Day 15 -- final Tuesday of the 3 week training at the Lewiston facility
We did a lot of the same as yesterday although we incorporated some new routes. The wearing sneakers trick worked wonderfully and I had a better feel for the clutch. I also just broke down how to double clutch downshift slowly and accurately. I think before my problem was that I was rushing it and, when downshifting, instead of just putting it into neutral and releasing my foot from the clutch and accelerator I was still pushing on the clutch as I reved the engine up and tried to put it into gear. Now I do it properly about 85% of the time. I shift into neutral, release the clutch, not touching the accelerator or clutch. Then I rev it up and clutch and shift. I have a bad habit of rushing things. Call it an east coast Jersey guy thing or just not being patient. Either way, I'm learning how to do it slowly and accurately. Downshifting was barely an issue today.
I did get somewhat annoyed today but remained positive and professional. I'm not going to elaborate here but I will just say that I will not judge an entire organization based on one individual's treatment of me.
The most stressing thing today was pulling up to a red light, up a decently steep hill. Just learning to roll the clutch out while keeping my foot on the brake so as not to roll backwards when the light turned green was tough but it worked out alright.
I did learn today that all these past years in Washington State I have been breaking the law by pulling into the intersection on the green and waiting for traffic. I never knew you were required to stay behind the line at the light until it was clear to go. I always thought you could move into the intersection to prepare for your left turn. Weird. Guess you learn something new everyday.
Tomorrow we do more driving and we get to do our Swift driving test. I think we can lose up to 10 points on this portion. WAshington State allows us 20 points to lose on the state test. We are also going to have to do our driving "commentary" whereby we point out and verbally announce all important signage ("the speed limit states 45 mph, I am doing 42 mph"), all overpasses ("approaching an unmarked overpass, overpass is assumed to be 14'6" or higher"), bridges ("Bridge signage states weight limit is 80,000 lbs, my weight is 70,000 lbs) and hazards ("there is a blue car waiting to merge on my right side, I am prepared for him to pull out"). We also have to point out any other hazards such as people on the side of the road, debris, animals, etc. There is a list. I don't think this part will be difficult. It is in preparation for us to do the same thing with the Washington State examiner.
Swift - Starting the New Year training with Swift 1/7/13 - A long read...
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Congratulations on beating the downshift. I was prepared to take only my work boots, glad you posted your trainer's suggestion on sneakers. Sounds like you are doing well with everything so far. Hang in there bro, it won't be long now.
2nd week is mostly practicing alley dock backing and off-set backing. You will do pre-trip inspections daily and probably tested that week on it as well as tested on your backing. It's challenging but by the end of the week you will be ready to get in the truck and start driving. At the end of our 2nd week we began to just practice shifting on the local roads. Get the shifting down as much as possible as the 3rd week will be driving on all the local roads learning how to handle corners, traffic and more shifting. It seems to drag on at first but then before you know it time will start flying as your state test gets closer.
Take your pretrip seriously. I actually had to rewrite the whole thing as a class assignment. Our Washington pretrip was 18 pages typed so you can imagine how long it took to rewrite it. We had the first week to complete the assignment. I then went to Walmart and bought some 3x5 cards and broke down the pretrip into sections such as "in cab inspections" "engine compartment" "5th wheel" "trailer" "steer axle brakes" "steer axle suspension" etc. It's a ##### but it helped. Then I took the 3x5 cards and rewrote the whole thing in my own shorthand just focusing on the important points and numbers such as "air brake test -4 psi/1 minute - alarm at 60 psi"......"steer axle tire tread depth minim. 4/32.....rear drive/tandem axle treads minim. at 2/32" "tire pressure at 120 psi or manu. spec's".... It sounds like a lot but it helps to rewrite it and get it down. I scored a 99% on the Swift pre-trip so it helped a lot.
Some things to maybe bring:
- money for food
- pencils/pens/WHITE-OUT (everyone will forget this but you will need it for you written log mistakes - be the hero and bring the White-Out)
- sneakers & boots
- warm gloves
- clothes to get dirty. Undoubtedly you will get bit by the grease on the 5th wheel and this stuff doesn't come out unless you have...
- Dawn detergent (this is optional but it will get out the 5th wheel grease)
- a notepad.
- the other things your recruiter tells you to bring (CDL permit/DOT physical card AND long form or copy/SS Card)
- flashlight - probably better to have one of those headlight things (for looking under the truck during pre-trip inspections or if you have class in the dark)
- water bottle (as they usually don't allow open cans or cups in the trucks)
- laundry detergent (if you got the room)
I brought everything in a big duffel bag and brought my backpack for the stuff I keep with me during the day including my laptop.
Doc- don't feel bad about the smoking. You'll quit when you are ready. I would agree with you about focusing your energy on graduating your school.
Glad to see you are getting the shifting down pat. It's all about feel and touch. Soon, it will be second nature and you won't even think about it. Sounds like the shoes did the trick. Boots are good and have a place in this work, but if you are going to sit in one place for hours on end, sneakers ( or tennis shoes if you are from the Deep South) are a lot more comfortable. If I actually have to work or if I have to be out in rain or cold, I'll wear my boots, otherwise it's tennis shoes.
Sounds like you had an issue with someone, which is normal in this line of work. It is a successful day when you don't cuss someone out or get in a fist fight with him. Don't get into a habit of taking things personal. Once you do you will be disappointed everyday.
