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Week 3

Every morning we were on the range at 6am. In the dark. Started the truck and did in cab check. In reality we were trying to get warm. Once it was light we could move the trucks and would start our skills practice. Lots of practice on skills. Every morning we third weekers would go out on the road for driving practice. Our instructor tried to find more difficult routes each day. This was very good practice and here at school is the place to mess up as long as you learn from your mistakes. Pay attention and learn from others’ mistakes, too. Monday nobody could shift, we were all grinding gears. Each day we got better. By Thursday my classmate, Andy was so smooth I thought I was riding in an automatic. Really. Wednesday we both passed our driving test at school and Thursday we each drove for two hours. That afternoon we did one go round on the skills and we were done. They let us leave early on Thursday. I stayed one more night and left Friday morning. Feeling real good about my test. I’m scheduled for Monday at 9am near Harrisburg PA.

Week 4

I drive up to Lancaster PA Sunday night and check into motel. They are calling for snow in the morning. Hope it’s not much.

Monday morning Andy and I report to third party test site over 30 minutes early. Not anxious much, are we? Snow was falling but only a little sticking to the grass. As time went on it got worse. Andy is scheduled for 7am. By 7:30 the roads are covered and the testing has been canceled. Yuck! This is the view out the back window of my pickup.viewoutmybackwindow32513_zps87041e7f.jpg

So we head back to the motel to hang out until Tuesday. The tester rearranged their schedule so we could test the next day. Thank you, thank you. I took a nap since I hadn’t slept much the night before, nerves were getting to me. Later on I walked across the street and got a manicure.gelmanicure32513_zpsd841557b.jpg

Looks like a claw hand, doesn’t it? I got a french manicure in gel. We’ll see how long it lasts. It was still snowing.

Tuesday morning, fully rested we show up 30 minutes early again. Andy goes first. He passes. Hooray! Then it’s my turn. We walk around and point at (not touch) what I am checking. Do not raise the hood just list off what I would be looking at. Once I “check” one brake system on one wheel I don’t need to repeat it. So pre-trip went quickly. In-cab next. By the way when you’re going to check the air brakes be sure you have air supplied to the system. I got part way through the check and said to myself “something’s not right here”. I told the tester I was doing it wrong and she let me start over, said I caught it in time. Whew! Anyway after that was the driving part of the test. I hit every gear. I never forgot which gear I was in (kept repeating it in my head). Didn’t run over any curbs or cars or people. Was even able to hold a conversation with the tester while on the highway. Best of all I did not stall when reentering the test lot and that was upslope from a stop. Afterwards I called my instructor at Swift and said “I don’t know how to break this to you…” and he went oh no. Then I said I passed! He was very excited for me. I thanked him for taking me on those challenging drives. I was more than prepared for the tests.

So long story short, I PASSED!! I now have my CDL with all the endorsements. Wednesday I went to the port and picked up my TWIC card. I am ready to roll. Now I’m headed for 3 day orientation on Monday in Harrisburg PA. After that I will go out with my female mentor/trainer and learn about trucking in the real world. Right now I’m repacking my stuff to go on my mentor’s truck. Trying to keep it as light as possible and take up as little space as possible.

I have been having a blast this past month. I got up in the truck for my test and thought “This feels comfortable, sitting in this driver’s seat”. Thank you Brett for all the fore knowledge this site gave me. It really made all the difference.

FYI I’ll be 56 next month and I don’t feel old at all. I’m excited to be starting on another new adventure. Let’s roll!

So I’m completely moved out of my house. Took a little longer than I though but all was done by March 1. Well, the moving part. Carpets were to be cleaned yesterday and bedrooms painted later this week.

Big and I spent the last week of February with some friends of ours. This is the wonderful family Big will be staying with until he leaves for his mission in October this year.

Here is the house in the midst of packing. Our stuff is going….

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going……………..

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still going…………

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going some more………….

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and finally gone…

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gone….

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gone.

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Here’s where it all went…….

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Hard to believe. All our stuff fit in a 10′ x 20′ locker. Just barely fit but it did fit.

Week Two Day 1, Day 7 overall

We spent the entire day on the range. Started our pre-trip in the dark. Daylight Savings Time kicked in over the weekend. Did an in-cab and air brake check. Once it was light we could start moving trucks. So Andy (the other PA guy) and I went back to skills – pulling forward to a certain spot, straight backing, 45degree docking. At first I couldn’t get the trailer in the slot for anything. Then the instructor told us to switch to the 48′ trailer we were using last week and that we would be tested on. I had been working with a 53′ trailer. That five feet makes a big difference!

