Transport America Orientation; Day 1

This is my third trucking company I have worked for. My previous expeience has been cheap hotels with 2 drivers per room. No microwave, no fridge, crappy mattress, cheap sheets, pillows, and towels. Yesterday afternoon I checked into the Comfort Inn East in Indianapolis. I asked the lady if we were doubled up and she said, “No sir, you have your own room.” Then she gave me an envelope with my name on it. It was a welcome letter from the CEO welcoming me to Transport America and a syllubus of the next 3 days.

I get up to the room, open the door, and was floored. Not only do I have a king size bed, but a nice writing desk and lounge chair to chill out in. It gets better though. There is also a microwave, a nice sized refrigerator, flat screen TV with DIRECTV, and my choice of firm or soft pillows on the bed. Oh, and the towels are awesome! So, that was my first impression of how this week was going to go.

Breakfast is served at 6am in the lobby and we have to be down there by 7:30 to leave so I headed down around 7 to get something to eat.  Everything was going good, until a story about what the Rams did prior to their game came on Good Morning America.  That’s when one of the guys had to put in his two cents, and another guy had to add his thoughts. Now these two are adding their commentary to every damn story that comes on.  There are 16 people in orientation and they are they only two talking.  the rest of us are just quietly waiting to leave at 7:45.  Then during a commercial, it started.  One of them starts telling a story about his previous company, then the other guy has one bigger and better.. This crap went on until we left at 7:45.  By the sound of their stories, it sounded like they had been driving since the early 1900s and have seen and done everything……  Not surprised though, you have one or two in every damn group and it didn’t take long to figure out who they were in this one. Thankfully, once we piled in the vans to leave they must have decided their man parts were equal, because they didn’t say a damn word the whole way to the orientation facility.  It was fantastic.

Today was your typical first day at orientation for a trucking company.  Basically sat in front of a computer all day watching videos for required training and reviewing our application paperwork.  Although, orientation with Transport America is laid back. We took breaks when we wanted and worked at our own pace.  Throughout the day the Student Driver Instructors (Driver Trainers at most companies) that are here this week conducted road tests.  I thought it was pretty cool that they route actual SDI’s here to be here the whole 3 days.

When it came time for my road test, it didn’t start out to well.  We got in the truck and I adjusted my seat, which means I moved it all the way back and slammed it to the ground. I fired it up and he told me to calm down as we needed to go over some things.  Oh, my bad.  He started by telling me that there is no floating gears in his truck.  Um, what?!?!?!?  I said, well that is what I am used to.  I then procedded to get a lecture on how these trucks have hydraulic self-adjusting clutches and if you don’t use them, they don’t stay properly adjusted.  Ok, got it.  I’ll double clutch, but I’m telling you now that I’m not comfortable with that because I don’t know the truck.  Now, keep in mind that I am used to a 2007 379 Long Hood Peterbilt with a 13 speed that turns like an aircraft carrier.  This guy’s truck is a 2014 Kenworth T680 with a 10 speed that turns like a sports car in comparison.  Not to mention, the clutch is damn touchy.  I didn’t stall the truck at all though, so that’s a plus.  I also didn’t hit anything.  Another plus.

My issue came with shifting.  Not with the double clutching, that’s like riding a bike.  But I didn’t take a look at the gear pattern. I’m used to a 13 speed.  This is a 10 speed and the gears locations are different.  I never used “L” in the Pete, which is 1st in his truck.  So I was never used to coming that far over when I went to the high side.  I was used to going to 5th, which in his truck is 7th.  If you’re following along, that means I skipped 6th.  Not a huge issue as we were pulling an empty trailer, but still not good.  During the road test I missed 6th 2 or 3 times I think.  I know it was two for sure, but anyway, it’s just a matter of reprograming my brain and I’ll be fine.  For those completely confused, this may help.  The top the 13 speed pattern and the bottom is the 10 speed.


I also had to do a backing exercise, which was a typical docking exercise.  Two rows of cones to back between with a cone in the middle at one end simulating the dock.  Task is to back between the row of cones and get as close to the one in the middle at the end without hitting it.  I am happy to report that no cones were killed in my backing exercise.  The SDI did critique me on the adjustments I made though.  He said I was cranking that steering wheel way more than I needed to.  I again reminded him that I am used to a Long Hood Pete, where barely turning the wheel does nothing.

The day ended with us getting a goody bag that had a Transport America travel mug and pen.  It also had a bottle of water and some snacks it.  Then as we walked out the door they handed us a new atlas.  Well, hot damn! I don’t need it as I already have two, but I like free stuff.  Thanks Transport America!

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