Monday, November 30, 2009

First Drive

Our original plan called for me to attend a trucking school to prepare for my road test. We've been in contact with an owner-operator, however, who doesn't believe that's necessary, and who will be content with Hoss training me on our own. The tuition we'd planned to spend will now simply be spent on renting a truck to train in.

Today, we rented a 26' from Ryder. Hoss drove it home, and we parked it on the street in front of the house. It was raining quite heavily, so while we waited for the rain to let up a bit, I studied my pre-trip list.

After 90 minutes, the rain had lessened enough for us to venture out. We climbed into the cab and Hoss demonstrated air pressure testing for me. And then? He set me loose on the pre-trip.

Pre-tripping is common sense: test and point out the obvious. Leaks. Loose. Damaged. Illegal. Or more accurately, pointing out what's NOT leaking, loose, damaged, or illegal regarding the vehicle you're about to drive. The challenge is in remembering all of the parts and systems that need to be checked, and in the proper order.

My first pre-trip went pretty well. Starting at the driver's cab door and working clockwise around the truck, always from top to bottom, provides a common sense framework to the process. Glass? Okay, can you see through it? Is it broken? Something that latches - a door, a hood - is it latched and secure? Is there ample tread on the tires? Is anything leaking? Are any light lenses broken, or any bulbs burned out?

But there's much more, of course. Suspension components must be checked. Slack adjusters must be manually tested for excess play. Piston rod indicators must be checked. As you pre-trip during your road test, you must call out each item you're checking, and you lose points for each one you miss or fail to point out.

The braking system is thoroughly checked, by intentionally dropping air pressure and calling out the PSI when the alarm sounds and when the spring brakes engage. The brake pedal is depressed for a full minute to check for pressure loss. The driver's window is rolled down to listen for air leaks. The parking brake is tested by engaging the clutch and stressing the brake.

Gauges are checked. The defroster must be demonstrated. Ditto the wipers and washers, as well as the horns. You must point out the fire extinguisher and the fact that it's charged and ready for use; you must point out the three reflective triangles; you must point out the extra fuses you have on board, unless your truck uses breakers.

It's a lot to remember. And I've only touched on the complete list.

We went through the pre-trip several times, and then it was finally time for me to drive. Unloaded, first and second gears are overkill. To save time and aggravation when driving an unloaded 6-speed, start in 3rd gear. This, I learned straight away. :)

I knew of a rarely used street nearby, situated behind a few McYuppie restaurants. We headed there first, to practice parallel parking and straight backing. I did fairly well with both. Parallel parking in a truck is completely different than that in a car, of course; according to Hoss, you're allowed craploads of space to perform the maneuver and adjust as you go. If that turns out to be true with the person that road tests me, I should be okay.

We headed out toward 690, practicing L-turns, lane centering, and distanced stopping. Although it had been 10 to 12 years since I'd driven a manual transmission, the only issue I seemed to have with shifting was slipping the bitch into 3rd when I wanted it. For some reason, it required considerable fiddling and force. Other than that, all went well shifting-wise.

We hit 690 and Hoss informed me it was time to start calling out hazards. "Approaching overpass; no height restrictions posted; 14 feet or higher." "Approaching bridge; no weight restrictions posted; 40 tons or better." "Congested intersection ahead." "Speed limit change; now 45 mph." "Approaching on-ramp; merging traffic."

Anyone who has driven 690 through town knows this exercise required constant attention.

It sucked.

I missed a handful, which Hoss gleefully pointed out. He thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I suspect we'll be driving 690 more in coming days.

At the end of the day, I was exhausted. Although there was a good deal of physical activity required, I suspect the exhaustion is more from concentration and stress than anything.

But I'm closer. :)

The Written

I once again went to the Fulton DMV office, this time with physical exam paperwork in hand. I was 21st in line when I arrived at mid-morning. Ugh! With only two windows open, it took the better part of an hour to get to the window.

The testing area at that office is a tiny table set up along one wall of the room. If you can't concentrate in noisy, busy areas, don't bother taking your tests at Fulton.

