Thought I would share a diary of my experience getting to and going through a carrier's driver training program. There are many ways to skin the cat and this is just my experience, some have definitely done it better and some are still wondering if it is worth it. I will try to limit my diary posts to what actually happens, factual, and not much speculation about what might happen.
I'm in my late 60s in decent physical and mental shape, married. I retired from a corporate IT job after 34 years in 2015 and although the career was fantastic in the last few I was sick to death of working behind a desk in an office. Never. After having fun in the sun and putting on weight I, and seeing how much my parents spent for long term care that drained their substantial savings, I decided it might be best to go back to work. This time I would do something more physical. I did various labor stuff and then heard about free training and lots of jobs driving school buses. I went through an excellent district 3-week training program and easily passed the DMV test. Drove bus for 1.5 years and loved it but the hours shrunk to near nothing with Covid. Prior to that I had driven a straight truck fuel tanker for the local airport (automatic). I drove a 40 ton payload mining dump truck for a few months.
Back in February 2021 I had applied online to Old Dominion, XPO Logistics, YRC and a few others hoping for a training program and local route, followed with with answering their ads on Indeed. NADA. No response. Then in late July a recruiter from YRC calls me and says my application is missing one digital signature and would I like to add that and apply for current openings? You bet! Three days later I had a job. What I later learned is each terminal is fairly independent and has its own needs and is more casual and flexible in what they can do or are willing to do. LESSON: Apply online to get your name and data presented, but go visit or at least phone the local terminal and talk to the driver manager. Do not wait for corporate to notice you or reach out to you. Work with the local terminal.
I was supposed to start 8/24 but came down with Covid 8/16 and was in bad shape for three weeks, plus a couple for rehab. I kept the recruiter informed and she was super nice and accommodating. I ended up starting 9/21. Thanks to Truckers Report forum discussions I had determined that probably a line haul or P&D route would be my best fit for income, home every day and weekends, and interesting work with opportunities to switch over, and good all around experience for other types of trucking if I felt like doing something different later. My first objective is to get trained and achieve the Class A license.
My terminal at YRC (Portland) and it sounds like it at many other carriers and terminals that they are way, way short of drivers and dock workers for the huge increase of volume they have this year. The docks are swamped, drivers are covering vacant routes on OT, guys are being brought in from other cities to help our freight volume. If you have any inclination to get your CDL and drive trucks, then 2021/2022 is an excellent year to start! I was making $24/hr driving the haul truck but there was not much growth from there. That is pretty good money for Class B driving. YRC is starting P&D drivers at just over $24/hr, with 100% paid very good benefits, OT after 8 hrs per day (not after 50/60/70 per week like some LTLs).
Sidebar on Permit and License
Having gone through the some of the CDL tests for my Class B permit two years ago I was up to speed on the process for Class A. So in March I had passed the tests for Combo, Dbl/Trpl, Hazmat, got TSA fingerprinted and got my Class permit. I used the CDL prep tests on Truckers Report and they were excellent. LESSON: Do not wait for training to get your Class A Learning Permit. Get a DMV manual, read a section a couple of times, then take the prep tests 10-20 times until you pass consistently at 95%. You can test at DMV for your General, Air Brake, Combo, D/T, Tanker, Hazmat in any order, on the same date or different dates. I find studying and testing 2-3 sections at a time is efficient and easy enough to retain.
Your permit will be separate from your driver license. But once you get a Class A license that is your only license, you no longer have a private vehicle license, it is just one license for everything with endorsement noted. For myself, I have endorsements for motorcycle, passenger, school bus, tanker (from my Class B), and with the permit I will have all the others. You only need General, Air Brake, and Combo to get a Class A, but many carriers prefer or require that you get the Dbl/Trpl, Tanker and Hazmat with TSA certification. The Hazmat won't show on your Permit but when you pass the driving test and get your license it will have it if you passed the computer test and did the TSA fingerprinting (available at many truck stops). You can add Dbl/Trpl, Tanker, Hazmat endorsement later if necessary just by taking the computer tests, no driving in those vehicles necessary. If you drive test in an automatic transmission you will get a "manual restriction". You will also need to get a DOT compliant physical exam: Are you dead yet? No? Good. Can you hear me whisper from 10 ft with at least one ear? Good. Fill this cup. You passed!
