It’s Official

I PASSED my AZ CDL Skills Test! I am now a licensed Commercial Driver! Now I have to wait for everything to catch up and get assigned my truck. Monday is what I’m told. Now I am a “big shot” truck driver. (Or so you may think…rookie.) Now, on to System and the ability to directly impact Schneider’s ability to make a profit!

After running on the “90 Day” board…which might be longer or shorter than 90 days, you are handed off to a mainline STL. The “90 day” STLs are trained to deal with newer drivers and give much more support than would be needed or expected by more experienced drivers. This provides you with a boost into the real time life of moving freight in a orange truck.


On My Way!

Completed my Skills Qualification Test today! I have to hustle back to Phoenix and take my CDL test tomorrow at the USTDS yard there.

SQT is a skills test. It covers everything that is covered by a state CDL test as well as SNI specific policies. It is the determining factor in whether or not you get a truck and are released to the “90 Day Board.”

Now that I’ve passed the test, if I pass my CDL test, I will be assigned a truck and handed off to the “90 day” board. SNI does not have “dispatchers”, they have Service Team Leaders (STLs). Each STL is assigned 2-4 “boards” of drivers to support. A “Board” is nothing more than a fancy way of saying group. Drivers in a certain region, or meeting certain criteria are placed on the same board and handled by one assigned STL. Your STL is your liaison with the rest of the organization. They assist you in any problems or situations that arise while you are assigned to them.

OTR Training!

The next phase of training is Over the Road training. The trainee is teamed with a Training Engineer (TE) and spends up to two weeks training in real life situations. You run loads, trip plan your load, make sure it gets there on time, scale your load as necessary, and find out what it’s really like.

My OTR trainer was assigned to the CSK Account in Phoenix. So, I spent my training time running trailer shuttle back and forth between Phoenix and Commerce, CA. It was all drop/hook trailer swaps.

Jumping into Jump Start

Training room at the old Schneider Fontana OC.


Almost anyone can learn to drive a truck. It’s rather easy. Just keep it between the lines and don’t run anyone over. Right?

Maybe, but not at Schneider National. Schneider puts you through 11 days of initial training to teach you how to move 80,000lbs of machine down the road. It ain’t pretty, but you can do it without hitting anyone or grinding too many gears.

If you survive the initial training, you graduate from the basic schooling and become a employee of Schneider National, Inc. That’s when the fun starts. They cycle you through 5 days of intense study on becoming a “Schneider Driver”. This is where you learn how to use the Qualcomm satellite terminal in the truck, how to get from point A to point B safely in the least amount of time, and what to do when you are assigned a load of hazardous stuff.

They call this program JumpStart. And that is what it is. They are jump starting you with the information you need to be a newbie pumpkin driver and not embarrass the company too much.

JumpStart is structured in such a way as to allow you half the day in a classroom environment and half the day out practicing your backing skills and getting road time.

In class, you perfect your trip planning and map reading/routing skills, become certified to transport Hazardous Materials (HazMat) and learned how to communicate with “office types” via the QualComm satellite terminal in each truck.

If you’re lucky, you might learn some interesting acronyms for rival trucking companies. (hey, do you know what SWIFT stands for? Never mind)

More importantly, you learn/relearn the policies and procedures of the company. Also, you are informed about how the next few weeks will be structured and what you should expect.

This was a LOT of material to cover in a week…and still get in backing and driving and the fun stuff.

Training Day Eleven

Finals day. 

Major bad news last night. My wife called to inform me that my grandmother had passed away. I cried for a while. She would have been 100 this June. I wanna go home.

We showed up at the OC at 06:30. After waiting for a few minutes, we were taken to a classroom and the Training Manager and TOM talked to us for a couple of hours. Mainly on what to expect and what was going to happen next in the process. Then we took our final written exam. After lunch we all sat around and waited for our drive tests. The tester that I was assigned to was supposed to start at 1430, but he didn’t show up until two hours later. So the three of us that were testing with him had to do everything in the dark. They didn’t train us in the dark! It’s different. I butchered my backing, though. When we trained at the school, we had plenty of room to pull forward and reposition ourselves. At the OC, we had about 70 feet…and there was a tractor coupled to the trailer directly in front of where I had to put my trailer. Not much room to move around. Luckily there was no trailer on the far side of my space or I really would have messed it up. I did pass, but with a lot of work needed on backing. Whew.

Now it’s time for a midnight trip home, some sleep and a lot of laundry. Then I’m back on Sunday evening for a week of JumpStart…followed by OTR training.  

Training Day Ten

The old Schneider Fontana Operating Center.

More rain today. This is such fun. I’m wearing my heavy boots today and they keep interfering with the accelerator when I press on the brake. My instructor’s only comment was “it’s the other pedal.”

Well, the driving instruction part is over. We’re sitting in the OC eating lunch. The bus takes us back to USTDS in a few minutes. Then we will finish out our classroom stuff. Tomorrow is the final exam and the road test. Oh joy!

Training Day Nine

“It never rains in Southern California.” Well it is today. It’s rainy, cold and windy. Not wanting to splash around in the mud while practicing our backing, we practiced button-hook turns instead. Such fun. That’s like trying to herd a wounded water buffalo upstream. After lunch the physical therapist talked to us about proper stretching exercises and things to do behind the wheel to help blood flow and keep us more alert. I hate the wind.

Today we worked on Trip Planning in class. This is about the last thing we have to cover before our finals on Thursday. We should finish it up tomorrow. I am seeing the benefit of Mapping Software already. It works great to double-check my routing plans. Did I mention that I don’t like the rain?

It has been confirmed. SNI has cancelled their contract with this flea-bag motel. The class that started on Monday is the last to be here. When I come back for Jump Start next week, I should be in the new motel. Actually, it’s the old motel, before they moved us to Days Inn. Maybe they’ll have something other than milk and donuts for the continental breakfast. Did I mention that I don’t like the motel we’re in?

Training Day Seven

Sunday morning! I woke up in my own bed before dawn and took a nice warm shower. Sneaking out the door before the kids are awake, I’m off into the pre-dawn darkness. Four and a half hours later I’m back in the motel parking lot…but this time I have freedom! One of the other students and I go to Walmart and then out to lunch! This is great.

Class doesn’t start until 2pm. We arrived in plenty of time and started on map reading. The instructor gave us a warm-up exercise for homework. Find this city on the map, etc.