Sounds like you have a good grasp on the basics, congratulations! Keep in mind that every time you put the truck in reverse, you are attempting a new backing of the trailer. No two backs are alike, there are new obstacles and conditions to overcome. Always remember the basics.
Swift - Starting the New Year training with Swift 1/7/13 - A long read...
Page 3 of 165
True. I'm sure they will all be different. I have been practicing trying not to use the cones we have on the ground as visual clues in backing since we are not always going to have cones obviously. So instead I have been trying to gauge my distance from the back bumper to the trailer tandems. It has been working pretty good.
Day 5 -- more backing
Feels good to change my status from "wannabe" to "student". I can't wait to change it from 0-1 years pretty soon.
Today we started out with another 2 hour pretrip inspection followed by some more straight line backing. We finished the second half of the day doing alley-dock/90 degree backing. This was causing more problems with everyone including me. The instructors are very helpful but sometimes almost too much. Not to say anything bad at all, but this exercise is one of those I just want to work through on my own and get it thru trial and error. If I'm guided too much by the instructors then I'm not thinking about it as much as I need to to learn it since I am just obeying what they say to correct the problem and not working it out on my own. Not a big deal, they are only trying to help but this is one exercise we all want to do just on our own and work thru it. I am not alone in thinking this way. Tomorrow I think we are watching movies or something and then Sunday we are off. I'll post another update tomorrow. Next week we continue working on alley docking and the other split dock backing last. They said they may take us out just around the streets in the perimeter of the range to learn shifting. This would be next week. That would be most fun.
I bought some 3x5 cards and some multi-color highliters to redraft the whole pre-trip inspection breaking in down into parts, hence the index cards. I hope this helps me. I think it will. I gotta know the pretrip word for word and it is 16 pages or something.
I felt stupid earlier today as a practical joke was played on me and I should have caught it quickly. I didn't. It was pretty funny actually. We switch trucks a lot doing our straight line backing. We are not allowed to hit the accelerator on the range so we just putt around with the clutch out in reverse and then in either 1st or low gear. Sometimes 2nd gear. So I hopped in this truck and immediately I notice this truck is so much faster backing up, especially if I let the clutch all the way out as we always do in these exercises. Then when I go to pull forward, I pop the truck into low gear and I'm flying down the range. I kept clutching it just so I wouldn't go too fast compared to everyone else putting along in their trucks in low gear. I couldn't figure out what was going on. Why the clutch felt different. Why I was going so fast in reverse and then in low. Yes, it is what you are thinking and I am a hopeless newbie. I will know next time. When I hopped out of the truck the guy whom I took over for driving and then was handing the truck back to, was laughing. I told him what was going on and he pointed to the splitter in the up position. I'm so stupid sometimes but I just didn't think about the splitter since we haven't messed with it yet. Lesson learned. I spent the day laughing about that one. The practical jokes are in full swing lately since it has become a little repetitious doing the same backing exercises. It's cool because it breaks things up pretty good. Our instructors like our group and we are having a good time while learning.
I think the drug tests would have came back if anyone was dirty and apparently no one was so we still have everyone with us. Pretty cool.
No news is always good news when it comes to drug tests. There's no place for that junk in this industry anyway.
Keep practicing on the backing. I guarantee you that one of those instructors is going to say one or two words when you least expect it that will make something click in your head and it will all of the sudden be like riding a bike. Call it an epiphany if you want, but something will make that light bulb come on and it will be automatic.
Something else that will become second nature is the pre-trip. It's all about routine. Get yourself in a routine about it and it will come natural.
Take the jokes in stride. One of these days you are liable to come out of the sleeper and find a pair of someone's drawers frozen to windshield under the wiper. The joke comes if you flip the wipers on before you pry them off.........
Do not get into too much of a routine. I had a routine for almost 19 years. Then came to Swift, and had to change mine, and this was because of the set up for the trailer landing gear and our fifth wheel. Dolly handle and pin handle on the opposite side. There has been twice when tired that I have forgot to disconnect my lines, due to a routine.
As far as backing, you will get the hang of it. There are times that you can give me 40 acres to back up and I will screw up, and give me the thightest hole, and not a aproblem. Some problems that you will have out here is when backing up to a angled dock and no lines, it will mess you up, of the biggest mess, backing into a building when there are no lites around. Real fun. I know that also once my student comes out of my truck, he is going to have to adjust and adapt again. My wheel base compared to the company ones, and if he gets a Volvo, and lot easier.
Any tricks you know in gauging the distance in backing?
I have been using either my tandem's mudflap and trying to estimate about 6 feet back from that or if I can't see the mudflap then I use the center of my rear tandem tire to roughly gauge the distance. I know we get a "get out" on the test but there has to be a way to properly gauge the distance when backing so I can hit the spot without markers. Another way we were taught is to stop short of the sweet spot, get out and toe to toe count the steps from the rear tandem hub to the bumper. Then we go back up to say our side mirror, count the same number of steps out and find some kind of marker on the ground to back and line up our mirror with. This is an option I'm considering if I don't get a good feel for distance by the time I test.
I hear ya about the Volvo being different. Even in our pretrip inspections the Volvo is way different. Plus it handles differently.
