So why do we need so desperately to get to the Northwest, and who is this mysterious ‘we?’ Not the royal ‘we,’ I assure you. ‘We’ is me and my trainer. Your humble correspondent is really only a tadpole, in phase one of driver training. Yes, I have my class A commercial driver’s license, but nobody hands over the keys to a semi to someone fresh out of driving school. Truck driving school was, quite frankly, a joke, and I am told that my own experience of it was perfectly typical. School teaches you just enough to get your license. The first company to hire you teaches you how to drive.
Phase one, at my company, consists of four long days of drug tests, physicals, lots of snarling (about the multitude of sins that will result in immediate termination, among other things), and driving and backing tests. Those of us who survived (not by any means all of us, I assure you) were then assigned to driver trainers for 35 days on the road. During these 35 days we must drive in the five company-defined regions of the of U.S., descend two major mountain passes, and log a minimum of 8000 miles. All of this while sharing a space the size of a small walk-in closet with someone we have never met before and who is directly in charge of our fate.
I have now been out for 31 of those days, though the company is only giving me credit for 27. (Therein lies a tale so depressing that I cannot yet bear to write about it. Something about some fine print in a recent policy change that not even the training department knew about until a week ago. Or something.) I have eight days left in which to complete my remaining requirements, which consist of the Northwest, the Southwest, and a paltry few hundred miles. Oh – and one more mountain pass, making three, because somewhere along the line the rules have been changed.
At the end of my 35 days (that’s 39 days by my count) we are allowed to take a week off before beginning phase two. I fully intend to take said week, which means I will be doing everything within my extremely limited power to get this truck somewhere near Colorado Springs on the 35th (oops – 39th) day. Or maybe by the 36th (40th). Fortunately, my trainer is sympathetic. Fortunately, me previous trainer (I am on my third truck at this point) introduced me to the head of the training department, and she is also sympathetic. So maybe, with a great deal of luck, I can get off this truck within at least staging distance of home. The last thing I want to do, after having been cooped up in this walk-in closet for so long, is spend any of my precious home time cooped up in a Greyhound bus.