I can see very plainly God has called me to this job. Every day I say a little prayer thanking him for showing me this unexplored terrain. Let me just spell this out- I’m an investor, I went to boarding school in Vermont, I grew up on caviar and horse back riding and sailboat racing. I traveled Europe for 3 years and picked up 7 different languages! I mean a truck driver is something so very unexpected for me, yet wow here I am. However if there is something you are supposed to do you just feel it. I don’t know why but I just feel right in a truck and I get the sense I was lead to it in a convoluted series of events. I’m also amazed in the amount of support I’ve gotten for doing this from my family and friends – of which I am grateful. I’m even more amazed at how easy to get along with other truck drivers actually are- I seem to fit right in like a glove.
I will also like to point out to anyone about to get their CDL learner permit, there is an app that is immensely helpful for test questions at the DMV. I swear at least half the questions on this practice test app was actually on my DMV test (just saying)
Who would have guessed truck drivers used algebra? Seriously not even investors use algebra In truck school GPS doesn’t exist we have to manually calculate the weight limit on bridges and how to shift weight. We have to calculate how long it takes to get from point A to point B. We have to calculate gear ratios- which is a tedious busy work. It didn’t surprise me too much I’m better at it then most people in my class. Though I’m sure in real life (like in investing) algebra isn’t required.
Some in my class are just 21 years old, they never had to use a map before. Im not much older only 27, but yes I remember the days before Google maps and GPS so I think this was easier for me then some in the class. There is a number of 40 year olds in class which surprised me, they were absolutely horrible at using the map… (isn’t that something). Truck driver maps are only slightly different then car maps- in that you have to watch for mountain areas where trucks might not be allowed to go, or bridges with low weight limits, and other various exceptions. Truck drivers have to actually use the index which includes all such unexpected surprises. Mainly the goal is to stay on the highway, and try to only get into major cities at night.
Truck drivers are not under the jurisdiction of local police so much as the federal government. While we still have to follow local laws in each state, the Department of Transportation (DOT) is ussually the ones who pulls us over- and they have a slightly different rule book. As anyone could imagine federal regulations are extensive and mind numbingly boring. Log Books being a whole different thing sufficed to say we’re only allowed to drive at most 11 hours a day. Log books being convoluted I won’t won’t get into it.
The good news here is no one expects us to be an expert beyond general maintenance and common troubleshooting. That much I can handel for mechanics. Like most car drivers I admit I don’t really know how the thing works I just know how to drive it. I’m glad the school agrees with this logic I admit I have no interestin fixing trucks- in not paid enough for that.
After about 3 weeks of just book work we finally get in the truck. Starting with pretrip inspection and drop and hook. Though the book work doesn’t stop here entirely, we are slowly and gradually weaned out of the classroom completely until the final 3 weeks.
Going through every nook and cranny of the truck and trailer looking for mechanical damage or a violation of DOT
regulations. The list of things to look for consists of 70+ things and is done under 10 mins, everyday. It gets redundant fairly quick but is meant to quickly identify a problem with the truck so to get it fixed before it becomes a issue… or before a small issue becomes a bigger issue. Some could imagine as a truck driver there will be a new trailer on the truck almost everyday, so trailer inspection is fairly important. I believe Airline Pilots have to do something similar before take off- Easy, yes but redundant.
I will post 2 videos of Pretrip inspection on a playlist, exterior and interior, The guy in the video is one of the instructors of the school. I understand he actually trains the examiners at the DMV who do road tests in order to pass the license exam. ( I have a good feeling about going to the same school that trains these examiners, Though I believe this video was filmed at the instructors old job not the school)
Drop and hook.
In truck school I have thus far dropped and hooked a thousand times already, I suspect I will do so a million and 1 times more.
Set the trailer brakes, block the wheels, Lower the landing gear, uncouple the airlines, un hook the trailer, drive away. Back up, check the trailer is in line with king pin, reconnect airlines, back up into trailer, test trailer brakes by pulling up a bit, recheck everything, raise landing gear and unblock wheels.
In that order, it gets redundant but this was the first time I actually drove a truck. When I first started I was like OMG IM DRIVING!! Now I’m finding new and creative ways to get out of it :-p
Straight line Backing.
Here is when school actually begins to get in session- at least for me. It is another redundant task however here I quickly picked up a new spin with it- shifting gears.
Around week 4 we begin to back up to a dock trying to keep the truck straight. The trailer swings, so the goal is to try backing and keep it straight. Obviously the only thing we can use is the mirrors to see what we’re doing. (Trucks do not have back windows, and the ones that do all you see is the front of the trailer).
For me at first I wanted to get a sense of depth perception with the mirrors, so I know exactly when to stop without being told. (The mirror can be deceptive). I noticed everyone else failed to understand this, as they always waited till someone signaled them or yelled. A classmate was complaining to me that I wouldn’t yell at him to stop when he crashed into the dock, but I told him you need to work on your depth perception in mirrors on your own. He raised a hissy fit, but come test time he got an A only because the instructor did not have to tell him when to stop- he knew when on his own. So yeah, your welcome! This sounds dumb but it proved so much more benificial on later styles of backing.
After doing straight line backing for ever since 4 weeks ago, it has become thoroughly natural and again redundant. What my issue was mostly is shifting gears. So I reinvented straight line backing into gear shifting. This being the only backing maneuver that pulls forward straight and back up, I simply pull forward while shifting to 4th gear. Getting to 4th gear within 25 feet being standard on the road for trucks it’s best I learn this now.
See side backing.
