The Weekend: Some Time Off

The weekend has arrived and I was able to sleep-in this morning. I woke at nine while my roommate “T” was already up. A real treat not to have to get up at 3:50 a.m. for our week-day shuttle pickup at 5 a.m.

The past couple of days have been crammed with more paperwork and several more written tests. They say we will have taken over 20 written tests during our three week training. The tests cover everything from the “General Knowledge” to the “Cargo,” “Air Brakes” and “Combination Vehicle” sections of our CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) manuals, and a few things in-between, for obtaining our “Class A” license. And our numbers have grown to ten as we inherited a student who was washed back a week.

In addition over a two-day period we watched a 2 1/2 hour video of what we can expect when stopped by a State Patrolman/Department of Transportation (D.O.T.) inspector on the road. This locally produced video was not only informative but entertaining as well as it was done by a local state patrolman friend of many of the Swift Training Instructors. A pretty “hard core” guy but understandable in consideration of the numerous experiences he’s had in dealing with truckers and trucking accidents in his career.

A D.O.T. officer can inspect the inside of your cab without probable cause or a warrant. Even a traffic ticket, or what we would otherwise consider “a minor infraction,” is a misdemeanor and an “arrestable offense” in which a trucker can go to jail, while driving a large rig on his Commercial Driver’s License. They can shut you down on the roadway and issue an “Out of Service” order for equipment problems that would never stop a car or “4-wheeler.” And if you disobey an “Out of Service” order, and are caught, the state patrolman said “you will go to jail!” When you’re dealing with these federal laws governing truckers, it’s very serious business. Who knew!?

Yesterday was one of those “milestone” days for us. It was the day we all went to our state’s Driver’s License offices to test for our CDL learner’s permits. This would allow us to begin driving the trucks with their 53 foot trailers beginning next Wednesday on the enclosed driver “range” here at the school. If you don’t pass, you’re given one additional opportunity early next week to retest and qualify. If you fail again you’re moved back a week to a first-week class to repeat the course. Of the 10 now in our class only 5 passed the D.O.L. test. I’m happy to report that I was one of them along with my roommate. One of those who failed was the “washed back” student who has now had a second shot at it. I fear that we may lose several of our numbers if they don’t pass their retests early in the coming week.

During our 50 minute lunch break I walked over to the Lewiston Terminal building and visited with my recruiter. He was the one I initially spoke with on the phone asking questions and who ultimately hired me. A very nice guy. After 23 years he retired in 2001 from the Marine Corps. And he still looks every-bit a Marine!

Most of the remaining afternoon was spent training and watching a video on transporting hazardous materials. That was followed with a 45 question “open book” test on the subject. I was told that overall I’ve averaged 93.5 on the tests that we’ve taken to date.

So we have a few days off to recharge our batteries. Monday we’ll begin learning about the laws governing our work day and the “Log Books” we must constantly maintain. In them we indicate what we’ve done during our 14 hour maximum work-day which allows 11 of those hours to be driving time. These books must always be up to date whenever passing through a Port of Entry or Weigh Station, or whenever asked for them by a state patrolman. The fine here in Idaho for a log book improperly filled out is $107. We’re told city and county cops will rarely ask for them because generally they’re clueless about state and federal laws, nor do they have the authority to enforce them anyway. BUT they can always detain you and call for a state patrolman should they feel the need.

I’m looking forward to the coming week as we’ve been told, by the two classes ahead of us, that it gets a lot easier after those first several days leading up to testing for our permits. Later in the week I will have driven, for the first time, a 65 foot long 18-wheeler and the following week we’ll be on the road driving around 2 1/2 hours each day, maybe more, depending on the class size.

In the meantime the weekend is not without homework. Ten chapters of our “Tractor-Trailer Driver Handbook/Workbook” to read with answers to the review questions at the end of each chapter to turn in on Monday. There’s nearly 100 total questions.

More in a few days.

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2 comments on “The Weekend: Some Time Off

  1. Anonymous says:

    Rick-I can just picture you completing this course and out on the road-enjoying the beauty of the country and touching peoples lives where-ever you may find yourself- may you find great satisfaction from this new pursuit-All the best to you-JA

  2. Osbornes says:

    Wow, it sounds like a busy couple of days. I would imagine there is alot to learn, esp regarding all the paperwork and policies and procedures you need to know about. Good thing it gets easier. When I was in nursing school I definately enjoyed the “hands on” learning as compared to book learning (and also retained it alot better).

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