CDL School: Results are In!

To listen to an audio transcription of this blog post, click play below.

Pass?  Fail?  Read on to see!

Week 4 on the Range was interesting…. they don’t usually test on Monday’s coz of the “Monday” whammy – hehe.  I don’t know if that’s true, but us students usually did invent weird things on Monday’s, like developing new bad habits, or just seemed discombobulated in general. Anyways…..  1 of us was scheduled to test on Tuesday. (not me).  Since we each test in the same truck we’d been learning in, that left two of us with not a lot to do while the 3rd one was testing.  We sailed through Monday, and during the Tuesday Morning Testing, I took a break and drove over to Shenandoah Airport. Hoped to catch some planes flying and take photos. No planes were in the air, but a bird of the feathered variety said “Hi”.  Plus I had a great view of the Blue Ridge Mountains, so just chilled there a bit.  It was a nice day, too!

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So that student’s test took, I believe, all of the morning for some reason, so after that person passed, those 2 went to lunch.  I was going to test Wednesday.  I was calm; I know I have challenges being nervous on tests, so I knew I was going to take a few hits and rack up a few penalty points just due to the nerves.

There are 3 parts to the Skills Testing.

  1. The Pre-Trip Inspection
  2. 3 Back up Maneuvers
  3. On-Road Driving and associated procedures.

My Test Day Sweatshirt!

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Tuesday night I made my TEST DAY sweatshirt!  LOL.  C’mon, don’t act surprised! you all knew I *had* to make a special item for myself!  It’s a hi-viz Yellow, so I would be compliant.  hehe.  I also noted that I was able to fit into a Men’s L.  Just a side note, that I’m incorporating some new habits prepping for life as a Trucker on the Road and how to help keep physically and mentally fit.  Physical and mental fitness are critical elements to becoming and remaining the best truck driver I can be.  They are also measured and routinely ‘inspected’ elements that are part of federally set standards.

I’m sure if I began telling you how regulated the trucking industry is you would be amazed.  Trucking is among the top federally regulated industries in our country.  Ever see a truck pulled over by an officer, and immediately think to yourself they’re getting busted for speeding or something?  Did you know that there are quotas for inspections? Minimums that MUST be conducted by certain officials to inspect trucks and truck drivers?  Not from any causation; just part of federally mandated routine safety and compliance checks.  They inspect the trucks, the drivers, paperwork and all sorts of details.  Those results then go into a massive database and get chewed up and spit out 10 ways from Tuesday.  HeHe.  Even to this day in 2020 companies and customers alike are deploying new ways to mine and measure all the metrics available from this data!

So I wore this to my test Wednesday Morning! Woot Woot!  And no….. not for any kind of luck scenario — just me being my Artsy JJ self and wearing some creative beauty and confidence.

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Test Time!

So, here’s how test day went for me!  Those who have been following me, know this is the culmination of about what say, a 5+ month journey?  I think I started back in August / September-ish of 2019 when I decided to pursue this new career. Now it’s February 2020.  Plus I had that false start adventure out in Missouri! Remember that?  HaHa… If not, click here for that caa-raazy story! (YouTube Vlog)

Okay, the Examiner called me over…

…and read the preamble to the test process, then asked for my papers (license, learner’s permit and DOT medical card) Then he read the preamble to part one: The Pre-Trip Inspection.  And so it begins!!!!!  I started out confidently and went slowly trying to be sure to enunciate, breathe, and speak clearly to the examiner.  If the Examiner didn’t hear or understand me, it would count as a missed item!   I methodically pointed out and stated all parts on the front and in the engine that I would inspect, we’re talking lights, light lens covers, alternator, water pump, air compressors, then onto steering assemblies, brakes, springs, shocks, oil, coolant, and so much more— the entire list is worth about 89 points of things from tractor, to coupling, to trailer, then into the cab, plus the 3 air brakes tests.  I was doing okay at first, but then started getting flustered when I was at the cat walk, drive shaft, and started doing things out of order that I had practiced them in. 🙁  I was trying to keep composed, and not spiral out in worry, I tried pausing, to regain my momentum, but it wasn’t helping.  I did keep going though, but I was of two minds now at this point: trying in my head to remember the next thing, while at the exact same time trying to remember if I forgot something.  That’s not conducive to remaining composed. HAHA.

Well, I’m in cab at the end of the air brakes test. (which is the last piece of the Pre-Trip Inspection) I have an opportunity at this point to think everything trough, before I state “This concludes my Pre-Trip Inspection”.  Well, I had this nagging feeling that I spaced somehow on my Tractor Axle.  I wasn’t sure how to handle that, although I did know, if you know what I mean. I was thinking back and totally recalled doing things there, but did I do them all? I remembered speaking to the tires, hub, rims, valve, brake drum and linings, but did I mention the rest of the brakes? the chamber, the air hoses, the slack adjuster, push rod? the leaf springs, and all those components? Shocks? Aye Aye Aye!  So, I asked the Examiner: If I feel that I missed some things, can we exit the cab again so I can do them? His reply was simply along the lines of “I can not make that decision for you one way or the other”  Dude had the best poker face I ever did see. OMGness.  First off, I knew the nagging feeling was the Holy Spirit telling me I forgot that stuff, and that alone should have been all I needed to just get out and do it.  but my carnal mind plunged into reasoning mode: *IF* I already stated the parts, at worst I would only be redundant – there’s no penalty for redundancy. but if I missed them – definite penalty!  I was so discombobulated. I said, “Then I better do that” and we got back out of the cab. I had to re-open a compartment to get the pointing stick.  So, I’m holding the stick and just rattle off the list of things I think I forgot but didn’t point to any of them!!!! OMGness I’m so wonked at this point, he did state something to the effect of “could you point to or identify those items”, I don’t remember which he said, So I’m like (in my head) crap! Duh!  I move to point to them all and now I drop the darn stick in between the tires!!  HAHAHAHAHAHAHA what a funny thing to do! I was able to reach with my pointing finger to basically touch these parts at this point, and then I called it: “This concludes my Pre-Trip Inspection”

Then he says, “Okay, I’ll be right back.” and he went off to score this disastrous Pre-Trip Bumbling.  I just stood there thinking “What in the heck just happened here???”

