Trucking School Update

Sorry for not posting in so long! I had no idea that trucking school would be so tiring. To make up for my abscence, I’ll make this a longer post.

First: the school. When I first signed up for this program, I was told that they are trying to get students tested in 3-5 weeks. This is the beginning of my 4th week. I have progressed SO MUCH since I started. It was a long, slow, humbling road, but I finally feel fairly confident behind the wheel of the trucks here. I have gotten much better on my backing maneuvers (straight line, offset, and parallel). It has been VERY difficult to master the backing maneuvers. It wasn’t until yesterday that I was finally able to identify why I was getting such inconsistent results. I realize this is all rather vague, but it would take a long time to explain these maneuvers, especially without pictures.

Second: driving on the road. I have also gotten much better at managing the truck on the road. Double clutching was difficult, but I just needed to develop the necessary muscle memory. Now I barely think about up shifting. Down shifting is a bit more difficult, but it’s also just muscle memory and rhythm. I used to have a lot of trouble with maintaining my lane, but now I check my mirrors more and I’m able to stay in the lines easily. I even had trouble checking my mirrors because I would drift when I looked in them because I had to look longer to understand what I was seeing. Now, I’m able to glance and know what I’m seeing. At this point, it’s just down to hammering out the small details and getting more consistent results. I’m actually going out to the offsite range to practice backing, which means that I will be ready to test for my CDL soon!

Third: friends. I have made several friends and am friendly with pretty much everyone here. I met two married gay men who basically took me under their wing. We’ve had a ton of fun together and they helped me understand a lot of the mistakes I was making. They are 4 weeks ahead of me and will be leaving with trainers shortly. Their class was part of the group that was estimated to leave in 4-6 weeks, but there were delays for them. I also met a bi man who trained as an actor and is an intellectual. He was driven here for the same reason I was: money. We’ve gotten on very well and it’s been refreshing to use my full vocabulary without worrying that I’ll sound like an elitist douche. There are a few other people that I’m friendly with from my class and I’ve been very surprised at the variety of people I’ve met here. There are people here from all over the world with all kinds of different backgrounds and life stories. I’m pretty sure I’ve met people that I will be friends with for the rest of my life.

Finally: what’s to come. Because I’ve finally been put on the offsite range, I should be testing by the end of this week or the beginning of next week. Once I pass my CDL test, then I have to train for a few days to learn how to back into an alley dock. Once I learn that maneuver, I take a test on it and Celadon’s safety test, which is just basically the same road test as I took for my CDL. After I pass that test, I’ll get sent home to get my physical CDL. Then, I have to come back and go through orientation and get placed with a trainer. I will be out with the trainer for 10,000 miles. After that, I’ll be team driving for a minimum of 6 months. Then I could continue to team, go solo with Celadon, or switch to another company and only have to pay $2,300 to Celadon to buy out my contract. I’m planning to play it by ear for now.

I never expected to struggle as much as I have learning how to drive a truck, but I’m so glad I stuck it out and got to this point. I know I would have dropped out without my friends here cheering me on.

I also realize I’ve made an excessive amount of driving puns and I wish I could stop, but I don’t think that’s going to happen.

Hope to see you down the road

~Catherine

 

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Out on the range

Today was my third day here at the company-sponsored CDL training facility. Yesterday was similar to the first day, with lots of safety presentations and laying the groundwork for getting us out in trucks. Today, however, we spent some time on the simulators. We are lucky enough to be at a facility that has four drive simulators that look just like the driver’s seat of a truck, but have a digital screen where the windshielld would be. Instead of getting in a real truck to practice changing gears, we did it in a simulation. It’s not really good for  much else due to the limited graphics and physics of the sim, but practicing changing gears without ruining a truck is very valuable experience. Expecialy since I would definitely have shredded the gears of a real truck, as well as possibly run someone over and/or rolled the truck if I hadn’t been on the sim. It was hard to get the rhythm of double clutching down! Considering I’ve only ever successfully driven a manual car once, ten years ago, I didn’t do too badly, but it was another humbling experence for me.

In the afternoon, a group of us went out to an offsite range to start learning how to do the pre-trip inspection. For those who don’t know, a pre-trip inspection is a VERY thorough inspection of the inside and outside of a truck performed EVERY time a trucker is getting ready to head back out on the road. Doesn’t matter if you were just stopped for lunch or overnight, you must perform the pre-trip inspection before leaving. It has to do with safety and liability. If a trucker takes off without doing the pre-trip and a few hundred miles down the road, a tire blows, or the brakes fail, or something happens to the truck that requires repairs and/or a delay in delivery of product, the company has no way of saying that it wasn’t the trucker’s fault and the incident could have been prevented altogether just by doing the inspection. Therefore, the inspection is thorough and, thus, difficult to memorize. Truckers have to know the different parts of the engine and identify if they are in proper working order, parts of the brakes, parts on the tractor, parts on the trailer, as well as an inspection of inside the tractor cab and a brake test. It’s a lot of information to memorize, but fortunatley, it is just straight memorization. They are giving us all the information we need to pass the test, we just need to memorize it. I do know I will need the full three weeks to get it down, though. Also, we got caught in a torrential downpour while out there tooday… twice. Once with lightning. Fun fun.

It’s late and I have to get up at 7am (ugh) so I’ll end it here for now.

Hope to see you down the road.

~Catherine