We were joined by two other students from the class ahead of us. They are in their third week, also from PA and ready to test out. They must pass a skills and a driving test with Swift and then with DMV. The instructor manager calls and sets appointments with DMV for each of us. We continued taking turns doing skills until a couple hours later when I’m in the cab lining up and I see smoke coming from under the hood. Right away I stopped, looked at the water temp and it was way up. I shut down the truck and the instructor had one of the third week students do a drop and hook to bring over another tractor. I got a lot of ribbing about my pre-trip check and not seeing this hose that busted. Of course, it wasn’t busted when we did our check and the engine was completely cold. It’s just one of those things. In the real world I would have pulled over and called my Driver Manager for help. They would have sent someone to fix it. And I would go on.

After lunch we were taught drop and hook. Each of us, about 15 in all did the whole thing while the others watched. As we each finished we went back to skills. It is very different driving a bobtail than hauling a trailer.

I was still having trouble with the 45degree dock so tonight I went to Target and got a toy truck, a NASCAR authentic tractor trailer to practice with in my hotel room. Of course I had to get the one with Danica Patrick :)

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Day 8

Worked on skills (the 45degree backing, etc.) and went on the road. Had a great time! Did not run over any curbs, hit any hydrants, knock over any signs or stall out. A very good drive. We did not have our two hours in the classroom at the end of the day because the new class was running behind schedule. BTW there are two women in that class, me in this one and one in the class ahead of us. Seems to be an average of 15% women drivers. Cool.

Day 9

I passed off my pre-trip check today with a 100%. Yeehaw! This is wonderful. I am getting this and having a blast while doing it. Spent lots of time working on skills today. Two hours of classroom at end of day was a slide show on shifting and turning.

Day 10

Went on the road again today. The instructor said Andy and I were doing well enough to be tested out by the academy now and we’re only halfway through our scheduled course time. This is great. I have to work on my down shifting but am feeling very confident about my developing skills. Thanks for the advice, Brett. I’m watching the tandems now and things are clicking much better. I actually got the trailer into the slot in one shot this morning. Woo hoo! After that I did it with only one or two pull ups for the rest of the morning. Two hours of classroom at end of day was a slide show on truck controls and routine maintenance.

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“The better you get, the more fun it is” – Brett Aquila of TruckingTruth.com

And it’s a whole lot of fun already! I had one instructor tell me if all his students had my attitude his job would be so much easier. Gotta love it. Brett’s advice has helped me stay focused on the positive. When others complain and some do a lot of that, I remind myself this is temporary. Even when they had me switch rooms to share with another woman student, one of those who tends to complain all the time about everything, I don’t pay any attention to what she says, I don’t get upset and I don’t complain. I’ll be out of here in a week so it doesn’t really matter.

Day 11

We drove on the highway today. Big fun! I didn’t hit anything. I didn’t run over any curbs or knock down any signs. I didn’t put the truck in a ditch. A good drive. I also passed my skills test today. Hooray! I was able to do the 45degree backing in one shot two different times. I’m going to try brake shifting to smooth out my downshifting. See how that goes. You slow the truck down until it almost feels like it’s going to stall and then shift down to the next lower gear without double clutching. I seem to want to shift while before the truck speed is slow enough.

The view from the bunk.

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Driver’s control panel.

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Day 12

All day in classroom. Lots of good information about safety and regulations. Also covered the Qualcomm system and what the different screens mean. Our instructor used to be the safety guy in the Phoenix office and was once a driver manager so he really knows the system. He shared the website for the CSA regulations (Compliance, Safety and Accountability). This lists the points for the various infractions and what the DOT looks for. The Feds have not yet set a cut off level where a company can say a driver is no longer eligible for hire. That is still being determined along with tweaking the regs themselves. It was interesting to see what they can get you for, points and fines. Not just your driving but the condition of the truck itself and your own condition or driver fitness. So cut back on the carbs boys and girls and eat more veggies!

I now have a test date of March 25 to go for my CDL. smile.gif

I’m leaving Sunday March 3, for Swift’s Richmond VA training facility. This has been a long time coming and I’m really excited! Three weeks ago I got my permit along with Air Brakes endorsement (required by Swift). A few days later I went back to DMV and got the rest of my endorsements, Doubles-Triples, Tanker, HAZMAT. The following week I went to the State Police to be fingerprinted and start the background check for HAZMAT. Thanks to the Online CDL training Brett has set up on this site, I passed all these tests the first time. Hooray! Earlier this week I went to the port of Baltimore and applied for my TWIC card. That will be ready by the time I finish the three week course for Swift. The school is only 3.5 hours drive so I’m taking my own vehicle. Once that is done a third party tester – that I pay $220 for – will drive me back to my home state DMV for the driving test. Then I wait for a female trainer and ride/live with her 4-6 weeks. After all that I will get my own truck! I requested a female trainer so there will probably be a wait and so far I’m the only female in the class. That means I get a hotel room all to myself. Woo hoo!

