Today was my first one on one with my trainer. After a bleary eyed start at the crack of dawn, I drank a few cups of coffee and headed to the terminal.
Once I got myself settled I took a moment to enjoy the silence of not having any of the boys around. After another cup of coffee it was time to do a bit more simulator work. This time I did scenarios following directions on the Qualcomm.
A Qualcomm is an electronic logging device that is a truckers main tool while on road. It acts not only as their logging device as far as their driving hours but as a messaging service between a driver and their fleet manager, as well as dispatch tool. I’m not going to get into the debate as far as electronic logs go but know that there is heavy pushback from drivers regarding the intrusion of the mandate requiring electronic logging versus paper logs.
For the scenario I was running, instructions would come over the Qualcomm instructing me what it wanted me to do. In this case it was enter a highway, get off at a specific exit, pull into a fuel bay, and then park in a parking space by backing into it. The biggest difference was that I would now have obstacles while trying to maneuver, which I was not warned about.
On my first try, while trying to turn, a car drove on the shoulder and crashed into me while I was turning. I laughed and thought, “that wouldn’t happen in real life.” Then again, I realized that these scenarios weren’t that far fetched. We’ve all seen various acts of stupidity while driving, whether it be in real life or in videos, and while I can think someone wouldn’t be that stupid the truth is those people are out there in the world.
After I was done on the simulator my trainer looked at me and asked, “you ready to try the real thing?” I couldn’t get out of that seat and grab my gear fast enough. Was I ready? Honestly I felt I was born ready for this.
Out on the training pad, we went through the pre-trip inspection. The pre-trip is something that you should do every day before hitting this road. This is a major step in ensuring your equipment is safe and in proper working order. This is also a main component of the exam. I have to point out the location and condition of over 100 items, both inside and outside of the truck. Most of this is done prior to even turning the truck on, but there are additional things you check (such as air compressors, gauges, break leakage, etc.) when the truck is running.
After this was done it was time for some backing maneuvers. Saturday, all that we worked on was backing straight. It was a way to get the feel of the trailer behind me and how to adjust it. My trailer kept pulling to one side or the other but I was able to get a few perfect backs done and realized that sometimes big movements are needed rather that finesse and small movements.
I thought the day would be done then, but no, my trainer felt comfortable enough to take me out on the road. We switched places and he started off and took us to an isolated road on the outskirts of town very near the salt flats. Once there, he pulled over and let me take the drivers seat.
This exercise was not only about spacial relation of my truck and trailer, but also putting my shifting and downshifting skills into use in the real world environment. The road went on for a few miles and I was in heaven. I felt extremely comfortable and could envision my life on the road.
Once we came to the end of the road, he asked me if I felt comfortable getting on the highway. I shot him my best smirk and said “Hell yeah I am.” He laughed and said “atta girl”. My turn was flawless and around onto the on ramp we went. Now I really felt like I was queen of the road.
I took the first exit and went around again on the side road and back on the highway. When my stomach started growling my trainer told me to pull off on the next ramp, pull off to the side, and turn on my hazards as we were going to be ending for the day.
We switched places again and my trainer took over and instead of taking me back to the terminal he dropped me off at my hotel. As I was gathering my gear to get out he stopped me and said “I’ve trained a lot of people in my time and you, little lady, are a natural. You’re going to rock this test and be in your own truck in no time. Now get outta my truck and get some sleep.”
This ended the best day of the week!
Sunday, it was all about backing and no street driving was to be had. While this made me sad, the cold I’ve been struggling with was kicking my rear today so a light day was cool by me.
The object of today’s practice was offset backing. The mechanics are you pull forward, initiate two controlled movements to line up your trailer with a different lane, and then back into them. This was something I struggled with a bit in the simulator as I was having problems seeing what they wanted me to see. In real life it’s different. After getting a walk through I was able to visualize exactly what I needed to do. I did this pretty much all day long. By the time lunch rolled around I could offset on both sides with ease with one of my two free pull ups (pulling forward to realign yourself if you get off track) still in my pocket.
The next two days are going to be slow as my trainer is off, so I will be doing a lot of solo work. After this week, that’s fine by me. I feel drained but over all pretty good and more than once I’ve wondered why it took me so long to make this career move.
For now, I will leave you with a look at my new office, my happy place, and my home away from home.