START OF ORIENTATION DIARY
Welcome back everybody to the next segment of my training diary. Hard to believe that I'm already through trucking school. My day started at 1:00 am as I knew full drive time would be over 12 hours if I didn't stop and everything went perfectly. LOL Since that was NEVER going to happen, I allowed myself a few extra hours on the clock to be here between 3-4 pm. Roughly 850 miles later and waaaaay too many potty breaks I have arrived in Joplin, MO roughly around 3:15 PM.
The hotel is pretty nice, it's a LaQuinta (massive place). The CFI shuttle is due to arrive tomorrow morning at 6:30 AM.
Tonight I plan on just relaxing and sleeping. I'm doing my best to calm my thoughts down. As per usual, I'm a bucket of nerves. Seems like whenever I have to do something new, in a new place, meeting people I don't know, everything gets me a bit rattled. I always warm up quickly to people and make friends pretty easily but it's the initial unknown that gives me anxiety?!
Orientation is set to last Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm assuming at this point that the finisher trainer will pick me up on Thursday but I have no confirmation of this (just an assumption)
I'll make sure to post a full update tomorrow evening.
Have a great night and stay safe everyone.
Trainco Trucking School w/ CFI
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Day 1 Orientation
Just like the email said, the CFI big white bus, showed up at the hotel around 6:15 AM for our 6:30 AM departure. The driver performed roll call right there in the breakfast lounge haha. Many people missing but a good 12-14 of us were there. Most of them still had their rental cars, since Monday was a holiday and the rental places were closed. We were advised to drive ourselves to CFI and later in the day, we'd handle the return of them.
We walked into the orientation room/meeting room, which was bigger and nicer than what I expected. Very warm, professional feel. Even more impressive was the setup at each seat. Waiting for us was a name badge and lanyard, key card for access to the building, a packet of paperwork, lunch order form, hand sanitizer, earbuds, and our own personal laptops for hours and hours of video training that awaited us. It was all laid out so neat and tidy and something about seeing your name on that desk just hit me in my feels. Really cool welcome if you ask me!
So you start with the massive packet of paperwork. Took roughly an hour to get through all the paperwork. Lots of signatures, lots of directions flying at you. Pretty standard stuff tho, nothing crazy. After they get your paperwork, one of the guys (two instructors) will input info into the system which allows them to create a personal log-in for the training program. The whole first day is basically watching various training videos and taking the corresponding quiz. It's a forced pass test situation, but if you don't pay attention and fail the test, you literally have to watch the whole video again to proceed to the quiz. Despite having a few redo's I finished first and was able to leave around 3:00 PM today.
Lunch was domino's and the menu items were really good. I could have ordered myself a whole. medium pizza with 2 toppings. Sadly, I'm trying to lose some weight and eat better so I opted for a salad and water.
The coolest part of the day, aside from the welcome presentation of sway, was the president of CFI. He actually came down and did a small/short presentation for us and took the time to answer any questions that we had. CFI is a large and growing company, and to have the actual president of the company make time to meet the drivers really says a TON about CFI as a company!!
Tomorrow will be all lecture-style class format. Which I like much more than aged poorly produced training video's lol.
Have a great night everybody and be safe!!
Day 2 Orientation
I planned this morning to take notes about everything that happened today so I could be as specific as possible but...I didn't and I'm 40 so, I'll do my best to remember everything!! LOL
The shuttle arrived at the hotel around 6:20 AM. One thing to remember for those students following along with this diary, DO NOT BE LATE for class!! They will ride you pretty hard about that. I do not speak from experience because I PROUDLY arrive everywhere early but there have been quite a few late people in the first two days and it wasn't pretty. They say there are only two things a carrier can sell to a customer and they are our safety record and our on-time record. SO being on time is very important around here, even on breaks!
We arrived at the orientation room and had another few hand-outs and booklets. Our lunch menu was the same as yesterday, Domino's. Which wasn't a problem as there are quite a few different options to mix it up.
Lectures happened pretty much all day. We watched a heart-wrenching human trafficking video again. (happens to be the same one I watch a few weeks ago at trucking school.) This one was edited down, which I was thankful for because at 8:00 AM in the morning my emotions were not happy with the content, and all I kept thinking about was my daughter. We then jumped into a video for 8 seconds. It's is a short documentary on a young man who looked at his phone for 8 seconds and drove 63 mph directly into the back of a man's car that was stopped at a red light somewhere in Minnesota a few years ago. He killed the man driving and the video interviewed the truck driver from prison, the man's daughter, and his wife. Between the two videos, I wish I could say I didn't have tears running down my cheeks but I would be lying. It was a rough morning but driving an 80,000 lb truck is very serious business and they know what to show to get the point across!