It’s been very hectic because I am not only leaving my home; I am moving out and renting it. For this final week my younger son and I have moved in with another family that has agreed to let my son live with them until he leaves for his 2 year mission in October. When he returns he will start his college career going for a degree in Civil Engineering. My eldest son is finishing his sophomore year in college going for a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Once he’s done this year he is also going on a 2 year mission. When he returns he will continue his schooling. Both boys will be attending the same school. I am only 20 credits shy of my degree in Electro-Mechanical Engineering. My remaining classes are all online so I will be completing that program once I am settled in my own truck. So you see where I got my username smile.gif

I figured everyone else is leaving, I’m leaving too. No way am I going to stay home alone. Driving a truck is something I wanted to do when I was 20 and never did. Now it’s my turn to live my dream.

Well, I drove 3.5 hours this afternoon to Richmond VA and am now checked in at the hotel. Swift moved everyone from Motel 6 to Candlewood Suites, thank goodness. Seems there were lots of complaints about the 6. I’m sure to hear more tomorrow in class. This place is nice. A complete kitchen w full size fridge, complimentary laundry, weight room, wi-fi and comfy beds – always a plusdancing-dog.gif I have a room to myself even though it seems there are other women in this class – hooray! We meet the van for school at 5:30am outside the lobby. I am unpacked and about to settle in for a good night’s rest. I’m excited but tired. I’ll be back tomorrow night!

So first day of school is over. Lots of paperwork, no surprise there. We started with 11 students – I am the only woman – and two got sent home already. One whose sugar was too high on his DOT physical long form and the other because he didn’t have his driver’s license. Had his CDL from a few years ago but no Class C/car license. This guy had not driven for a while and was coming back to get restarted.

Covered a lot of info today, even got started on Logs which I already understood thanks to the training at TruckingTruth.com. Thanks Brett! thank-you-2.gif

Spent the last two hours out on the practice field beginning the pre-trip inspection freezing in this cold March wind. I finally got to see a truck engine up close. Tomorrow is Logs and more pre-trip. We have some good instructors, very helpful. It might snow on Wed and we’ll be outside so I’ll be wearing my long johns.

Right now I’m going to make a run to the grocery store, do some laundry, get in some study and go to bed early. BTW I love the super hot showers and fluffy towels here!

More to come.

Days 2 & 3.

Day 2 was two hours in the class room going over Hours of Service-thanks again Brett,it was review for me. The rest of the day was on the range doing pre-trip check on the outside of truck. We went over it and over it working from a list (116 items). Our group of five work well together. We went around the truck as a group while one of us did the check so we all heard it five times. Then we did it again. And again. Finally an instructor showed us something else. We learned the in cab pre-trip and air brake check. We had a short while to do that and the day was over.

Day 3 was two hours in the class reviewing HOS and then 3 quizzes on logs and HOS. I passed them all. Most guys failed at least one. They will have to retake them Saturday. Then out to the range. Now today it was snowing and blowing. Schools were closed, the governor even declared a state of emergency and we still went to the range. Granted we spent the whole day doing in cab and brake checks but it’s all good. On the road we’ll have to deal with weather. Tomorrow we’ll have another two hours in classroom and then we should start shifting and straight backing.

I am having so much fun! I can do this. I was sitting on the bunk while others in my group did their check, just looking around, imagining how I would fit my stuff in when I get my own truck. This is great.

Day 4. I got to drive!! First two hours in classroom going over trip planning and life on the road. Then out to the range. Did shifting and straight line backing. Driving was shifting around the yard. I got up to 5th gear. My instructor said he was very happy. I like that. smile.gif I like happy testers even better.

A student in another class backed into a cinder block wall yesterday and broke the wall. There’s a gap and blocks are cracked. That person was sent home because they did not report it and attempted to hide their guilt. Apparently if they had reported it right away they could have stayed. Today we were backing into that same slot so I got a good look at it. That driver had to go up over a curb to hit the wall and must have been going at a good clip to crack open cinder blocks! I didn’t see the truck but there must be damage. At the end of the day, the instructor manager explained to all the students what happened and told up about the “not reporting”. Said we expect you to use ethics and integrity.

Sunny outside but cold and windy. Bring clothes for all kinds of weather if you come to Richmond VA in the spring or fall.

