, I never had another problem. Just remember, anywhere you can drive forwards you can also drive backwards. Good luck on your journey. I'm pulling for you.
DAY 4 - Thursday
On the yard again --- straight line backing.
Not much new today. More straight line backing. We got tested on it and I scored a perfect. Awesome. I'm getting better at it and feeling how math plays into this as it does most things. I try to make it harder for myself not using reference points as much to park the back of the trailer in the 18" box. I've been getting better judging the distance from that back of the trailer tandems to the end of the trailer and using that to guide me. Not sure if this is the best way but it's been working pretty good for me.
We spend 2 hours in the morning, 6-8 AM, doing pretrip inspections and then another 1.5-2 hours in the afternoon pretripping again. I'm going to maybe get some 3x5 cards this weekend and start breaking down the Washington state pretrip that will be required for the CDL. I hear this guy from WA that comes across the river to WA to test us is tough. He's friendly but he's very thorough and doesn't cut any breaks so I'm going to prepare for the worst. The inside the cab pretrip checks such as the air brakes, gauges, etc. come easy to me but it's just remembering all the minor details about all the parts of the trailer and engine that I worry about. If I had to actually do the pretrip completely myself I basically know at this point what to look for and how to check it but regurgitating it verbatim to the WA state tester is the tough part.
We are filling out paper logs everyday to account for out time out on the range practicing, our lunch times, pretrip inspections, etc. We have to fill them out as if we were actually driving.
I'm kind of stuck with this guy lately, since he is another Washingtonian, doing my pretrip checks and he is one of those that knows everything. His way is always the proper way and only way and when he is corrected because he was wrong he has a hard time accepting it. Hopefully Ill be able to just get away from him within the next few days. I don't mind dealing with this kind of attitude but the issue is more that he is so freakin stupid, careless and self-righteous that it gets in the way of doing the checks properly as we were instructed. It's only temporary so it will pass. I'll deal.
It's been cool just driving the truck in a straight line. I have fun everyday even though it gets repetitious. Reminds me (just a little) of my days of driving a straight truck years ago but this is better with the increased difficulty and different style of truck. I can't wait to get out of 1st gear already. On the range we are not allowed to use the gas at all. Only clutch out in low or 1st and then the same in reverse.
I was noticing that I some of the Freightliners we drive. The sleeper is pretty nice. We also drive a Volvo. It's more twitchy when it comes to backing and the brakes are more sensitive. Not sure if this is a Volvo thing or just the ones we got. The Volvo sleepers are pretty small as well. Shorter and just not as deep. Looks like there is only one bed back there.
I've had a really cool instructor Brent these past couple of days out on the range. He's got what sounds like a Louisiana accent. I think there are about 4 or 5 instructors total. Everyone is very cool. No dickheads at all. Everyone is willing to help but doesn't lead you by the hand. You're adults out there and expected to act that way.
Interesting enough, everyone that started with us is still with us. One guy was asking about the drug test yesterday, asking about when we get the results back so that might be an issue. I hope not as he is cool too. Usually you read something like 15 started and by the second day we were down to 10 then by the end of the week we were down to 6.....etc. We still got everyone. Everyone helps each other and if one person struggles with something everyone else jumps in to help. A lot different than what I remember back in law school where it was friendly to the face but stab you in the back since everyone was vying for the top dog spot. Days are long, 11 hours, 1/2 hour lunch, 2 15 minute breaks. If you smoke cigs, you will feel at home here. I think 8 of the 11 smoke, 1 dips and two of us don't smoke (well I'm an ex...).
It was pretty freakin cold today standing outside waiting on someone to switch up in one of the trucks since we don't have enough for everyone. Usually after you do a gazillion backs that slowly you want to get out of the truck anyway and switch with someone just to give
yourself a mental reset. It helps. It was nice standing outside while huge snowflakes came down this afternoon.
Tomorrow is more straight line backing from what I understand. I know a couple of the people a couple weeks ahead of my class are retaking their WA practical test for their CDL. I'm going to try and pay attention as much as possible to take some mental notes. I won't see the road test part but I will maybe see the backing parts (straight line, off set and 90 degree).
Take it all very seriously but don't take yourself too seriously. Have fun with it but never get too comfortable where you need someone to give you an oral correction. My trainers are constantly reminding us to have fun with it. Just don't screw around when it comes to being safe. Listen to what they say. Think about things before you do them and you'll be fine.
