END OF WEEK 1 - ROUTE TRAINING
I am finally in a truck with a trainer driving a real delivery route. The guy is very experienced, very patient and dedicated to his job. Learning to use the ELD. Not so much for HOS because as we drive within a 150 mile radius and work less than 72 hrs a week we are exempt. But the ELD tracks it nonetheless. Mostly to log our tractor, which trailer we are hauling and the load on it. As we deliver or pick up freight we are updating the PRO numbers and date/time, trailer space remaining, exceptions, etc. plus it acts like a radio to verbally update dispatch we are clear, waiting for a train to pass (30 minutes!), no freight at stop etc.
Also getting good coaching on my backing, driving, and general road and lot navigation in the real world. Safe and smooth. Backing under constantly changing scenarios is still a challenge. Especially the set up when it is crowded. Nothing so nice as our practice lot except at a couple of modern distribution centers.
Working 11-12.5 hr days M-F. Racking up OT. One other student from my CDL class is also a P&D driver at my terminal so we catch up on events and news when we can. Drove with another trainer on Friday. Very chill guy with more good tips and feedback.
since are are driving to outlying areas like Longview and Vancouver we mostly use a 40’ trailer, but pull an occasional 53’,48’ or 28’. Nobody likes going to Amazon. The drop off is OK but nobody EVER comes with bills and manifest so we could take a loaded trailer back. Decent driver lounge though.
Some customers are super clean and organized, some will even greet us and unload or load our trailer all friendly like. Other places nobody comes and we do it all and leave a copy of waybill, and some are kind of grumpy they have to get out of their chair to look at a pallet of their stuff they bought. LOL
Overall I enjoy the P&D schedule, driving and dock interactions. We get some freeway and highway miles as well as country roads and urban streets. Buying my own Garmin Dezl gps as the ELD clay tablets we use don’t have mapping haha! We do about 12-15 deliveries by about noon, have lunch and then do 2-6 pickups before heading back. If the schedule is light we might take a volume load to a customer distribution center the first couple of hours like we did Friday to Staples.
My trainer seems to know all the other LTL drivers we encounter from UPS, Estes, FedEx, etc. He has worked for a few carriers and talks shop and hangs on weekends with many trucker friends and seems happy to settle down with YRC. Old equipment but safe, office mostly leaves you alone as long as you show up and make deliveries, and OT and benefits are great. At this schedule my nominal wage of $52K/yr will actually be closer to $75K with OT, not counting company contributions to pension and savings via super medical coverage. Not bad for being home by 6:30pm every day and having every weekend off and the ever-present option for more OT if I wanted it.
Everyone keeps saying how much easier driving will get each week. Looking forward to that. I can’t imagine how boring and frustrating it could be for the trainers to ride around all day with us noobs on THEIR route in THEIR truck. But the ones we have are truly good. Absolutely looking forward to being alone in my own truck in a few weeks and figuring out routes, traffic and backings on my own.
Oh yeah, made it through one week of about 40 hrs driving (3x as much as my CDL training) city streets and rush hour freeways with no accidents or dead people! We did witness a car driving on the rims in the center lane of I-5 at 35mph, and a hellacious multi-car crash on the other side of the freeway that blew debris and wrecked cars all across the four lanes and stopped all southbound traffic. I keep a long safe space no matter how many cars zip in front of my grill!
I call the far right lane the YRC hammer lane. 62mph baby! I think I passed one vehicle this week, a pickup pulling a small dozer on a flatbed! For you other truckers, If it’s Yellow, leave it to mellow, OK? We’ll get there eventually. Starting out, it is fine with me though.
YRC Driver training - Roadsidedown's journey
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END OF WEEK 2 - ROUTE TRAINING
Big accomplishment this week was learning to float gears, at least going up. So darn easy. Finally tried it a bit yesterday and then this morning had a half hour idle before the route started. So I took the rig around the yard and practiced . It went well so I floated gears all day driving to deliveries on town streets, industrial sites, neighborhoods and freeways.
Tomorrow is a paid holiday so I am going in on my time to practice floating down gear and backing. I don’t have a feel for the 40’ trailer when backing so going to repeat, repeat backing to docks and yard slots while the terminal is empty.
The instructor thinks my road driving is pretty good but I have to be able to nail the standard backings consistently and float up and down. My turns and stops are smooth, the floating has made my acceleration smoother and faster. I am pretty safe driver but still hit a curb today in an empty parking lot when trying to get around to back to another trailer for transfer of pallets. Although I was good on all the street curbs, I need to eliminate those occasional curb hits completely to get signed off.
Apparently the ELD training was a one time thing when they got them years ago, and now it is just mimicking what a trainer does without having any reference instructions. Coming from an IT background the lack of reference material to really understand all options and errors and scenarios is annoying. Plus having to keep track of shipping info on both the waybills and ELD is so inefficient, but hey, paid by the hour, right?