YRC Driver training - Roadsidedown's journey
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STARTING AT YRC - FIRST WEEK
You need to get trained on the dock and work it for at least a week before attending the driver academy. But at my terminal dock training start on any Tuesday and driver academy the first Monday of each month. So in practice you need to work the dock for two weeks (nine days) minimum. The first day is the normal mountain of forms and booklets on HR stuff, and lots of signatures. Then most of the day is watching videos from the 90s but they are pretty decent compared to many I have watched over the decades in corporate high tech. A LOT OF HAZMAT videos, booklets and even a graded quiz. Finally some forklift safety and operation videos.
To be honest I had no idea what to expect on the dock. Pallet jacks or forklifts? Steel toed boots or not? Heavy lunch and snacks and take my only water/juices for heavy manual work or lighter for equipment operation? Work hours? I had forgot to ask those questions!
Day 2 on the dock. We had one more forklift video and then it is out to the dock! After some familiarization and explanations the trainer gets me on the forklift and walks me patiently though safety procedures, start up, working the controls, etc. We spend the rest of the day. By the end of the day I can run the basics of the forklift, maneuver around the busy dock without hurting anyone, and we are moving real work pallets, albeit slowly. My trainer is super upbeat, always encouraging, politely correcting, and forever patiently explaining the whats, hows, whys, and whos. I get introduced to the computer screen in every forklift used to search for pallets, trailer contents, waybills, etc. I meet several of the drivers and dock workers and these are a great group of guys. I am sure there will be a few grumps in the bunch, but many have invited me to ask them questions or help with difficulties and are just pretty cheerful workers with each other. The work is 95% forklift. Most of the manual work is walking occassionally to track someone down, find a deck bar, and to repack fallen apart pallets at the inbound trailers (usually the last couple of pallet rows at the rear of the trailer). Some guys at the upstream terminal sent us the trailers secured nicely with straps and deck bars as needed, others are piling machine parts on top of "Do Not Stack" cones of lightweight crushable pallets.
BTW, the work clothes are mainly t-shirt, light jacket or hoody, jeans, and light boots or heavier shoes. Steel toes not required and rarely needed. But I would at least have low cut boots with the rubber two bumper. Some guys are just wearing sneakers. We wear a safety vest (issued) and ear plugs are readily available. Gloves are recommended and I wear my Mechanix Fast Fit that can still operate the computer screen and give decent protection handling the pallets and from the general grime of a busy freight dock. I was concerned if I had recovered enough physical strength after my Covid episode, but the work is fairly light as you are on the forklift most of the time with 15 minute breaks and 30 minute lunch (not strict on when you take them so you can do it when convenient with your loading/unloading.
My trainer has been there 24 years and operates the forklift like a cyborg extension of his body. Smooth, efficient and can handle weird oversized and broken pallets and materials effortlessly. It is great to see what is possible. Goes zip in, around and through the loading areas always watching out for each other and a lot of work gets done with just friendly banter or asking questions of the more experienced guys. Because we are paid hourly everyone pitches in to help someone with a difficult situation while still trying to get the trucks loaded and out on time, keep the hazmats separated as needed (no food on trucks with inhalation poison hazard, etc), make sure the pallets go to the correct route, appointment time, etc.
