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
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 plus 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!
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. 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.
The meat is grilled on skewers in the center of the dining area and behind glass.
These cute waiters come by your table and slice off pieces of yummy meat.
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!
But back to training which is indeed rolling right along.