I’ll be a utility P&D driver so working dock if no route or filling in on routes with no driver. Recent new drivers I talked with say they end up working the dock 1-2 days a month and driving routes all over the metro area. You find out what route you are doing each day. We get driver pay and OT no matter what we are doing: dock, driving, unloading, etc. They are still short drivers. As we get seniority we can get a set route of our own. OT on the dock or picking up routes on Sat and or Sun are always an option.
YRC Driver training - Roadsidedown's journey
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Really looking forward to working with a trainer on his route to learn the real job knowledge and skills.
DAY 13 / WEEK 3
We are in a routine to strengthen and polish our skills. Most will go through pretrip practice in the morning, then between breaks and lunch we rotate through backing, shifting around the terminal and road driving with an instructor. Yesterday we watched some backing videos to help those still having issues. Most of us are solid on all our backing and shifting. Everyone has been on the road at least four times. I've been getting many compliments on my smooth shifting and downshifting, road awareness, hill starts, etc. Today the instructor cut my drive short after 30 minutes saying my driving is excellent, nothing more needs to be instructed so lets give time back to those students more help. That was fantastic to hear. Today I really worked on slowing down for stops way ahead, calmly shifting down through to 6th, and easing around corners. My instructor kept up a steady conversation and while I enjoyed it as we have some common background experiences, but I kept my primary focus on my mirrors, the road, my speed and RPMs, intersections, etc. My pretrip is pretty smooth and complete and we can miss up to 13 items so that should be a no brainer. My backing is solid and now my road driving is practically perfect. We have just over a week left in training. Tons of time with the instructors. We got a fourth instructor this week and two students depart for finishing up at Kansas, so next week it will be 4 instructors and 5 students. At this point, the only way I could possibly fail the DMV exam is to get a terrible case of nerves and slam into the examiner's car or something! I believe I could test out anytime this week successfully. Yet we have 1.5 weeks to go to get even better.
This has been an incredible training program. I think it is partly due to really great student camaraderie, largely to good instructors who are both focused on the exam requirements as well as practical driving skills/knowledge, and also ready access to a truck and trailer for every student. Obviously a ton of time was put in by the lead instructor to design the class structure, arrange facilities and trucks and practice area. We have some ancient equipment to work with but I would much rather have lots of time with old beater trucks than far less time with the newer Volvos. Over the 2.5 weeks of class I have had at least 24 hours pretrip practice, at least 20 hours each for backing and yard shifting, and 4 road drives of about 5 hours total. By the end of the class I will likely have about 34 hours pretrip, 30 hours of backing, 30 hours of yard shifting and 15 hours of road driving. Plus the 2 days of classroom instruction and 35 hours of federal standard video courses. If I needed more time on anything the instructors would be right there making sure I focused on the that until mastering it.
I'll keep posting to let you all know how the YRC CDL program finishes out and whether I actually pass the DMV tests or not.
So far I see no downsides to this training program. Free, no payback. High instructor to student ratio. 4 solid weeks of well organized instruction and instant access to an instructor for help on a problem or to ask for change in task. Lots of trucks to use. All day access to a large practice yard in which we can have two offset backing areas, a parallel parking area and two areas for alley dock backing. Then we have the drive lanes around the terminal perimeter we can use, plus the freeway, state highways, industrial streets and downtown Portland streets. I've only needed 5 hrs road driving to have that down plenty good for the exam. But I will likely end with 15 hrs road time. If I needed more I could easily get it arranged with the instructor. I've read of guys in other companies' programs getting only 3-4 hours behind the wheel for backing, shifting and driving and not feeling ready to test. It has been many times more than that here. I'm not even sure if 1:1 tutoring/training would be better. Sometimes it is good to have 2-4 instructors who tell and show things differently so if you don't click into one of them, maybe the manner of one of the others makes more sense to you. I've not heard one student complain of not having enough time practicing a task. Usually we are just worn out at the end of the day--we can only do so much and then need time to refresh over night and come back at it again the next day. Our instructors have incredible patience and good humor. It reduces the stress tremendously. We bring enough stress on ourselves as this is a very important goal for all of us. Having calm, at ease instructors makes learning much, much easier.
Anyway, 2.5 weeks into the 4 week program and it is pretty much in the can for passing the exam. Just keep drilling and improving, keeping it fresh.
END OF WEEK 3
Overall this was a fantastic week. The first week was mostly classroom, videos and pretrip. Second week was introduction to all the backing maneuvers and shifting. Nearly seemed impossible we could master those.
This third week was day after day of running through all the drills, rotating between tasks after breaks (we are union after all LOL!). All of us are doing good on the backing. I believe everyone is shifting around the yard fine. Plus we got into rotations driving on the road. Some had some difficulties with down shifting in traffic, watching their speed, hill starts, etc. my first one was ok but rough as I let myself get amped up by the traffic. Drives 2-5 were much smoother and I got many compliments from the instructors. Looks like everyone is close to passable but more polish next week will be good.
