I got new boots today.
I’m excited. They got dirty fast. That’s probably a good thing, get them used to working.
Today was a weird day. Long, and mixed with many different elements. We had some class time where we talked about logbooks, how to fill them out, what the different lines meant, and spent a lot of time on the various restrictions on hours. Under “Remarks”, we were told to write “First day employed as driver.” This is it for me, then, the true Day One.
I was thinking about this all day, I’ve got a real log book now. Not something that I’m goofing around learning on in school, it’s the real deal, to be shown to real DOT officers. It can cause me to pay out real money if it’s filled out wrong. It also is the start of logging every hour of my life. From here out until I stop driving, every day, every hour, needs to be accounted for. What a thought.
After the logbook class, we got to drive. For some of us, it’s been weeks since we’ve been behind the wheel of a big rig, for others, it’s been longer. God, it felt good to be back on the road.
As I’ve said before, we are the very first class to go through Schneider’s new training facility here in Phoenix. They have brought out some other instructors from different parts of the country. I was in a truck with a trainer from Arkansas. My old boss was also from Arkansas, and she was overflowing with that sweet, uniquely Southern charm. I remember I could forward the angriest, ranting customers to her and after a few minutes she would have them laughing, like they were best friends. My driver reminded me of her. I actually did fine, mostly, but there were times when I missed gears, and I even killed the engine at one point, something I never did in CDL school. He just leaned over and looked at me and just overflowed with that calm and told me it’s fine, just restart the engine and we’ll go. I breathed deep, restarted the engine, and we went. It was fine.
He said, “You can’t be in control of the truck if you aren’t in control of yourself.”
The other thing that hit me today was that we were in actual working trucks now. They don’t have STUDENT DRIVER in big letters on the back and sides, the Get-Out-Of-Jail-Free card for all your learning mistakes when out on the road. “What’s that idiot doing….Oh, wait, STUDENT DRIVER…I see….we’ll better just get around him.” Nope, now it’s just, “What’s that idiot doing…”
It was nice to have a clutch that actually had some tension to it. Any job is so much easier when you have properly working tools.
The class time continues to be disrupted by people not really knowing what we should be doing. “What are they doing this afternoon?” one instructor asks another. “I don’t know, ask _____.” “I haven’t seen _____, have you?” “No, I’ll look for him. ______ wasn’t around. So, we’ll just sit here then, yes?
It’s not like the clock is ticking. It’s Wednesday, we are supposed to be introduced to our Training Engineers on Friday. I still have never uncoupled or coupled a trailer. Ever. The other thing they kept saying today was “You’ll learn more about that in your third week.” Oh, right, pawn off everything we should know about our jobs and how to function properly as a driver until the last minute. Brilliant.
Listen, I get it, it’s a brand new facility and there are always going to be glitches. Frankly, I think they’ve done a pretty amazing job overall with what they do have. Well done, Schneider. It doesn’t change the fact that valuable learning time is being squandered every time we sit around waiting for people to come up with a plan for what we’re supposed to do next.
We ended the day with some groups going to the driving simulator (only one is in operation for now), and others going to do backing practice. Then switching. My CDL instructor, Military Guy, was amazing and taught me so many great lessons about driving, and I’m thankful to have learned from him for city driving. The caveat, however, is that I don’t think he taught us very well when it comes to backing. I never really got a hold of it, and I just thought it was me. Today, however, I was with another instructor (not Arkansas, another one) who just simply explained, “Do this, then that, look for this, then that.” Simple, basic. Refreshing. I didn’t do horribly. I actually did well.
By the time we had wrapped up, it had been almost 12 hours since we started. I’m exhausted. And really to hit it harder tomorrow.
My first day employed as a driver. Welcome to trucking.