The week before I passed my test and got my CDL, Adam and I went to visit a local trucking company. We were interested in working for them and they invited us to stop in to meet them. We already had a good feeling about this. Instead of going over Adam’s rollover accident that happened a year ago over the phone with a recruiter that’s probably already talked to a hundred potential drivers that day, we just drove to this place and walked in. We sat down with the recruiter and talked with him about their company, Adam’s accident, the hike last year, and our excitement to start team driving. The discussion was very laid back and comfortable. The conversation quickly turned over to the orientation and training schedule, required physical and drug tests, and how we’d transition into a full-on team. But it wasn’t just “this is how we do things here.” It was more like, “when you’re ready to start, this is what you’re going to be doing.” As in… we have a job if we want it. This was all before I even had my license!
When Adam and I left, we talked about it and agreed pretty quickly that this would be a great way for us to start out. We’d be training separately for a while, which is pretty standard for any trucking company (except for Covenant, who was going to let Adam train me), but we were okay with that. It sounds like we’ll start out as kind of like a driver and a half, so we won’t be running super-hard for our first runs together. It sounded like a nice way to get our feet wet and get a feel for the industry, this company, and how things are done – all at a nice pace. Eventually we’d be making week-long runs together, pushing pretty hard, but being home on weekends. We decided to go for it. We just have a really good feeling about this place and are excited to start. So excited, in fact, that Adam is starting tomorrow!
We figured since we have to take the company training anyway, he could start out working right away instead of paying for the refresher course, and then when I’m ready to start (which will be the Monday after I graduate, April 7th), he’ll be working regularly until I’m through the orientation and training. Then we’ll be able to hit the road together as a team in our own truck.
It seems like every week there’s some huge, new step we are taking toward reaching this goal. It’s pretty fast-paced, but it’s making the whole process fun as it moves right along. It’s a fun way to do things if you’re sometimes impatient, or the type that likes quick results. This career has been feeding those parts of my personality, and I think that’s one of the reason I’m enjoying it so much. I remember thinking, “I’m not ready to drive on the road. It’ll probably be another couple of days before I do.” That same day I was driving on the road. “I probably won’t get my CDL until week eight.” Last week was my 6th week when I passed. I love this. I didn’t have to do the whole “oh gosh, we have to send out handfuls of cover letters and resumes, find someone that might be interested in maybe hiring us, go through tiers of nerve wracking interviews, compete with all the other qualified individuals while trying to convince we’re somehow better, speak of our strengths and weaknesses, mention our attention to detail and that we’re ‘go-getters,’ along all the other hoopla that we’re going have to remember to throw at an interviewer with a nervous smile on our face hoping like hell they’ll hire us.” Nope. An online application, a quick meeting with the recruiter, a scheduled date and we’re getting this party started. This is pretty exciting stuff!
So Adam will be getting our job rolling – the big stuff – while I continue on my last five weeks at school. I’ve had people ask, “so can you just quit school and go get a job now that you have your CDL?” The answer is yes, but quitting has never once crossed my mind. They have a lot more they are going to teach us, a lot more experiences to throw at us, and graduating is a pretty big deal. And besides, I’m REALLY enjoying school. I love the instructors, my fellow students and the challenges and learning experiences I’m able to have in this controlled environment. I’m going to take advantage of this while I can, and I know I’m going to miss it and all the people I’ve met when it’s done.
So with that… what’s new at school? Well, get this – I said they move quick. I got my CDL last Tuesday, and my partner got his Wednesday. We’re the first team in our group to have our CDLs, so on Thursday morning at dispatch we were assigned to a new truck. It’s a sleeper cab. That probably adds on about six to eight feet in length to an already pretty darn long vehicle. That’s new, big step. But wait. Then they gave us a new trailer, too. It’s the same 48′ trailer we’re used to, but it’s loaded. That’s another new thing. It changes the way it feels when driving, especially accelerating. Since we were in a new tractor, an instructor had to take each of us out on a road run to check us onto our current approved routes. While we did that, we were also introduced to the button-hook turn. Another new thing!
I’ll try to explain the button-hook turn – especially because it looks kind of weird, so if you see a truck doing this you’ll know why. When you have to make a right turn on a corner that is really squared-off, sharp, or even greater than a 90-degree angle with a semi, just taking a long, wide turn might not be enough. What you have to do is pull the truck from the right lane into the left lane just before the intersection as you approach the turn. At this point you’re taking up both lanes, keeping any traffic from being able to sneak in between you and the curb of the turn. The back of the trailer is close to the right curb, and the tractor is taking up the left lane. When I did my first couple, I was taking them very slow, so all the traffic behind me had to wait at least a full light to get through (sorry, I’m learning!).
I kind of laughed, because the back of my trailer still says, “Student Driver” on it, and I’m sure everyone thought I was just royally screwing something up as I sat there with my huge vehicle sitting there through an entire red light, diagonally taking up the entire intersection while my instructor is pointing at things and explaining to me how to properly navigate the turn. I can’t help it… that’s funny. For me… maybe not for you if you were behind me trying to get back to work from lunch. Sorry… ;)
Anyway, once you have the tractor and trailer diagonal, taking up both the left and right lane, with the right turn signal on, you pull up and start turning really wide until you can clear the median in front of you, all while watching the trailer tires to make sure they aren’t riding up over a curb, taking out a light pole, and that no cars are trying to squeeze in next to you. I don’t know if I explained that very well… it’s kind of hard to describe in words. Sometimes we just have to do weird things to get where we need to be, so if you see a semi truck going really slowly and being weird, please just hang back a minute and let them finish their thing. We’re just trying to not hit you or anything around us. :)
I don’t know what’s in store for me this week, but there’s a bunch of other CDL tests going on in our group, so I imagine my partner and I will be doing a lot of driving with each other and other Instructor Permit holders. I’m excited to get out there, drive more and get more experience. I already tried doing some backing with the bigger tractor and it went pretty well. I got a couple with no problem, so I know it can be done, at least.
Tonight I love chicken wingies. I know that’s totally unrelated to what I wrote about, but I don’t care. They’re delicious and I love them. And I had some for dinner. Yum!