He returned and indicated that had I not chosen to get back out, I would have failed my Pre-Trip!  OMGosh.  Thanks Holy Spirit!!!!  I’m so glad I live according my gut. I heard someone once say they don’t want to live a “should have____” life.  I live that way (without should haves) trusting that intuition even, or especially, when it doesn’t make logical sense to me or anyone else.  So, out of 89, 67 to pass, I passed with a 70.  He offered to tell me the rest of what I missed, I said yes, please.  Well it turned out I practically obliterated (neglected) the same items on my trailer tandem that I missed on my Tractor Drive axle.  Uggh.  Plus a few of the things that were on my list of 5-10 items I missed regularly…  Derp.

Do you know that one day I went through the entire Pre-Trip just in my minds eye?  My method of practicing the Pre-Trip was to video record myself every day pointing to the things, and then scoring myself against the paper copy every night..  I consistently  fluctuated between missing 5 and 10 things each time.  The one day I did it just visually sitting in the cab with my eyes closed and that score was only 5 things missed!

Oh My… Well, on to Step 2 the Backing Maneuvers.

Again the Examiner reads me the preamble to this section overall, and then to each of the 3 pieces 1 at a time as I executed them.

1st was the straight-backing.  Finally a chance to breathe a second.  (coz that’s an ez maneuver). Then the Off-set Backing.  My confidence faded rapidly again, Sh*ite, do I steer away from the middle or towards the middle???  No way! I can’t be choking again?!! This is unbelievable!  (not really it’s just nerves).  So I begin and, yep, started the wrong way.  BUT I get two *free* pull-ups, so I pulled up composed myself and got’er going correctly… nailed it. Off-set Backing Maneuver: Check!  Next: Parallel Park this Big *zz rig.  Perfect – Check!  The Examiner came back and told me I earned a perfect score in that piece.  Oh my Lord, I earned the opportunity to test On the road.

The Road Test…

I expected myself to make a few mistakes on the road, and I did jack up one turn royally in fumbling to downshift, but I did a decent job otherwise on the road test.  There was  this one particular left turn though, that I really took too tight, and as I watched a sign in my side view mirror come within inches of my trailer my eyes were starting to pop out of my head! I was like O…….M……………GGGGGGGG.  There had to have been an Angel there pulling the sign away from my trailer, coz it really looked like I was going to scrape it.  Not knock it down or anything, but come back with a scrape down the length of my trailer.  When we got back and he gave me my road results, he did make mention that I need to watch how tight I take my left turns and that I was very close to one curb, but “didn’t hit it” so I was OK. I don’t even know if that was the ‘sign curb’ or not that he was referring to, but either way, I’m quite sure that Angel scooted the curb away from my rear trailer tires as I rolled by, lol. Praise God.

When all is said and done, applicants have 3 tries to pass the test before they are regulated for further schooling.  So, had I failed, I just would’ve tried again.

BUT… I received my PASSing test paper –Woot Woot! and went to the DMV, took my Tanker endorsement test while I was there, and passed that.  Meanwhile it’s week 3 since applying for my hazmat background check, so when that comes back as eligible, I’ll be able to sit for that test.  I’m also applying for my TWIC Card which is a TSA credential (also with a background check) that will allow me to work in secure areas like sea ports if I get any intermodal work.

Celebration!

I’m looking forward to celebrating this achievement at a restaurant which I have been wanting to go to for three years.  It’s at The Inn at Willow Grove in Orange, VA.  My longest-time friend Sarah is joining me for Sunday Brunch there this weekend to celebrate!  (Sarah and I went to High-school together in New York).  This is the kind of place where you make reservations, and when they asked if we were celebrating a special occasion, I put down celebrating my “Attaining Licensure”.  LOL!  It’s all in the wording, ya?!  hahaha…  I even wrote them to ask if the Chef would prepare a special brunch entree for me of Eggs Benedict over Grilled Salmon, with their house Dill Hollandaise, and the Chef agreed :0). teeheehee.

Am I making a big deal out of earning my “trucker’s license”?  Darn Tootin’ I am! It’s a great career – no matter what stigmas the public holds in their minds. The trucking industry is a critical backbone in this country.  Plus on a personal level, the lessons learned, and strengthened faith gained, from the trials and tribulations endured on my path to passing this test can not be quantified.

Proud?  No.  Grateful?  Indeed.

Isaiah 40:31

I waited upon Him.  I moved according to what He told me.  One foot in front of the other, even when what I heard made no logical sense.  He was faithful to me, even when I felt I was lacking faith in Him.  I was given the strength of my favorite Bible verse Isaiah 40:31.

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A beautiful song that carries me through often:  Arms that hold the Universe – by Fee

Cheers and Clix, and CDL Success!!

-JJ

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PS: Please provide me (in comments) with some feedback as to whether you like the value add of the audio transcriptions – I do appreciate it!  Hugs All.

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