It’s been a long ass day so if parts of this don’t make sense, I apologize in advance.
We started out by getting on what looked like a prison bus for the 40 minute bus ride to the training facility. Once we arrived we were sent to the cafeteria to await further instructions. I really had to pee at this point but I knew what was about to happen so I had to hold it. After about 15 minutes some dude came out and barked out some orders telling the experienced drivers (i’m in that category) what room to go to, and what room the rookies needed to go to. Once we got to our assigned rooms, they did roll call and we started the festivities.
First up was paperwork followed by more paperwork followed by filling out our Department of Transportation (DOT) Medical Card. Once everyone was done we were sent back to the cafeteria to begin the DOT Physical. The first station consisted of a nurse looking over our paperwork to ensure we filled it out correctly and getting our blood pressure taken. I always stress about this part for some reason as it is one of the main reasons people get sent home. However, I am happy to report that mine was 110 over 80. I have no idea what that means really, but the nice little nurse said it was very good. Next up was the weigh in and getting out height. I not only got larger since my last physical, but I apparently grew as well. She measured me at 74″, which is odd, as I have always been 72″. As for the weigh in, well lets just say I crossed a barrier I have told my dad and brother over and over that I would never cross. Yes, I crossed the 200lb barrier. In fact, I am a slim and trim 208. Once that was completed we had a vision test and saw the Doc. It was a full blown physical as well with nut sac check included free of charge. The final stage in this process was the mandatory piss test. We will find out tomorrow how well people did by how many get called out of the room first thing in the morning. If you get called out, you get told to go back to the hotel, pack your shit and get the hell of their property. They don’t even pay for you to get back home. Plus it will go on their driving record and they will never get a driving job again. Not real sure why people would show up knowing they are going to get busted, but the instructor said it happens every week.
Now that all of that mandatory fun shit was out of the way we were given our employee ID numbers to log onto the computers as this company has everything online. The fun was about to begin as we had to take 3 tests. One covered basic tractor/trailer operation and terminology, one covered Safety regulations, and the last one was a basic math test. The instructor said their was no reason why we shouldn’t get 100% on all of them, but I managed to get a B on all of them. Whatever, I passed and it’s one less thing I have to worry about.
After lunch we had an Allstate Rep come in and brief us on their Off Duty Accident coverage. It’s basically their version of Aflac. Needless to say I decided to sign up for the deluxe package and added the cancer and specified disease package along with their critical illness package. I hope I never have to use any of it, but it’s good to know that if anything happens we will have shit covered.
Once that was completed the fun really began. I’m not being sarcastic here either because the road tests were about to commence. Before that happened though we were sent into the rookie classroom and we all met the Simulator Instructor and were given a briefing on a 13 speed as well as watched a video. It wasn’t really confusing, just different from what I am used to. For starters all of the trucks they have are low RPM and high torque. So, instead of up-shifting and down-shifting at 1400 RPMs like I am used to, they want you to up-shift at 1,000 RPMs. They want you do down-shift from 13th thru 5th at 1,000 RPMs and then 800 RPMs from 4th to 1st. Not a big deal, just different.
Now it’s time for the road test. I am actually stepping foot in a Black and Chrome Pete. I was so excited I don’t think I even used the steps getting in. Pretty sure I jumped right off the ground and into that bad boy. The first thing the instructor asked is if I have ever driven a 13 speed. After I said no sir, he went over everything again for me. The time has arrived to put this bad boy in gear! Due to the low RPM and high torque set up they have, you don’t even touch the gas in first gear. You just ease of the clutch and away you go. It’s go time now. Shit started coming back to me like I had done this before. I floated right into second and third, then realized what I did. I said oh shit, are we allowed to float gears? The instructor looked over and said, you’re experienced, do what you are comfortable with. For those that don’t know what floating is, it’s not using the clutch. You go by sound and feel and just go through the gears. I haven’t mastered down-shifting that way, so I still use the clutch to do that. One day I will master it though and only use the clutch to start and stop. After I turned out of the yard and calmed down a bit, I realized just how quick you go through the gears in this truck. I was only doing 45 and already in 13th. The road test didn’t last long at all, maybe 15 minutes due to traffic lights, but it included left and right turns as well as some interstate driving. I made an idiot mistake and rubbed the curb with my rear most axle on the trailer on one of the right hand turns. It was pretty tight, but it was still a bone head move on my part. Most of my deductions were shifting though, which I expected. When we got back to the yard he had me set-up to back in next to another truck, just like at a truck stop. Again, I didn’t do bad, but I could have done better. For one, I am used to opening my driver door and hanging out it a bit to get a better view, but that isn’t something you do in this environment. Overall though as I have had more time to soak it all in, an 88 out of 100 is a damn good number considering I haven’t driven a truck since Sept 2010, nor have I driven a 13 speed. They want you to have an 80 or better before they consider sending you to the rookie class. SO, that would be hurdle 3 crossed. The first two being the piss test and physical.
For the rest of the week, I’m not really sure what is going on. All we were told is that we need to be on the 6am bus for the rest of the week, so more to follow on that.
All-in-all it was a good day and it means I am one day closer to my own truck. So far this company is amazing. The owner, Harold Annett, is a retired Command Sargent Major and he runs this company like it. If you are caught walking on his grass, you’re done. No questions asked. But, I can’t blame him. It’s some amazing looking grass.