Speaking of which I saw an example of that while getting fuel in West Memphis a little while back. The fact that I was in West Memphis will let you know it was entertaining. Just ask any driver about stopping for fuel at any truckstop in West Memphis. Anyway, I'm minding my own business and a mega carrier pulls up next to me. Big blue trucks and trailers if that gives you a hint. Driver gets out screaming at someone who comes out behind him. They keep screaming at each other and the one that got out second pushes the first one up against the truck then swings wildly with eyes closed, misses the guy by a mile, and first guy follows up with a right-left-right combo and knocks this guy completely senseless. Now someone with sense would know that if you got hit like that, the best course of action would be to calm down and stay on the ground. Well, second guy missed that class at truck driving school so het gets up, swings at air again and gets another right-left-right and a seat back on the ground. Now me, and a few others are telling him to stay on the ground and he finally does until the other one calms down. Turns out the one that got his butt whipped was the trainer and the one doing the whooping was the trainee. They had been arguing since Arizona and to the trainees credit, he didn't take the first swing. He didn't start it, but he certainly finished it. Point being is that when the trainer took it personal, he ended up getting his rear end handed to him. The lesson here is to not take it personal, unless you drive a flat bed and have quick access to a cheater pipe.
When I was younger I was pretty rambunctious and didn't have as much self control but as I age I definitely have developed a pretty thick skin. Especially when it comes to something as important as this. I'm glad that I handled it the right way when I had this issue with that individual here. He actually was pretty cool to me today and actually gave me kudos for doing well.
DAY 16 - the last Wednesday
I passed my company driving test and I tested with him. It was just the two of us in the truck. When he was giving me grief the other days I just smiled and tried to laugh it off even though I was a little pissed inside. If I've learned one thing in life it is to "pick your battles". Something I remind myself constantly, asking myself what I will accomplish by losing my cool or saying something I might regret. Yeah, I have to second guess myself at times but there have been a lot of times whereby if I had blown up I would have regretted it later. It's not always easy but it has proven itself over and over to be a saying worth remembering. My old dispatcher back in Jersey City when I drove a cab was a complete handful. He would scream at us, drunk and obscenity filled tirades of how stupid and worthless we drivers were. We were forced to drive unsafe POS's and if we complained we wouldn't get work for the next few days as punishment. Most of us needed the work so we just adjusted when possible. It wasn't always possible though and at times we had to draw the line in the sand. We got used to it and, as a result, developed a very thick skin. Plus my "fares" were something to be dealt with all by themselves so I feel I've gotten pretty good with dealing with difficult people.
I bet you guys must see some crazy things at the truck stops, just like that fight between trainer and trainee. I can't wait to see what is out there as just being a cabbie back then provided plenty of entertainment and I was limited to a much smaller geographical and culturally similar area.
I missed points today for grabbing the wheel underhanded once, for leaving my right hand on the shifter for too long a couple of times and for taking a couple of turns too wide. I also lost a couple of points for my shifts being a little clunky a couple of times. Not sure I understand this as I never grinded any gears, upshifting or downshifting. A couple of times I do remember it going into gear a little clunky but I didn't realize that you can lose points for this. The trainer explained to me that my wide turns at the traffic lights were necessary but that I lost points for them. I'm not sure I understand how I lost those particular points since the alternative was to take off someone's bumper. But, I can live with it. I passed and so that is ultimately what is most important. I'll remember not to underhand the wheel or leave my hand on the shifter longer than necessary when I take my state test this Friday. Not sure how to make my shifts less clunky at times but I'll figure it out. As it is, Swift allows us to lose 20 points on our road test and the state allows us 30 points to lose. Swift is more strict. I lost a total of 11 points so although I wasn't completely happy, I was happy that I passed and now know at least a couple of things I can do better.
I will say that I kicked ### shifting compared to the other days. I just hit that point where it clicked naturally. I still have work to do on it but it's minor and for the most part I have it down pretty good. That's what I wanted as I really want to just concentrate on driving safely and accurately and not have to worry consciously about rpms and shifting. I'm starting to just feel and hear when I need to upshift and downshift and that is where I want to be to progress to the other challenges.
Not sure what we are doing tomorrow. One of the guys in our class has some language difficulties as he is Ukranian and Russian so he didn't pass his Swift road test today. He's a good guy and I'm hoping he nails it tomorrow.
One more day before we head off at 4 AM on Friday morning to the Tri-Cities in WAshington to take our official DMV CDL test. Nervous but pretty excited. I'm going to review my pretrip tomorrow night, hopefully get a few more off-sets and alley dock backs practiced tomorrow and Friday the fun begins.
Yes, you definitly will see a different world. That trainee just had enough and wasnt going to take it anymore. The best way to describe it would be to say that every time you pull into a truckstop you might as well be taking a college lecture on sociology. As luck would have it, and probably a little twisted dose of fate, I'm sitting in the TA in Oklahoma City (exit 142 on I40) doing a 34 hour reset. I haven't seen any monkey business yet, but the night is young. It could be worse. I could be in West Memphis.
I don't get why they would take off points for taking turns too wide, unless you are crossing lanes or something. Even then, as long as the butt-end of your trailer is wrapping around the turn tight, it shouldn't be a problem. But in the end, if he told you that you passed, best to let sleeping dogs lie.
I told you that your shifting would kick in at some point. Just keep at it and you'll keep getting better.
I have to admit that I've enjoyed reading about your progress. It's good to see folks that come in with their eyes wide open and a "go with the flow" kind of attitude. That's what it takes. It helps when you don't think the world owes you something. There are too many cats out here that will wash out of this business because they don't have the right attitude. Driving the truck can be taught. It's not easy and takes a skill set, but lets be honest. We're not splitting the atom out here. The right attitude will go a long way in determining your success.
Again, i enjoy reading your posts so keep updating us on your progress. I'm pulling for you and look forward to hearing that you passed your state road test!Bigdubber Thanks this.
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