A few new things and a few mistakes.

Wow, it seems like I have something to write every day lately. There’s so much that happens, and I want to record it so I can remember it all, and it’s fun to share. Today I had some more new experiences at school – mostly good with a few things I’m not so proud of. But as always, they were all great learning experiences.

First of all, right away in the morning I got onto our practice range and worked on getting the truck rolling from a stop without killing the engine. I killed it almost every time. My partner has told me quite often that I’m over-thinking it, so frustrated with my lack of progress, I decided to just hit the road and not think too hard about it. Guess what happened once I got onto the road? I did just fine. I didn’t even come that close to killing it even one time all day. I was just over-thinking it. That was kind of relief!

New stuff! A real loading dock! The trailer that my partner and I have been hauling is loaded and heavy. We found out today that it is loaded with reams of paper, and that the main building on campus needed a palette of that paper. Michael (my partner) and I got into the truck with instructor Brian and head over to the main building where there is a real truck loading dock. I was driving, so we pulled in and I set up, not perfectly straight, and started to back the truck in towards the door behind me. It was a pretty tight space, or at least that’s the way it seemed to me! Brian spotted me and helped me get the trailer in position. It took a few short pull-ups, but I eventually got it. Brian showed us how the dock worked from the inside and pulled the palette of paper off with a forklift, re-secured the load and then we head back out to the street.

More new stuff! A scale! Next we drove to a local company that allows Fox Valley Tech to use their scale, and I pulled in and around to get set up to drive up onto the scale. I was a bit freaked out. First of all, I didn’t get super straight to pull onto the scale, and this thing was off the ground a couple of feet, dropping off on the edges. If I didn’t get onto it straight, the wheels of my rig could easily slip over the edge. Eeek! That would be bad! Thankfully that didn’t happen (I didn’t want to leave you in suspense there!). We inched our way onto the scale and weighed the steer axle, pulled ahead a little more and weighed the drive axles, then pulled through even more and weighed the trailer axles. They were all within weight, but pretty close to the max. The drive axle has to be under 12,000 pounds, and the two other axles can’t be over 34,000, totaling 80,000 pounds. As it turns out, we’ve been pulling close to that in total weight. No wonder it’s been a little tough to get ol’ Erma (our truck was given this as her name today) up to speed on the highway!

One more new thing! Pulling into a truck stop! After the loading dock and the scale we drove around for a while, taking some turns in new territory where my new confidence was tested and I made a few errors, which I’ll mention in a sec. But first we stopped at a truck stop so Michael and I could switch spots (up to this point he was riding in the back of the sleeper cab and our instructor was in the passenger seat while I drove). I got to pull into a real truck stop and park next to all the other big rigs! That felt kind of cool. We went in to use the bathroom, then head back out. Michael drove back to school from there.

So I did mess a few things up today, and I felt pretty dumb about them. There were two incidents in particular that would’ve failed me on my CDL test. The first one… get this. A gosh-for-saken freakin’ snowbank. Thankfully I didn’t get stuck. Here is where my new-found confidence was kicking me in the butt. It was a new area that I was unfamiliar with, and I took the corner a bit too fast (because I was feeling confident) and clipped it too short. My trailer tires put a pretty good divet into that snowbank. I just thought, “oh, shoot.” I let myself laugh about it a little bit, but only because it was a snowbank. I was reminded that there could always be something under that snow, like a fire hydrant or something. Lesson learned – I’ll take it slower when I’m driving in a new area to be sure I’m taking my time getting around new corners. I think it’s good to take things lightly, but I have to always remember there’s a pretty serious side to all of this, too.

The other flub-up was a little scarier. I took a right turn and had to move over three lanes to get into a left turn lane for the very next intersection. There was a lot of traffic and I wasn’t moving fast, so cars were zipping around me to my left in the lane I needed to merge into. I flipped on my left turn signal, and three of four cars zoomed past as I watched my intersection up ahead closing in on me. The fourth car looked as though he was slowing to let me in, so I started to move left only to see him swerve to the left. I don’t know if he sped up, I slowed down, or I misjudged where he was, but I had to move back into my lane, and then he was afraid to pass me (for good reason), forcing me to slow to a crawl to get moved over so I could make my turn (you can’t miss turns in a truck, because you never know if that route you didn’t plan to go on isn’t a truck route or maybe has a low clearance or something). After that car got around me, two other semi trucks came up behind me and I was able to squeak in behind a big FedEx truck just in time to get into my turn lane. Whew. That freaked me out, and I felt pretty stupid about it. Again, I’m very thankful nothing happened and that I was able to slow down to get into my turn lane without causing too much of a fuss in traffic, but a big ‘sorry’ goes out to the guy who probably shat himself when I tried to merge into his car!

Oy. Maybe I should’ve mentioned the good, fun and new things at the end of this entry! I’ll end on a good note. The rest of my driving today seemed to go pretty well. There were a few other typical rookie things, like rushing downshifting and causing me to loose focus for a moment, but all in all I had a great day – even with the two embarrassing mistakes. I learned that it’s good to have confidence, but that certainly doesn’t mean I can let my guard down for even a split second. I still need to take things easy, stay in complete control and be on high alert at all times. My first snowbank experience a few weeks ago ended up being a really important thing to happen to me, and I’m sure these couple of things are, too. They’re not fun to experience, but again… thank God nothing bad happened from them. Thank God they were there for me just to learn from. I just wish I could buy that poor dude a new pair of skivvies!

Tonight I love having so much to talk to Adam about that it’s hard for us to get to sleep at night. This whole truckin’ thing is bringing us a lot closer.

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3 thoughts on “A few new things and a few mistakes.

  1. Don’t feel too bad about trying to merge into someone. Twice now I’ve been in the right lane on the freeway and had a semi merge me onto the shoulder. Both times I was lined up with that gap between the tractor and trailer.

    • The worst blind spot on a truck is directly in back of it. Most of the time you can see if there’s a car alongside you by using the convex mirrors. And we’re taught to be constantly watching how traffic is moving around us, so truck drivers should always be aware that you are there. If an accident happened in that situation, it would be the trucker’s fault, and unfortunately side swipes are one of the most dangerous. Probably a smart choice going into the shoulder!

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