By: Paul S. Cilwa Viewed: 2/28/2020
Occurred: 8/1/2002
Topics/Keywords: #18-Wheeler #BigRigs #Schneider #TruckDriver #TruckDriving Page Views: 270
It all comes down to this.

Thursday, August 1, 2002

I'm about to take the test to see if the past 10 days of training "took." If I pass, I will be hired by Schneider. If not, I will be kept for another week of training.

I'm pretty confident I'll pass. Either way, afterwards Kurtis and I will head home for the weekend. If I pass, I have to be back Monday for "Jump Start", the next week of training. If not, I have to be back Monday for the week of remedial training.

I gather that Jump Start consists of another week of training, similar to the past two.

We had to leave early from the Days Inn—5:45—so we could wait an hour and a half for the vaguely-timed get-together (which began at 7 am). We were anxious to start the written exam, but first we received two presentations on aspects of Schneider that seemed to assume would all pass, anyway.

Finally, Chuck, our classroom instructor of the past two weeks, showed up and the actual exam was given. It involved 36 multiple-choice questions, a logging example to be filled in, and a trip planning exercise. I got two of the multiple-choice questions wrong, and made several mistakes on the log—I know how to do it perfectly, but went too fast and made a stupid mistake. Still, my grade was adequate (well above the class average) and I was ready for the road test.

There are a limited number of testers and so we hung out in the cafeteria, waiting for our turns. It was sort of like a busy day at Death Row. Every now and then, someone would come for one of us, who would then disappear. Finally, about 4:00 pm, it was my turn.

My tester's name was Dan, and he was pissed. He wasn't supposed to be testing today, and he had promised a friend he would help him out with some work. They called him in at the last minute and insisted he show up. He told me, "I'm mad, but I'm not mad at you. I'll try and give you a fair test." Well, that certainly helped put me at ease!

The first part of the test was the pre-trip inspection. That's where you give a cursory examination to every part of the truck. It includes details like the fact that the steering tires must have at least 5/32" of tread, 100 pounds of pressure (as opposed to 3/32" on the other tires, 90 pounds of pressure on the drive tires and 110 pounds on the trailer tires); that the wheels have no hammer marks or other signs of damage; the lug nuts show no rust, black marks, or shininess underneath; the hub oil is at an appropriate level, the hub oil seals be intact and show no signs of leakage, and so on. There must be 100 or 150 different items to be covered, and a full pre-trip takes about an hour. However, once it was clear that I really did know it well, Dan moved me to the other side of the truck (to save duplication). I only missed three items on the pre-trip.

Next was the road test. I didn't try to hide the fact that I was nervous about this. I wasn't nervous about the test; I'm nervous about driving in traffic. I still don't know how fast the truck will accelerate—and that value would be different depending on load, anyway. I messed up on one right turn, distracted because of the non-stop flow of traffic, and the fact that a truck was parked into the lane I would normally have driven into. But I got the next four right turns okay, and the final left turn back into the lot. When we were stopped, Dan told me he had tested an "experienced driver" who was trying to get work with Schneider that morning, and he hadn't done as well on his road test as I had.

Backing was easy. I backed directly into a slot between two trailers that was tighter than any I had practiced with. (I did make one pull-up to adjust, partly because I had heard they like to see us do that.) Uncoupling and coupling the trailer was also a piece of cake; I scored perfectly on both.

So I am now just waiting for Ken (who has a car and will take me back to the hotel) to finish his test. Wayne passed his, by the way.

But David, my roommate, did not. He was good-spirited about it, saying that Jesus would arrange for whatever he needed to happen, to happen. Schneider will be giving him a week of "remedial", so I will see him next week.

Now I get to go home for the weekend. I have to be back here Sunday night, back at Schneider Monday morning early, for "Jump Start" week, more training. It will, again, consist of classroom and on-the-road training. But, next week, I'll be an employee of Schneider, and they'll be paying me to take the training.

That's the good news. The bad news is, I'll have to pay for the crappy food—no more subsidies.