A New Career 2
Well here I am 5 weeks later reporting to the yard office. The senior trainer has an attendance list that must be signed to indicate that you are present and ready for instruction, forgetting to sign in will cause you to be reassigned to another instructor and to a task that you may not like as much.
After signing in we report to the gazebo to enjoy our Morning coffee and cigarettes amid robust debate about current events and off color remarks about each other, nothing is sacred and every racial slur ever heard flies through the air, but hey we are a family of sorts and no gets upset. Finally the group of instructors appear and begin to call off names, you are then told where to report and for what maneuver, the first day it is either pre trip or straight line backing, I draw straight line backing.
We meet the instructor and then do a inspection of the tractor and trailer. He looks for a volunteer to go first, and of course no one raises their hand except me. I climb into the cab and start it, the instructor is on the ground opposite my window telling me what to do next. I place the gear shift in reverse and slowly let out the clutch and it slowly begins to move backward.
You would think that its an easy task, I mean you back up your car without thing about. Your car however does not have a 53 foot trailer behind it that has a tendency to float to the left or right. Correcting such drifts is not easy, you have to do everything in reverse. If you want your trailer to go right, you turn your steering wheel to the left. If you want your trailer to go left, you turn your wheel to the right. Confusing ain't it?
Just the little turn of the wheel is required as it takes the trailer about 8 seconds to respond and then you quickly bring your wheels back to center. If your don't it make the problem worse and then you really have to work to get it in line.The first day only those with previous experience do well, the rest of us wind off the concrete pad and onto the grass and mud. There is no air conditioning in the trucks and between the heat of the engine and the stress level your blood pressure goes up you begin to sweat profusely.
It runs into your eyes and stings, a sweatband will became mandatory after today. After about a half an hour you are told to step out and another student takes his turn, the instructor then gives you advice on what you are doing wrong and how to correct it. You are not allowed to press the accelerator to return to the start up position quickly, seems one student did it and forgot where the brake was. The instructor was forced to jump on the running board and turn the key off, on that day the no accelerator rule was born.
Finally lunch time arrives and we head to the gazebo. Many of us lament on our decision to attend school, it's not as easy as it looks, and this maneuver is the easiest of them all. After food and drink we feel refreshed and return to our tasks with renewed dedication. You are given a score for each day, one being the worst and four being the best, they don't give out too many fours. At five o'clock we head home for some well deserved rest and download all the instruction we received, we will continue tomorrow.
On the second day I am assigned to the classroom where one of the senior mechanics/trainers will go over the pre-trip inspection and engine components. After reading about them he takes us to the garage and shows us engine and transmission parts that have failed due to driver error. After lunch it's the pre-trip inspection, it must be done a certain way to pass the state exam and forgetting any of the in cab brake check is an automatic failure.
We spend the Afternoon preforming this check over and over again. The instructor then informs us that besides the state exam we must pass one administered by the school, it's part of your final grade. As difficult as we thought the straight line maneuver was, it is nothing compared to the next one.One the fourth day we are assigned to the parallel parking maneuver. Some folks can barley park their car in that fashion, now we have to swing a 53 foot trailer into a box like parking space and not run over any cones or cross any of the lines. As with the straight line back you have to do everything opposite and only a slight turn of the wheel is necessary lest you wind up off the pad .
If done properly you will have about two feet on each side of the tractor-trailer unit, they strive to get you in so that the tractor is aligned in front of trailer, but if the trailer is in you pass. You get two free re-sets and two GOAL's (get out and look), after that its two points per infraction, hitting a cone is a point. If you get a total of 13 points you fail and have to schedule a retest.
There is an unparalleled sense of accomplishment the first time you do it and the other students awaiting their turn along with those that went before you are on the sidelines giving you applause and thumbs up. The worst is yet to come....
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