Well truck driving school is finally over. I have attended the mandatory hours and have satisfactory completed all the maneuvers, the only task that remains is to take the State administered test. There are a number of companies that are empowered by the State to administer the final driving test. The school pays all fees for the first test, if you have to retake the test then its out of pocket for the student.
So en route to the first test a family emergency caused me to have to return home, I contacted the testing facility in enough time to slip someone into my slot, they thanked me for calling. I then contacted the school to explain what occurred and to see if they could schedule the next one, I could not reach anyone in the yard office. On my 3rd attempt they connected me with the school's slightly senile owner, and of course the first words out of his mouth were I had to pay for the next test.
Now this testing site is just under 2 hours away and since I had no desire to drive that far in the first place I did an on line search and found one about 1 hour away. It would cost me more money but they could schedule me in less than 2 days, I accepted. Then they told me that they did not have a tractor trailer available, they did have a large dump truck with a utility trailer attached that would meet the States requirements. I returned to the school and spoke to one of the instructors, he gave me a quick outline of a utility trailers pre-trip inspection.
I was then cautioned that this kind of set up would not react like the big rigs I was trained on, they would move a lot faster. I was sure I could handle it and thanked him for his assistance. So on the scheduled date I arrived at the testing facility, actually I was about an hour early for fear of being delayed in rush hour traffic. I smoked about a dozen cigarettes as my fear factor climbed.
About 15 minutes before my appointment I signed in and then signed over the required amount of money. A pleasant middle age woman transported me from the office to the testing yard via golf cart. I was given about five minutes to familiarize myself with this set up before she returned. She went over the rules and said I could commence the pre-trip whenever I wished, the sweat started to flow.
The pre-trip is item most commonly failed part of the test. It has a language and an order that must be followed, all the while the examiner is standing right next to you making notes on her clipboard. I complete the engine compartment secure the hood and step into the cab to begin the brake and instrument check, forgetting any part of the brake check is an automatic failure. To my amazement I remembered all the items, I then step down from cab to compete the truck cab and trailer exterior check.
Having never seen this type of trailer I am relying on the brief lesson I received by the instructor at the school. I am at the trailer springs when I remembered that I forgot to mention the springs on the front axle, I ask the instructor to follow me and I reopen the engine compartment and point out the springs, spring mounts and U bolts. I return to the trailer and finish the components. Now its time to check all the lights, the examiner assists me.
I then officially end this part of the test my telling her I have competed the pre-trip inspection. Yes, you most tell her that you are finished. She totals the numbers and informs me that I passed, not a high score but a passing score nevertheless. She voices her complments for my only missing 2 items on a trailer I had never seen before. Now it's on to the dreaded yard maneuvers, she explains each one and I am told to begin the straight line backing.
The instructors were 100 % correct, this rig moves greatly with just the slightest turn of the wheel. She holds up her hand to stop me as I almost hit a cone. You are given 1 free restart, after that its 2 points to start again. Two points are assigned if you roll over a cone, cross a line or are crooked. The test time stops when you sound your horn and after that you are really done, there is no restart.
I am through and I blow the horn. The cab is straight but the trailer is just a few degrees from a jack knife. I fail the test. I am reschedules and assured the tractor trailer will be available next time. I am very depressed as I drive home and have to endure more stress as I ready myself for my next attempt.
One week later I return to the testing site for my second attempt at testing. It will be cheaper as I already passed one portion. The examiner drops me off and then walks to the garage to bring out the tractor trailer, he then sets it up for the first of the maneuvers, the straight line back. This time I have no problems, the examiner however is a stickler for perfection. I blow my horn to indicate I have finished, I passed but he subtracted one point because the tractor and trailer are not perfectly straight.
Now onto the dreaded off set back. It is one of the most difficult maneuvers as I related in an earlier offering.You are attempting to back into a position that is opposite from your starting position. This involves swinging the trailer wide in one direction and then counter steering.My stress level is at it peak, I begin to back up and re-position the trailer. Its not far enough, so I pull up to restart.
You are given 2 free pull ups,but ONLY if your trailer tires have reached the outer cones at the entrance of the box you are attempting to back into. Now I am frustrated and when that happens I begin to fall apart. I make 2 more attempts to properly position my trailer and fail. I instructor stops me telling me that I have "pointed out", that means for every mistake you are given 2 points, I now have 13 and that is the limit.
I am more depressed than words can describe. They ask if I will return and I tell them "No". It is a long sad ride home as I contemplate my next course of action.