Anyway, week 2 of 4 is in the can with reasonable skill development. I am confident the with two more weeks of training and practicing on my own that I will get to a passable skill level. When I finally go solo I won’t have an expert ready at hand. But I think it will be really nice to problem solve and try new skills in my own way. It sounds like new drivers are usually given 28’ pups to haul so that should simplify the backing in tight spaces tremendously. My trainer can back a 53’ at speed around compound curves without hesitation. Which apparently is pretty common. It is amazing what you old hands can do! He says repetition and developing reference marks will make it easier and easier with time on a route. These trainers sacrifice a lot to help us new guys. I appreciate it. Invaluable training. Tons of patience mixed with challenging and encouraging.
So tomorrow, I’ll watch some downshift float videos then go practice for a few hours. These
Thought I should give an idea of what YRC P&D routes are like. This is in the context of driving with a trainer in the first two weeks. I have only been on two different routes so some may vary but a likely fairly similar.
0300 Rise and shine cupcake! Get up, do my morning routine and head out about 0410 so I can get to the terminal by 0445 to ensure I am never later than 0500 due to unforeseen traffic or weather.
0500: We arrive at the dock 5am, get the truck warming up and clock in. Check the trailer at our route's door to see if it is loaded, about how many waybills are loaded and are in the bay. Figure out if any pallets need to be moved off, rearrange or added. For the Longview, WA route (almost 45 miles out) we will deliver to Ridgefield, Woodland, Kalama, Longview, Kelso and occasionally Castle Rock (50+ miles). Cities such as Vancouver, Portland and Salem are split into 2-3 routes (with mostly box trucks in downtown Portland). Reasons for adding or subtracting pallets are varied: can only make about 10-12 stops per day assuming we will get 4-6 pickups in the afternoon; might be too heavy for the trailer or other freight to be hauled; expedited, etc. Or we might be taking a 53' for a very long item and none of those have lift gates so we will only deliver to stops with forklifts or docks.
After checking in with the supervisor and dispatch we go out to the door/trailer and get to work. Usually a dock worker will move the freight for us, but sometimes we will use our pallet jack or grab our own forklift to do it. Most deliveries are 1-2 pallets and sometimes a few more. But lots of single pallets. Home Depot, Lowes or Walmart store is almost always 2-4 pallets. We deliver to mills and machinery and equipment dealers so it is not unusual to have a couple of 1,000-3,000# pallets. My trainer likes to haul a 48' lift gate trailer as that can handle anything, and with his skill he can maneuver it any place. When it is in the shop he takes a 40'. Our typical trailer weight is about 10,000#, with infrequent heavies as much as 30,000 (tandems).
0630: Now we have the trailer load squared away, logged into the ELD, downloaded our waybills info and ready to roll. Sometimes we hang around until 0700 if the first customer does not open until 0800. There is always something that can be taken care of in the office and my trainers are very organized and mission focused so they make use of any available time to improve the flow and plan ahead. We tell the ELD to ENROUTE us to the first stop and head out and hit I-5 NB to our first stop. Usually I drive for several hours and then the trainer will drive for a couple fo hours to give me a break and catch up on the speed. They get no relaxed schedule for training. They take full loads PLUS have to explain everything and patiently watch me crawl through new tasks. each day and week I can do more on my own and drive more confidently so the pace gradually picks up.
0730 Make deliveries! We are driving freeway, highways, industrial roads and city streets. Lots of shifting up and down, some open roads and some rush hour streets and highways. About half the stops the customer comes out with a fork lift. We move the freight to the back and they unload it. Give a copy of the waybill to the customer, enter the delivery info to the ELD (name of receiving person, any exceptions, odometer). Other stops are docks and there is one or two meant for us to use. Rarely do we have to wait for another truck to move out so we can move in. Mostly an open slot we can back in to. Most customers are either there to sign the waybill and watch or help unload; if not, we unload it and leave the waybill copy for them. Takes maybe 5-20 minutes per stop. We are using the pallet jack much of the time to move freight out of the way, unload, or get ready for the next stop. The next customer stop could be across the street or across town.
Most customers do not want us using their restrooms. A very few allow it, or have a driver lounge or a porta-pot. So you take advantage of those when you can to offload that morning coffee! I can't remember we ever stopped somewhere else specifically for restroom except at lunch. I only drink about 20 oz. of water during a 13 hour day to minimize potty break needs LOL! That will change when it is hot out.
1230 We have made most of our deliveries. Time to take a break. We take a 10 minute paid break and 30 minute lunch back to back at a truck stop. Relax, eat and chat. Some drivers will nap at this time and eat on the go. My trainer is old school and heats his lunch up on the turbo about half hour before we stop. Pick up notices arrive sporadically all day but most are just after 1pm. So we try not to leave the furthest our location (Longview or Kelso) until we are sure there are none in our area. The trainer will confirm with dispatch and perhaps call a couple of nearby customers to verify whether they plan to have us pick anything up that day.
