The time had arrived, on Tuesday I was called into the office and asked to perform a series of test. My objective; to prove to my employer that I could be trusted with 80,000 lbs rolling down a public highway without a scared, screaming trainer sitting in passenger seat digging his fingernails into the dash. Their objective; to locate drivers that don't force their trainers (or anybody else) to take advantage of life insurance benefits at an early age.
The guy I was training with decided to stay out on the road for the day and make money. In most cases, the truck that you train in is the truck that is used to test the trainee. This provides an added benefit to the trainee because all trucks are a little different and it's nice to test in something that you're familiar with. There was another trainer at the terminal that day and his trainee was also scheduled to test so he graciously agreed to let me use his truck to take my test in. The major difference, he had a brand new Kenworth with only 37,000 miles on. In truck speak, that's not even broke in yet. The truck that I was training on, a 4 year old Peterbilt with over 500k and scheduled to be traded off for a new truck. As I was touring around the Kenworth, I was told that the big difference is the shift pattern is much tighter. In the sloppy ole' Pete, I had to swing my right arm from here to Texas to navigate the shift lever from one gear to the next. Again, I was nervous about trying to get used to a new truck while I was being graded on my ability.
Once we go started on the road test, I soon realized that getting used to a newer truck was a lot like trying to adjust to a more comfy chair. It was in fact much easier than I thought and the transmission seemed to be much smoother. No coffee grinding with this trans, just smooth as butter shifts from one gear to the next. A quick trip up the freeway and then played around on a few side streets and back at the terminal without a problem. I drove the truck to the back of the yard where the tester kicked me out and then complimented me on my test.
Now, at the back of the yard I was faced with yet one more task. I now had to prove that I had the skills to safely negotiate a truck into a loading dock without ripping open trailers like a can of spam. The area is set up with lots of traffic cones to simulate the conditions that you might encounter in a customers yard. I felt somewhat confident about this part of the test because I did this course before I started training. We would have to perform a straight back, a 45 degree and a 90 degree alley dock. There was also a small go-cart track that I had to go around but I got to do that one forward. This course also had it's own equipment, a worn out ole' Pete. About the time I got started I soon realized there was one very significant difference from the first time I did this course. A stray cone was placed right smack in the middle of the backing lane for my straight and 45 degree. Now, they were both serpentine ~ backs.
That annoying and ill placed cone certainly put my backing skills to the test. I was able to handle it without too much trouble but that 45 degree caused me to sprout one or two more gray hairs. After I was done, I approached the examiner and he told me :congratulations, your status has changed, you're now solo."
After that, I talked to my driver manager and she told me that it would take about a week to a week an a half to find an available truck. So, I'm back at home and waiting for a truck and then I will be on my way.