I completed three written tests - the General Knowledge exam, the Air Brakes exam, and the Passenger endorsement exam. The questions were all, surprisingly, almost exactly the same as I'd found here. I took my time, went over the questions twice, and double checked that I'd selected the answers I'd intended to. After a half hour, I was ready to have my answers reviewed. The problem? I had to get back in line, which was now even longer by a dozen people. Grayyt.

After nearly an hour, I made it to the window and asked that my tests be scored. The result? Four of fifty wrong on General Knowledge, two of 25 wrong on Air Brakes, and one of 20 wrong on the Passenger endorsement. Yay, me!

So, I walked out with a CDL Class B learner's permit and a whole lotta smiling. :) :) :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

DOT Physical

The waiting room was quite busy, and I overheard a good deal of talk about being called back from a layoff. Perhaps things are picking up locally? I did have to wait considerably longer than I'd expected, but with nothing else to do, it wasn't an issue. There were a couple of other women in the room besides me.

The testing was pretty standard stuff, really. Height, weight, read line 5 on the eye chart, pee in a cup, etc. I once again managed to pass the eye exam without wearing my glasses, so that restriction won't appear on my license. They tested my coordination and balance, my hearing (by whispering behind my back while I faced a corner of the room), made sure I could bend over and squat, etc. The only thing they brought to my attention was that they'd found traces of blood in my urine, which is likely a very mild UTI. Hoss wants me to take antibiotics, but I don't see the need. I'll pay attention to it, but it'll probably resolve on its own.

So, I'm healthy enough to drive truck. Let's see if I'm smart enough.

Friday, November 13, 2009

DMV Visit #1

After months of casually reading and studying the New York State Commercial Driver's Manual with the idea that perhaps I'd drive motorcoach or obtain a similar job, Hoss has convinced me that expedited freight is the way for us to go. And it makes sense. We're empty nesters, with no ongoing responsibilities at home; we both love to travel and experience new adventures; we thoroughly enjoy each other's company and have very rarely gotten on the other's nerves; and neither of us is tied to a daily shower, a king-sized bed, and three course meals. By team expediting, we'd be together, we'd travel the country, we'd enjoy the potential to make a good living, and we'd have fun at it.

So I drove North to the Fulton DMV to take my written CDL. Alas, it's Friday, and with the Taft Road office closed, the line is much longer than expected. After a 20 minute wait in line, the cashier informs me that I need a DOT physical before I can take the written exam. Hmm, a new procedure.

Okie doke. I bought a physical exam packet for three bucks (no idea if I needed to or not, but I didn't want to be unprepared), thanked her, and went out to my car, where I called my regular physician. I was politely informed that they don't do DOT exams, and gave me the number for a site near downtown Syracuse. I called and made an appointment for the following Wednesday.

After returning home I hit the book, yet again. Just in case. ;)


Welcome to the Proper Expediting blog. Following are a few questions and answers that synopsize this little corner of the web.

Who are we?
Steve (aka "Hossman") - mid-fifties, ardent husband, with a long resume detailing management, transportation, and sales.

Paulette - early fifties, devoted wife, who spent 27 years working for a ginormous insurance company's IT department and would rather live in a cardboard box than go back to the cubicles and suits and endless, fruitless meetings.

Together, we share six (mostly) wonderful kids and five grandkids, two cats, and a flaccid bank account. We both love new adventures, new people, travel, local customs and foods; we value hard work, honesty, and above all, each other's attention and company.

What is the purpose of this blog?
To document the launch of a new career and lifestyle, and the adventures - both good and bad - resulting from that choice.

For whom are we blogging?
Primarily, for ourselves; I expect this new career will lead us to many new places and faces that can be documented well via this medium. Secondarily, for family and friends who want to share these adventures with us. And finally, for anyone interested in this career and the successes and pitfalls we encounter along the way.

What do we want to achieve via this blog?
Our blog will journal our new venture into expedited freight as a husband / wife driving team.

How much of our lives will we disclose?
We will be forthright about our successes and failures, with the expectation that a reader may well benefit from our mistakes. After we hit the road, we'll document where our travels take us and who we meet on the way.

How much time will we commit to it?
Posts will be published at milestones during our journey, with updates provided minimally every week.

What is our exit criteria?
The framework of our blog is our foray into expedited trucking. When that ends, so does the blog.