After that, we moved onto CFI "straight 8" safety initiatives, for lack of a better word. They take safety as priority number one and even say load delivery being on time comes second to safety. We learned about safety while driving and safety while working. There are two quizzes that must be passed after these two lectures. I missed one question and had to re-take that section again but still finished it pretty easily. I'm not trying to brag, trust me, but I take safety extremely seriously and really have taken the danger of driving a semi to heart!!
After these videos and lectures, we went out to the driver's parking lot, and there awaited a tractor and trailer for us. We had to perform a few physical ability tests. They watched us open the trailer doors properly, release the tandems, release the fifth wheel, climb in and out of the trailer, and the tractor. The only thing here that was slightly difficult was getting into and out of the trailer. I have bad knees and had to kneel on them but was able to complete this with little difficulty.
After lunch, we had a coupling and uncoupling video, a short presentation on maintenance and fueling. Then a person from the training department came over and talked with the students in the room about the student training program. Roughly 8 of us are in that group. We went over the rules, expectations, and guidelines for being with our finisher trainers. Attached to the file folder we received were our assigned trainer's phone number, truck number, and name. Mine is due to Joplin on Friday. I called him this evening and left a message, so I don't know exactly when or where the rendezvous point will be yet.
We sign in the morning, which means we will become sort of employed by CFI tomorrow? I guess it's not really official until we upgrade and become solo drivers, but it's the first step to becoming official.
I'm really excited about getting to meet my trainer and hitting the road. I know the 21 days on his truck will go by super fast and there is so much to learn. I just want to be safe, learn as much as humanly possible, and become a sponge to learn all I can from him.
Have a great night and be safe!!
Start Of Driving Finisher Training Day 1 and 2
Man, I can't believe what a whirlwind the last few days have been. So I didn't get that extra in-between day I was expecting. My finisher trainer showed up a day ahead of schedule. So to catch everyone up, here is what has been going on.
So Thursday morning at 9:00 AM we signed our paperwork to become CFI official. We all met in the cafeteria and went through the paperwork one page at a time. Very organized and that went really fast. Now, earlier that morning I was informed through text that the trainer was on his way to Joplin and would arrive that day. I didn't know it would literally be by 11 am that he would be at the terminal. I had a load of laundry going and literally all my stuff was in the hotel room a few miles away. So I scrambled as best as I could and got onto his truck by 1 pm. We already had a load headed down to Waco, TX.
Now the ELD (electronic log book) that drivers use to track driving time through the DOT and Federal regulations wouldn't allow me to sign on. It was as if, the computer system didn't know I existed. So we made a bunch of calls and were informed: "they were working on it". So basically I wasn't able to drive at this point. As we headed down through Oklahoma towards Texas we still hadn't heard anything back. So the first day went by with no driving by me. We stopped about 340 miles from Waco for the night.
I will say that being on a truck, and at a truck stop for the first time in my life in a place I didn't know, with a person I didn't know was extremely daunting, to say the least. My first night I can't lie, I asked myself many times what had I gotten myself into? I eventually slipped off to sleep after succumbing to fatigue.
Friday morning (today) we woke up and still no login. Made so many more phone calls and still no resolution. So trainer drove the rest of the way to Waco, TX for our delivery which was due at 1:30 pm today. We got our trailer dropped and picked up our next run. Now we are headed to 2 locations with this load. First Monroe, LA, and then off to Nechaz, MS (Mississippi) both Tractor Supply Company stores. As we left the pick up still no resolution to the computer system and my trainer had enough. He pulled over on side of the road and raised a little hell with the people at CFI. By 3:00 Pm we had resolution and I was able to log in to the computer system and I, for the first time, pulled us out of a TA rest stop and headed to the Louisianna state line. Pulled us into a Loves around 6:30 pm for the night.
We are only 2 hours away from our first delivery and it isn't due till Sunday morning at 6:30 am. That means we have some time to kill tomorrow. Maybe we'll practice some backing at a truck stop.
Well, I'm pretty tired and now that I'm more comfortable with my surroundings and my trainer, I'm headed off to dreamland.
The next update will be as soon as I can find time and wifi. Have a great night and be safe!
Finisher training first-week recap
So yeah...I've been awol for a few days. Since my last update, I can't believe how many ups and downs I've been through. In full disclosure, I was 90% done on day 4. This is by far the hardest thing I've ever attempted in my life. Living on the road, with a stranger, trying to drive for 11 hours a day, and being awake for FAR longer than that is INSANE!!! The stress of going to business with a 70 ft truck and having NOWHERE to maneuver and then failing to be able to get into the dock broke me. My first two deliveries were at Tractor Supply Comp and both those locations had the "space" but filled that space with hundreds and hundreds of pallets that weren't being picked up. I tried and tried on both but couldn't figure out how to work around the available space and ended up having the trainer finish them for me.