Days 5 & 6

Friday was two hours classroom where we covered more about trip planning. Then out to the range for eight hours. The one other student from PA and myself practiced pre-trip check on a Freightliner, the same type truck we will test on. Each of us would do the whole thing, outside, in cab and air brake while the other followed the list so we didn’t miss anything. We did that over and over until lunch. I’m feeling pretty confident about the pre-trip.

After lunch we started the skills test for PA. Pull forward, put front bumper in the box. Pull forward, put rear bumper in same box. Straight back 100′. Pull forward again and set up 45degree back into dock. Basically your trailer is at a 45degree angle from the dock. If you put the end of trailer over to the right a little and then turn it a little to the left you should be lined up with dock and basically do a straight back from there. You can’t go outside the box and you must stop with rear bumper inside a smaller box. I got it a couple of times, missed a couple times. We had a lot of fun doing that. The other guy from PA, Andy used to deliver crated milk so he can back. I like that Swift has trucks and set ups for each of the states the students are from.

Saturday was all classroom. Trip planning and reading maps. Calculating miles, gallons of fuel, travel time. Then we had two tests. He gave us each a road atlas and a list of questions. If you have used maps before, no problem. If you can do basic math and understand what gets divided by what, no problem.

For example: How many miles is it from Pittsburg PA to Mobile AL and then to Albequerque NM? How long will it take you to get to each destination with average speed of 50mph? How many gallons of fuel will it take with average of 7mpg? If you left at 7:15am when would you arrive at each destination? Rest stops, fuel stops, meal stops were not included to simplify things.

Another example: What is the most efficient route from Jasper AL to Baton Rouge LA? Take into account the terrain. How many miles and how long would it take you?

If you don’t already, start using a map to plan your trips around town. Read the map key, find out what all those little symbols mean. There is a wealth of information on good maps. You cannot depend on the GPS. It’s a tool just like a map is a tool and calling the receiver for local directions is another tool. Use everything available to make your life easier.

We got out a little early on Saturday so I went to the biggest mall in town and took myself out to dinner at Texas de Brazil, a steak buffet. YUM!

Look at the flowers on top of the salad bar!

The entryway from where I was seated.

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The meat is grilled on skewers in the center of the dining area and behind glass.

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These cute waiters come by your table and slice off pieces of yummy meat.

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What a treat! My hotel room has a kitchen and I’ve been cooking for myself all week.

Then I got a pedicure. Ahh, heaven!

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But back to training which is indeed rolling right along.

 

So I drove down to Richmond VA to start truck driving school on March 4. We are in a really nice hotel where the rooms have kitchens with full size refrigerators and microwaves. Comfy beds, super hot showers and fluffy towels. Which is a really great thing since the first thing I do upon returning to the room is take a long shower mostly to warm up. It’s been very cold for March. Today it even snowed! We were still out there in it. When I’m driving I will have to deal with the weather. We did stay in the trucks for the most part, doing in cab pre-trip checks and air brake checks. Kind of like a pilot’s pre flight check. Must be done everyday before every trip. 116 things on the outside to check – engine parts, tires, lights, etc. I never really looked at an engine before and I never knew which part was what. I do now! Then you get inside and check mirrors, gauges, brakes, etc. I’ve got the in cab check down after today. Tomorrow we should start the shifting and straight backing. I’m having a lot of fun! I can do this!

Anyway I started to tell you about the room. Best part, I have it all to myself. Here’s what it looks like.

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The kitchen.

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Last night I made a run to the grocery store. Sure glad I did. It was still snowing when we got done today. Here is what I had for dinner.

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Saute’d some sweet bell peppers in olive oil, made a fresh salad and tossed a tuna steak into the frying pan after the peppers were done.

Yum, yum.

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Life is good. And so was dinner.

Chipmunk Cheeks

Big had his third molars removed the other week. Poor Big. He was pretty sore for a few days. The first night he came up with a clever plan to control his facial swelling while asleep. We were rotating freezer packs that evening and Big wanted to use them overnight. So I put a towel on his pillow and put him to bed.

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He thought of wearing winter gloves to hold the packs to his face. It took a few days but the swelling went down and he’s completely recovered now. He’s a smart guy, that Big.

so proud of him!

so proud of him!

 

Last week Big got an award for getting straight A’s last marking period. That makes three in a row! Woo hoo!! This from the child who almost failed middle school. Thank goodness we got through that. He’s a senior in high school now. It was a lot of things but partly I told him it was his homework, his life and if he failed 8th grade it would not be the end of the world. He could always do it over again. And again and again if that’s what it took. I would love him and support him no matter what. My stress level went down and he stepped up when I stepped back. Gotta love that Love and Logic parenting.

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