My confidence did get rattled Thursday. All week I was nailing the alley dock backing and then suddenly on the fourth day I could not even get close. Undershooting every time. I went to bed early, woke up refreshed and today I was back to nailing the alley docks with one pull up and one GOAL. Others had similar experience on different tasks but seems to just be a passing glitch. Very solid week for everyone.
My Oregon DMV exam is scheduled for Nov 22, Monday. Next week will be just the remaining five students and two instructors and more focus on just the test trucks (Volvos). So we should be able to really burn into our brains and muscles the shifter and clutch and backing with those. We might also have time to get extra training for chains, hazmat, and hooking and dropping sets. Not necessary for the CDL of course but the CDL trainers want us up to speed as much as possible before handing us off to the terminal trainers. So probably bumping the dock a few more times, too.
I also found out that one of our instructors will also be one of the two trainers I drive with my first month hauling freight. He is a great driver and trainer so I am looking forward to working with him.
After three weeks of CDL training I am very pleased with the YRC program. I can’t think of anything that could be improved. It would be nice of course to have several current model trucks to train on rather than old cast off trucks. But the good thing was we had one useable truck per student. That allowed us to get tons of time behind the wheel. I haven’t heard one complaint of lack of equipment or wheel time. The instructors are top notch. Not just excellent course planners and instructors but accomplished drivers and genuinely nice guys and fun to work with.
We are coming down to the wire!
DAY 17 / WEEK 4
Last week of CDL training underway.
This week are doing some of the standard drills but the instructors are also focusing each of us on what we can improve on. It looks like all of the five remaining students are solid and likely to pass the state tests. Pretrip, backing, shifting, road drive every day. Plus we finished six hours of more in-depth Hazmat training.
My pretrip is fairly polished and complete. I made changes based on instructor feedback and the DMV manual. On about the fifth revision of my memorized script. The straight and offset backing are locked in, very easy. Practicing being patient now, just ease back in idle so any deviation is small and easily corrected with very slight steering wheel movements. Alley docks are 90% using one pull-up and only rarely need two pull-ups. Using GOAL just before getting to the DOT bumper cones to measure final distance. Nailing it every time. I have a much better feel for the trailer angle and wrapping it around that inside cone. Again just easing back in idle and stopping to look better and think it through if any doubt.
My road driving is improving steadily. I picked up the double clutch shifting fairly quickly and it is now almost smooth. Making my downshifts easily, more compliments on that. Got feedback today that should smooth out my intersection transitions, and of course need to improve consistency of looking both ways when passing through an intersections and more frequent mirror checks. I’ve lost of my tenseness on the road and enjoy the drives a lot. Otherwise driving safely, no traffic violations, smooth and under control. Traffic was moderate and steady but not nearly as congested as last Wednesday. Probably just one more road drive this week.
Since the class is on track to do well on the DMV tests we will get a day of hooking and dropping double trailers, maybe do snow chains, and a fun backing slalom course. Three days left and then DMV tests on Monday. Great group of guys I will enjoy driving with at YRC. About half of the class are line haul and half are P&D drivers.
DAY 20 / END OF CDL TRAINING
The last couple of days were a wind down. Just keeping skills fresh. We did some extra activities like a maneuver rodeo with single pup, double set, 48 footer, and pup towing a dolly. Today we learned a bit about throwing chains. Mainly that it will suck big time doing three rail chains in the blowing snow! In Oregon we have to three rail our drives, and a single chain on one side of each dolly and trailer axle.
Our two students who went to Kansas to test both passed and now have their license. Three of us test on Monday and two more the next Monday. Our instructors have walked us through the logistics for test day. I am glad it works out I can stop by the terminal in the morning and do some refresher drives and backing then head over to the examiner site. I need a few shifts in a truck to get my shifts smoothed. So far it seems the biggest challenges for those testing have been nerves and getting tunnel vision on the immediate traffic and losing awareness of the wider scene and signs and such. Felt bad for one of the students who worked so hard doing parallel parking and then it wasn’t chosen for them! At least they passed anyway.
This weekend is going to be about catching up on my sleep, and review the pretrip and road driving requirements.
My next post will be Monday afternoon. Pass, or fail and try again.
DMV TEST DAY
Passed the pretrip and backing no problem. Was doing fine on first 40 minutes of a 50 minute drive test. Making a right hand turn into a two lane road and a car is sticking out past the stop line making a left turn onto my road. I should have either changed my turn radius, wait fir him to back up or just tell the tester I was going to ease it over the curb to avoid the turning vehicle. But, I thought I could turn a few feet sooner to clear the car AND still clear the curb. Nope. Up and over, oops. Instant fail.
Man, there were at least twice as many intersections to navigate compared to our training drives. We were doing lots of lefts and rights. My shifting was OK except lost a gear slowing down toward a stop and had to coast a little longer than the trailer. Signaling and mirror checks were good. Roadside stop went without a hitch. One darn curb.
Well, I have to wait a week. Hopefully I can get a reschedule slot next Tuesday. Looks like I will be back on the dock driving the forklift of shame this week LOL!
At least one other fellow student passed everything OK just before me. Hooray!
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