On my very first go with see side backing I did it flawlessly and I swear it was sheer luck. After that I was a bit bumpy for while- but everyone in the school was talking about how I was at this point the best in class at just about everything. Strangers would come up to me asking me questions because they heard through the grape vine I’m the best!!
I’m like shut up I know it :-p
See side backing is backing up from the side… kinda like how a car backs up into a driveway, except try doing it with a trailer. It’s tricky, but the trick is keep backing up straight and make a hard turn just when the trailer is almost about to come to 90 deg angle. To show you what I mean here’s a video.
This has different names including alley dock backing, but anyway moving on.
Blind side Backing.
This is the same as see side backing except backing up on the passenger side. It’s called blind side backing because you literally can’t see where you going. The mirrors are useless as all they show is the side of the trailer. Unfortunately you have walk around the whole truck and guess if your doing it right. I notice the school only puts cones up for this one not the trailers, rightly so. The whole class has ended up way on the other side of the parking lot for this one myself included.
I consider it a personal achievement I managed to not kill any cones trying to do this. Instead I drive in between them and all around them and just about everywhere else I wasn’t suppose to go. I will in the future take the instructors advice and NEVER DO THIS UNLESS I ABSOLUTELY HAVE NO CHOICE!! Though I have gotten better with it and an A on Blind side test, I’m glad that’s over..
Here’s what it’s all about. Many companies send a recruiter to the school to give a presentation about their company. They usually give us free pens and things, then talk about the pay and benefits and what all else. All of their applications are at the front desk which I was so nervous about filling out for a while- just because I had 0 truck driving experience other then the school. I’ve been a property manager and a private investor for 6 years so let’s be even clearer- I have absolutely no blue collar experience whatsoever other then a bar tending job I only took because I thought bar tending was fun and easy (it’s not btw). So I went ahead I put my head under the job market guillotine with 7 different companies.
To my surprise I was instantly prehired with 5 companies within a 3 day period, (including a company I applied to in Germany, just to see if I can work in Europe). 1 of which was in my top 3- (I am still waiting on the other 2 in my top 3). All 4 of them told me because of my perfect driving record they can’t wait to have me and NTTS is a very very good school!
What I’ve learned about the truck driving job market is every company only sounds the same but each is completely different. Some use newer trucks, some prefer older because they have to be broken in. Most starting pay is 40 +/- cents a mile. Health benefits vary. Blah blah blah… Companies that have come to the school are:
Werner, Maverick, TMC, Falcon Transportation, YRC, H.O. Wolding, Wadhams, US Xpress, and Rohl Transportation.
My top 3 picks is as follows:
Wadhams is the main one I want because they have 4 different divisions 2 of which have caught my eye. Rist transport is over the road and Earl T. Wadhams is milk delivery. Here’s the thing though- I really want the Milk division, but the milk division is 3 hours away in the country. Rist is right here in my city though so for me it’s a foot in the door. I can’t just pick up and move now but I can a year from now- plus I’ve been wanting to move out of the city anyway so Wadhams just fits into my personal life plans.
The pay is average 40-55k a year, and the nice thing is I never really go too far away. They also have the best benifits including vision dental and Blue cross insurance with $ 250 deductible (which has become very rare). As far as I know I’m the only one in my class who even applied to Wadhams which should set me up good with them already.
What I noticed about my class so far is they are looking at dollar signs and who ever pays the best. Not necessarily anything else. Wadhams pays 35 cents a mile while other places pay 40 cents a mile. The difference here is Wadhams gives more miles then those paying 40 cents. I try explaining to them the simple equation.
Cents X Mile= $$
Then try explaining to them they are never going to find a $250 deductible on insurance ever again. Plus vision and dental
both of which have no deductible. Yes Wadhams pays a little less then some but they make up for it in benefits and simply not going into Canada or New York City… being another thing in itself. Plus they pay for dead head miles (driving without a load). So it’s a rare gem I suppose for those who are smart enough to see the advantage. I only just applied yesterday I very much can’t wait to get the call!
Though I mentioned H.O. Wolding and Falcon as my other 2 choices I won’t get in detail with them. They are great companies for different reasons, but that’s a whole other essay.
Driving the Truck.
Aside from jobs this is what it’s really all about. Thus far I’ve been on the road during rush hour 3 times. The trucks at the school used for road rides are not the same trucks used for various ways of backing up in the parking lot. The trucks in the parking lot are pretty beat up and we’re made in the 70s- they still run but all they can really do is back up and pull forward at slow speeds. The road ride trucks you would think are much improved however they have certainly been used themselves quite a bit.
Personally I don’t care I love sitting up so high above the traffic, looking down at all the little 4 wheelers. To me they all look like a swarm of rats buzzing around waiting for someone to step on them!!
I still have to work on shifting gears and double clutching, though I have gotten better at it. Turning isn’t really an issue for me though, I’ve gotten trough some tight ones. Needless to say Trucks need to make WIDE turns and preferably quickly so not to piss all the little 4 wheelers off- (I say screw the 4 wheelers being pissed though, I take my time)
I made it a point to take on the toughest instructor on the yard first thing. I noticed all the lazy people from the previous class complained about this guy and after driving with him I can see why. He’s a typical backseat driver, chatty, distracting and not very forgiving. I learned how to drive a car with this type, honestly no one is worse then my mother, so learning when/how to tune him out was easy for me- AND I have exceeded his expectations!!!
So here is my midway report of truck driving school. Already I’m the best in class at just about everything except mechanical, I seem to fit in well with everyone, and I love the BIG RIG!!
perhaps I will start a whole different blog on truck driving. Perhaps I will just keep posting updates here- that remains undecided