I haven't been this homesick and lonely ever. I miss my daughter and family so much. I knew this would be difficult and I KNOW it will get easier but man everything is attacking my brain all at once.
I spent the first 3-4 days absolutely drenched in Mississippi and Louisiana. Water up over my boots kind of drenched. But the clouds broke yesterday. Literally and figuratively. We finally got away from the constant TSC and Waco, TX distribution center cycle we were stuck in. They routed us back to Joplin and got a load to Kent, WA which is just outside of Seattle. I'm currently done with my first of a four-day drive. We are in Odessa, Nebraska and tomorrow hope to hit Salt Lake City, but I don't know if we will make it that far. As long as I hit 500 miles per day we should make our Monday morning delivery.
I feel a lot better today. I've had numerous successful backs now and even though I haven't had to do anything super difficult, having a few successful ones make me feel better. More like I might actually belong out here. I know that there will be tough days ahead, and I know that more challenges await me, but I have to stay strong and positive. Enjoy the road ahead and look forward to home time when it comes around.
Thank you to all the people that have supported me and encouraged me along the way!
Have a great night and stay safe everyone.
Hey everybody!! So sorry for the lengthy delay in keeping everyone updated. My intention all along was to keep this updated frequently but I encountered more challenges on the road than I expected.
So here's my final update....
Let's start with the awesome good news. I have successfully completed the training program at CFI and upgraded to a solo driver yesterday. I will be assigned my own truck as soon as I obtain my physical CDL next week from the Michigan Secretary of State.
In the last update, I was miserable and feeling lonely and lost on the road. I had major doubts about my decision to become a truck driver and even in my ability to drive. The first week on the road with a finisher trainer is so #### hard, frustrating, and confusing. The challenges of living with someone in such a small space aren't easy. He has his own ways of living, daily patterns, how he wants to operate, DRIVE. It's all going to be new and most likely NOT how you would do things. My trainer is a nice guy but I question his abilities to be a successful trainer. He is patient but in certain situations very impatient with how you maneuver or handle the truck in parking lots. He LOVED pulling the highway horn all the time. I am not confrontational and only used the horn 2 times and that was in situations where someone was coming into my lane and I had to alert them to the collision they were about to create.
My patience with him was on edge for the first few weeks. I did have a couple of moments where I lost my temper with him but apologized and got back to just being a student and trying to learn from him as best as I could. Remember that you are there solely to be a sponge and learn from them. No matter how good, or crappy, they might be, there is always something you can learn from anybody.
Last three weeks I traveled all over the country. Drove up to Seattle through the mountains and back to Chicago. All throughout the southeast and mid-America. I saw so many cool places. Learned so much about the realities of trucking. Driving the truck is easy, dealing with all the crazy shippers and receivers. Poorly laid out parking lots, no direction when you arrive, waiting hours and hours for them to do their job so you can continue on with yours!! The best advice I can give you is to stay positive, and calm. Don't stress out too much and remember that learning experiences come in all shapes and sizes.
By the end of the three weeks, all I wanted to do was to GET OFF THAT TRUCK!!! I wanted to go home and see my family, my cat, and not have to think about trucking for a few days. I believe all those feelings are normal and to be expected when you are in a new situation.
So after 21 days, you will head to your upgrade terminal. They chose North Jackson, OH for me as it is closer to home than Joplin, MO. I wish I could say that the transition was smooth. It was anything but smooth. My trainer and I tried for 4 days to get CFI to arrange our hotel, my rental car, and his way home. We never got much in the way of answers and ended up in Ohio with only the name of the hotel and what time to be back at the terminal the next morning. They never arranged for my rental car and I was told to remove all my stuff from the truck and hang at the terminal for further instructions. Literally, 20 mins later I was loading all my stuff back onto his truck as he was my ride to Taylor, MI terminal as they "couldn't find me a rental car." Well, that's the type of crap that happens when you wait till the literal last minute to find a rental car on Friday afternoon. So CFI is a really good company but like all companies, they do have their issues. So hang in there, give it time and everything will fall into place.
I'm home for at least a week as I wait for my appointment to get my CDL. I'm happy and excited to see what the future holds for me at CFI.
With that, this little training diary journal comes to an end. Thank you to those who commented, followed along, encouraged me, and gave me advice. For those on their own journey at CFI and reading this, hang in there! Don't give up and remember that the 21 days WILL go by and you WILL be out on your own before you know it! You can do it!!! All it takes is determination and patience.
Stay safe, stay positive and see ya out on the road!!
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