1330 We head out to make pick ups starting nearest and working back toward Portland terminal. Same as deliveries but usually fewer but more time consuming. We check their shipping papers, sign them, leave a copy, and apply PRO numbers if needed. Then we scan the PRO number(s) into the ELD, enter the number of pallets, weight and destination zip code and off we go. If we have few pick ups then we practice me backing up or something until about 3pm before heading south of Longview so we don't get called back there for a late pick up. By 1500 we want to be heading south for the final pick ups. If it is a really light day we might deliver a volume load to a distribution center in the morning (2-3 hours) before our route. Or, we will offer to help the Vancouver guys with pick ups on our way back in. One day we ended up doing 10 pick ups in Vancouver in addition to our full route.
1700 We are usually hitting the I-5 SB rush hour traffic in Vancouver about now. Sometimes it flows slow but smooth, sometimes packed and stop and go. Once the I-5 bridge over the Columbia River was closed due to police action so we (and 10,000 other vehicles) rerouted to surface streets, I-205 to the east, and back on surface street to I-5 south of the blockade to the terminal. Took us two hours to go 5 miles as the crow flies.
1800 Sometime between 1700 and 1800 we arrive at the terminal, finish up the ELD and paperwork entries and logging off routine, hand in the completed waybills and shipping papers to dispatch and review what I did well and what I need to work on tomorrow. Most training days are 12-13 hours long with a few rare treats of only 11 hours. My trainer tells me when I get a route it will likely be more like 10 hours with a pup trailer to begin with (thank you Jesus!). Most likely spend at least a month as a "utility driver" filling in for other route drivers who are sick or on vacation. Both of my trainers have routes in areas they live so they are intimately familiar with the streets, alternate routes and even the businesses. I dearly hope I can get a route on the west side of Portland (Beaverton, Hillsboro, Forest Grove or Yamhill area where I am very familiar. But I am prepared to pay my dues wherever they put me and keep an eye out for a better route as time goes on. My number one goal is to get that first year of experience, hone those skills, and drive safe. Then reassess options. From what I hear you can be a minimalist and drive just the assigned route and the "perfect" freight and end up with an easy 7-8 hr day. Or you can work to get as much freight on each load, make more deliveries, do some volume hauls and extra pickups and work as many hours as the law allows. They are short of drivers so there is more work than you could ask for. Make as much OT as you want driving or do some dock work at driver pay rate.
1845 Arrive home. My wife usually has a delicious hot dinner ready or we go out or nuke some frozen dinners. I try to get to bed by 8:30pm or I will pay for it with tiredness the next days. Not much time during this period for much more than personal routine, driving, commuting, and eating. At least I have weekends off so I can catch up on family, church, and household things then.
Obviously this is only the routine I have experienced in just two weeks with a trainer on his route. These guys are incredibly patient and take the time to explain things repeatedly, give candid feedback and if need be demo it themselves. At times they have to step in due to tight time frames or especially difficult docks that are easy for them with a 48' trailer but would normally be done with a pup by a new driver. When there is time they let me hack away at more challenging docks.
Today was a company holiday (Christmas Eve) so I used the opportunity to go in on my time and practice for 4 hours floating gears, especially down shifting. It went very well. I am much smoother and more confident floating up and down gears now. I mixed in practice backing into trailer slots and am getting a better eye for that especially easing in next to trailers on one or both sides.
Good job and Kudos for achieving what you set as a goal.
I'm 65 and still learn a bit more than I forget each day.
Thanks, Dennixx! I see so many guys wondering what the CDL training is like that I thought I would document my experience for their reference.
In the route training attitude makes a big difference. The trainers are sacrificing a lot to help us get up to speed in the real world. If you show up on time, pay attention and really make an effort to consistently apply their advice then they are eager to help you out with more than just the technical stuff. Have a lazy or careless attitude and you are wasting their time.
I talked with a mechanic yesterday. Also a super nice guy and helped me out getting a tractor to practice with. Everyone at YRC knows we have ancient equipment, but it is well maintained and safe. We are sorely lacking office staff, even not enough dispatch. That can suck trying to get some things done (three months to get my ID badge, LOL!) but also means no one is micro managing you. If you are hauling the freight they leave you alone. To me safe equipment, pleasant coworkers, and being left alone to drive and deliver is exactly what I want. At least I don’t have to fill a DEF tank on any of our trucks!!! The number one amazing thing to me considering all the office SNAFUs is the paychecks have been on time and no problems and pay increase immediate with the CDL from day one. YRC does good on payroll and that makes up for a lot of other task detours.
I know I'm not a freight hauler, but will say you want to be tight w the dispatch folks and then your mechanics and then the hostlers. After that are the managers, and they should be treated accordingly.
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