Yes, it does! lol
The other thing about the pretrip inspection is I understand why they test the way they do. From what I hear, in Washington, the testers want word for word what is to be checked verbatim. I think that is the hard part. The way I explain it is as I study the pretrip I understand what I need to check and why but regurgitating it back verbatim to the tester is the hard part. Its just verbally expressing it that is tough. The actual check, although thorough, is not so difficult in an of itself.
Day 6 -- Classroom mapping/pretrip
Nothing exciting today. We worked on reading the atlas, planning gas mileage, mpg, distances, directions, shortest routes and some trip planning. It was pretty preliminary. I love the atlas and all it's information. I've always been a map nerd and so this was heavenly. Somehow I didn't score so great on my tests. I passed but should have done better.
The rest of the day was quiet. We worked individually on our pretrip inspection prep and then we got out at 4 PM instead of 5:30. We skipped lunch. We have off tomorrow.
Since I'm here in the hotel and off tomorrow I think I may do some more of my 3x5 index cards for my pretrip. The way it was written out for us it has you jumping all over the place during the pretrip inspection. I am rewriting it again on 3x5 cards so I can put them in the order I want, highlite the important things, and I can more easily change the order so I can do the pretrip in a more sensible order.
Let me know what you guys think, or if it matters, regarding my order of my pretrip. Let me know if there is a better way. I do understand that you should do it the same way consistently, so with that being said, here is what I am tentatively going to do....
- I stand out in front of the truck looking at the front seeing if the truck sits level. I check the headlights, front blinkers and front top marker lights for damage or missing lenses.
- Then I go to the front passenger side after popping the hood. Truck is off. I check the passenger side engine compartment features such as alternator (if on this side), front suspension, alternator belt to be less than 1/2-3/4" flex. I check the ground for any drips, etc.
- I go to the driver side engine compartment. Hood up. Engine off. I check the steering components, wheel hub brakes, cooling system, air compressor, lines, clamps, etc.
- Check steer wheels and tires
- Move to the drivers side door, check hinges, seal. Check the gas cap and area for leaks. I check the fire extinguisher at this point on drivers side since door is open.
- Check the little storage door for 3 safety triangles.
- Check the catwalk and related. Front side of trailer. Hook ups. Fifth wheel. Drive shaft. Etc.
- Move along drivers side of trailer checking underneath, tandems, air brake system, suspension and parts etc. check wheels rims and tires
- Rear of trailer
- Passenger side of trailer. Wheels and tires
- Exhaust if on passenger side.
- I now go inside and check blinkers, headlights, high beams, hazards, marker lights, both horns, gauges, warm truck up. Ensure oil pressure and air pressure are going up. Make sure volts are good to go. Check interior lights.
- Once truck is warmed up, if on level ground I push in both air brakes. With truck shut off I push down on service brake for minute and make sure pressure doesnt drop more than 4 psi.. then with both air brakes still depressed I pump the brakes until I get the low air warning usually above 60 psi then I pump them until my air brakes knobs both pop out activating them somewhere above 20 psi.
- Now I activate the trailer air brake and do a tug test. -
- I pull forward and check the service brakes.
Thats not all inclusive, just running through a very basic idea of what I do and the order I chose. Please let me know if you guys think I should be doing it a different way. This is currently the way I am used to doing it. Again, I didn't include everything as my actual pretrip required is like 15 pages or something.
This is what I meant by putting yourself in a system. Think about what you want to now about your truck before taking off. Ask yourself "what do I need to eyeball to keep myself, and everyone around me, safe?" Remind yourself to check anything that is attached to the truck, has fluid or air in it, lights up, and what you can move with your hand.
A little trick that might score you some brownie points with an examiner during a pre-trip is to carry a rag or towel with you as you walk around the truck. Wipe the light lenses off as you check them, along with placards and plates explaining that you are checking for dirt and grime.
The in-cab air brake test procedure is the #1 most important thing about the pretrip examination. I didn't attend Swift's academy but my school taught us using an acronym called COLAS which helped us remember the procedure step by step.
C - Cut in, so we would pump the brakes down to about 90 psi and inform the tester when we observed that the air compressor governor 'cut in' thereby pumping air into the system and the psi was increasing.
O- Cut out, this is when we would tell the tester that the air compressor governor had cut out and we knew this because the needle on the psi indicator was no longer increasing at about 120 psi.
L- low pressure warning, bleed the brakes down to between 60 and 45 psi there should be an audible and visual warning
A - applied air brake check, after reaching cut out again, put truck in low gear, shut off truck, turn key back to On position, release brakes and apply foot brake for 60 seconds.
S- static air brake test, fire the truck back up, bring back to cut out pressure then put back in low gear shut down, turn key back on release brakes and wait 60 seconds.
Next would be the tug test, foot brakes, trolley brakes, yellow and red knob tugs.
We'd run the pop out test last then fire the truck back up and while it was building pressure we'd talk about all the rest of the in cab items like windshields, wipers, seats and seat belts, switches and knobs, defroster, doors open and close, windows too, gauges and shifter, steering wheel play etc.
Always always always remember to be in control of the vehicle at all times. Like if the brake knobs are released, foot needs to be on the foot brake or the truck in low gear if shut off. This will help you in a DOT inspection at a scale garage, even though they chock your wheels, they like to whisper their commands to you, I have heard of a driver stepping out of the driver's seat to hear better and was written up for not being in control of a vehicle which had its brakes released and out of gear, no one in the seat.
Page 3 of 165