Yes, your humble narrator survived the five (actually closer to six) weeks of Training 1. After which I was supposed to get a week off at home. Instead, I got four days, barely time to sweep up all the cat hair (she sheds like mad when I’m away) and do the most urgent of the yard work. Then it was back to the yard.
Day four of Orientation 2 covered trip planning. We’d had three long days in class and two long evenings on the backing course. We’d chosen training partners and been assigned trucks, inspected those trucks and turned in lists of what had to be repaired before we could take them out on the road. Ours (mine and my partner’s), venerable 5585, had a headlight and a backup light out, a door that only latched if you hit it with a bazooka, nails in two tires, and an A/C system that only blew air through the defroster vents. My partner refused to hit the road without fully functional air conditioning. I just wanted to get out of this pestilential city as soon as possible.
Phase 2 of over-the-road training consists of two trainees out there for three weeks doing all the things real truckers do. This phase is affectionately known around the yard as ‘Dumb and Dumber.’
In the meantime, it is trip planning day. The company assumes that its new hires have never seen a road map before, or if they have they don’t have a clue about how to use one. Strangely enough, it is becoming clear (I am writing this in class) that this assumption is not so far off the mark.
Under the close supervision of our facilitator we are working out a complete trip plan from Tampa to Denver. We have twelve hours (not counting breaks) to accomplish this daunting task. Three of those hours into the exercise, we are still not out of Florida.
Granted, it’s not the same as planning a vacation. We have to pick up loads at specific times, then scale them before we hit a DOT scale along the road and potentially get fined for an overweight or badly distributed load. There are company-scheduled fuel stops. There are roads and bridges we must not use. We have scheduled delivery times. And we have to be sure that we can drive the trip within both company guidelines and DOT hours of service regulations.
Still, it ain’t rocket science.
During breaks, we check on our truck. The A/C has been fixed. My partner is thrilled. I sure would like a headlight.
How long has this training process been going on already? A rhetorical question. The answer is: too long. These long days in class and short night in the roach motels the company puts us up in have actually made me nostalgic for the those days on the road stuffed into my trainer’s broom closet. For the days ahead, sharing a rolling closet with my partner, I am positively pining. Sure hope they get our truck ready by tomorrow. And that there’s a load ready for us, too, so we can get dispatched ASAP the hell out of Dodge.