Pay and Benefits
Starting at YRC the pay is something like $17.80/hr on the dock and in driver training. After testing and obtaining the CDL and getting a drive assignment we start at a bit over $24/hr. I really did not pay much attention to the pay scale as I am focused on the CDL and first year of driving. I think it goes up to $30/hr for P&D. P&D was the only home every night and weekends option at Portland terminal. The line haul here is two days out each run due to distances to next terminal, with generally two nights home during the week and home on weekends. When away on the road the driver is put up in a motel and maybe per diem. that is supposed to be the top earning job here. I chose P&D. The starting pay is not fantastic but it is not bad either. I am told there is a lot of opportunity to earn OT with extra hours per days (over 8) and weekends, and up to triple pay on holidays. YRC is union via the Teamsters, and the dues are 2.5 hrs of your pay per month, so for me it will be $72/month which covers the 100% medical such as Kaiser Permanente (which has been great for us on our current coverage) or other options and includes vision, dental and prescriptions with no premium for myself and wife and $15 co-pays. There are 401K or pension options but I didn't pay much attention to those for now as there will be time to make decisions down the road. Time off is skimpy to be honest, I think it is 5 sick days and 5 vacation/personal days, plus several holidays (two days each for Thanksgiving and Christmas). Keeping our Kaiser medical plan with no cost for my wife added was the major plus for me.
I don't join the union until the academy and testing are over, and benefits start after I work 30-60 days with at least 100 hrs per month. I am not going to debate pro/con union as it is entirely ancillary to my decision. To date it has had no impact except for the benefits and I cannot comment intelligently with no experience of facts so I am neutral on it: wait and find out. For me starting 9/21 my benefits will start either Dec 1 or Jan 1. Pay day is every Thursday. First paycheck is your third week. Time keeping is via fingerprint time clock. The dock break room is decent with a few microwaves, water dispenser, vending machines, refrigerator, tables, and a TV with Leave it to Beaver and Perry Mason.
Overall, my impression at this terminal is everything is pretty casual, friendly, more work coming in than works on hand (= Opportunity in my book!), lots of 15-30 yearers, and the work is not grinding or distasteful, kind of fun actually. I am a newbie here--so far I like it very much and glad I took a chance with YRC.
I talked with a couple of drivers that graduated and got their CDL last month. They are running P&D without an assigned route, just filling in wherever needed. That will be a challenge to be constantly looking up customer locations and back in accessibility. Fortunately after getting the CDL we drive with a trainer on our routes for four weeks so there should be a good amount of wisdom passed on about dealing with customers, managing routes and work times, which customers have great or terrible access. YRC seems pretty good at trying to match the best type of truck and trailer to the route: box truck, pup, 40'-48', or more rarely 53'. If you just can't get in you note it on the drive sheet and return to terminal and arrange for the item to be delivered on a smaller rig the next day.
Week 2 Underway - On the Dock
Forklift/doc training continued with seeing the trainer handle a variety of situations such as hazmat/food conflict that was not noted due to shipper not identify a pallet as food but was noticed when loading. Jumbled pallets seems to be the norm for the end of the trailer. The terminals at the other ends of the routes seems to rarely use deck bars or straps so the rear of the trailer that exaggerates the road movement can really trash some of them. I would guess I spend at least 30-60 minutes rebuilding some pallets that one minute and a strap could have prevented. My forklift comfort and skills are building a bit each day. Learning some of the nuances on the dock and computer system for inbound, outbound (both linehaul/relay) and city trailers (P&D). Inbound has the tumbled pallets and are uglier than what most of guys would do. You unload a pallet, scan its waybill to find what trailer or storage bay it is goes to and deliver it. Outbound has all nice pallets that have survived to this point in their journey and need to be loaded on to trailers going to other cities or to our city trailers. This is our chance to use deck bars and straps and airbags as need to ensure OUR trailers are not all tumbled at the next terminal. City trailers have to be loaded so that they are easy for the P&D driver to unload by pallet jack if necessary. Some customers have docks and forklifts and others need aa pallet jack. My understanding is we just deliver to the loading door or the curb and the customer is responsible for getting it inside unless they paid for inside service.