Just reading about your exwife and best friends pisses me off. That's got to be one of the worst case scenarios. I'm sorry to hear that. Keep your cool because they will end up at some point miserable since karma is truly a #####. Do for you, walk away from it and don't look back. You have a new future in front of you and this is more important than any of that ########. Screw them. Do for you now.
That sucks about the bump in the process. What part of your CDL permit do you need?
Thats one of my only gripes is about the recruiters at Swift and probably the same at most other large trucking companies. It seems a lot of them don't know what they are talking about. They are there to get you in and get their kudos as recruiters.
I'll give an example. Swift brought us WAshington guys across the river from Idaho to the WA DMV to do something with our licenses in preparation for taking our practical CDL. The DMV lady said since I had a "U" on my DL/CDL permit that I would need to pay an extra $10. Not a big deal but I asked her why I had to pay more than my classmates. She said that since I didn't get my DOT physical BEFORE getting my CDL permit I had this extra restriction limiting my CDL permit to "intrastate only". Why couldn't my recruiter just tell me to get my DOT physical before going to get my CDL permit? That would have not only saved me the $10 but I could have not had this restriction on my license had I needed it to practice.
Here is something to keep in mind too. About 5 of the 11 people in my class came to Swift school without a DOT physical. On the first day there they asked who didn't get their physical yet, they raised their hands and Swift took them over in their shuttle to get their DOT physicals. And, get this: IT WAS FREE.
I was told I had to get mine before class and had to pay the $80 out of my own pocket, which I did. So had I known this little fact before I went to Swift school I would have just waited to get my FREE DOT physical with Swift once I got out here to school. That kind of sucked for me since I am on such a very tight budget.
Another thing my recruiter told me was that I would have to pay $30 for a drug test once I got to Swift school. We had the drug test over at the terminal on Tuesday (started on Monday) and it was FREE. I don't know where she came up with some of the stuff she told me.
A fair warning, it might be different for you in Texas but just take everything with a grain of salt and keep these things in mind. I hope it helps.
Sounds like you are in a similar situation as me. Hang in there and just go in with the good attitude you got and with the attitude that you will just do what it takes to get through the schooling/orientation/OTR with the mentor with a positive, flexible and open attitude and take this as an adventure. You will do great. Stay motivated. Have fun with it, it is actually a good time.
One thing I heard from one of our instructors that might work for you since you said you have kids. Our instructor is also divorced, had a couple of little girls and was on the road driving a lot. I thought this was pretty cool. Here is what he told us kind of paraphrased....
"When you call your kids at home and you are on the road don't just ask them how they are doing. When I called my kids as they got older and I would ask them simple questions like 'how are you doing', 'what's new' etc. they would just simply respond with a simple answer. But when I got involved in what they liked and could talk to them about it on the phone they became more engaged in talking with me. I never really liked Twilight but when I called my girls as they got older we would talk Twilight. I would watch the movies in my truck's sleeper then when we talked we would have that to talk about. They were happy that I had an interest in what they loved. We also did the same with books. I would buy two books, drop one off when I saw them and then once I got on the road I would read it out on the road while they read it at home. When we got on the phone we talked about it. I also bought two of the same coloring books when they were young and we would just color together over the phone. When we met up again we would compare our colored pictures."
I thought it was pretty sweet and endearing to want to have this kind of connection over the miles away from your kids. Sounds like you got a good plan to start with.
I passed my first Swift yard test today with straight line backing. I got a 100% as I didn't lose any points. Actually I got a "0" as I didn't lose any points but same thing.
Grabbing the bottom of the steering wheel helps a ton. It's all about making small corrections to your backing and not over doing it. I know once I was starting to lose concentration from doing so many backs i would get sloppy and start overcorrecting myself making a mess of things. I wasn't hitting cones or anything but my lines started to get sloppy. I try to try as many different trucks as possible to get a feel for each one with the different clutches, maneuverability, etc.
It is weird that for a while you keep messing up, overcorrecting, going all over the place, etc. but then once it clicks it sticks with you.
It sounds like you have figured out your own system for backing up, which is what we all do at some point. Some take longer than others, but it sounds like you have that trigger inside that kicks the common sense on when you need it. There's always some guy who knows more than everybody else. You usually can find those dudes using one hand to scratch their head and the other one to scratch their behind at a truckstop trying to figure out why they just backed into someone else's truck. Listen to your instructors and keep up the good work!
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