The job is nominally very simple: match a pallet to a waybill, scan it, move pallet to proper place, record that, and repeat. The physical work and complexities lie in fixing broken pallets, figuring out where pallets go that don't have waybills and are not on the manifest, straightening out pallets that got delivered to the wrong customer and rescheduling for a later delivery, making sure hazmat is moved correctly and outbound/city trailers are correctly placarded, how to unload a pallet tilted 60 degrees, or broken and tangled with other pallets, opening and closing trailers in the computer, etc.
I was informed today the driver training class I was supposed to start 10/4 has been moved to 10/25. So a month more on the dock. I enjoy the dock work--it is about the best labor job I've had other than driving bus/truck. But I admit I am anxious to get that CDL Class A! Probably will be working some overtime as well, which is fine as my personal truck crapped the bed and I need a rebuilt tranny for $6,500.
Today I worked solo on the forklift unloading at Inbound. Finished one entire trailer including rebuilding four large pallet loads and some weird items like over-long cabinets, fire hydrants, and some expedited flammable solvents or something for the Bremerton Navy Yard. The day flew by as I was very busy. I did get more paperwork to sign in preparation for the driver academy coming up. That was a bit reassuring it will happen. I will probably start getting pressed more to work more efficiently since I will be on the dock longer than expected. I realized I am in and out of the forklift too much. every time requires unfastening/fastening seat belt, parking brake, lift/set forks, etc. It takes 15-20 seconds both ways and doing that several times per pallet adds up. I am out to see what customer it is going to so I can find its waybill. I don't have a good feel for the grabbing or setting a pallet in place so I often get out and look one or more times to avoid damages. After moving a pallet to another trailer I get out to file the waybill in the box for that dock door. on and on, I am in and out of that thing maybe 100-200 times per 8 hr shift. So I need to get beter and combining actions into fewer out of forklift events.
Being the newest guy I figure there is a lot to get used to, my productivity will increase with repetition and I am at the bottom of the seniority list for everything . That's OK, I expect it in this kind of work. Overall I really enjoy working the dock at YRC and having a chance to understand the complete freight cycle better. Nice to meet more drivers there that give me more insight into what to expect. The folks here are friendly and willing to give pointers when asked. I have no regrets going with YRC and look forward to actually driving soon. They have a LOT of work to be done and that screams OPPORTUNITY to me!
I will likely not have much Driver oriented info to share until my class starts toward the end of October. If you are interested in weekly updates even of the dock work just to see one experience of the company in general let me know. If I post any more Dock stuff I will highlight it as DOCK WORK so those interested only in the CDL class journey can skip those other posts.Last edited: Sep 29, 2021
Starting my third week on the dock. Shift supervisor complimented me and said they really need me driving. [Or was that We can’t wait for you to get off our dock?!]
learned about using the forklift left brake pedal so I can keep feet on the brake and accelerator simultaneously. Helps smooth out the transitions. Learning to move all kinds of jumbled stuff like tractor tires, broken pallet loads entangled head high on deck bars, unloading pallets already snug against the ceiling, moving loooonnnggg garage doors, kayaks not on pallets. The guys on the Portland dock are very nice guys. Always ready to take a minute to answer a noob question.
I’ve been working mostly Inbound unloading line haul trailers into other ones or into city trailers, or placing at dock bays for the next trailer. Meeting more dock workers and the occasional P&D driver doing his day a month on the dock.
I really kind of enjoy it. It is physical without being brutal and learning forklift to a decent degree is very handy firmly eventual P&D and future freight jobs. I feel fir the guys only doing dock though. It only pays about $17/hr starting which is not much more than most fast food jobs around Portland. Proficient forklift driver is amazingly versatile and productive as worth much more than that.
just chatted with a long timer that said over 600 waybills was busy at the dock. Then it went up to 1100 several months ago an it was hectic. Recently it skyrocketed to 6,600 bills and we brought in guys from several other cities.
My trainer said because I will be a driver they aren’t pressing me to pick up my pace or to work OT. Honestly I couldn’t go any faster without trashing everything around me and much of the freight! So I work as fast as I can while still being safe and do minimal damage. Still looking forward to driver training 10/25.
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