“If your wheels aren’t turnin’, you’re not earnin’.”
If you missed part 1 you can find it here: OTR Trucking School Adventure
My instructor was the oldest trucker in the lower 48 states. No joke, 73 years old. He had that “old timer” wit about him, and a story for every situation. He made us laugh, but it usually was one of those laughs you get an uncomfortable feeling from. Like maybe you really shouldn’t be laughing. I laughed anyway. Each instructor was assigned 4 students for the driving portion of the training. The rigs were gutted and then outfitted with additional seats, so when we went out on the road everyone could observe you grinding gears, hopping curbs, stopping in the middle of intersections, and nearly killing the general public. Meanwhile, the 73 year old instructor is gazing out of the passenger side window lost in some memory. I almost got the feeling he was praying silently, yet fervently, that one day, one of his classes would jerk this rig into a bridge abutment. He seemed (to me at least) to have had enough.
OTR Trucking School Adventure Part 2
Before we set out on the road they had us practice shifting on a one and a half mile track. There is a big difference in shifting your personal vehicle and shifting a semi. With a semi you have to double clutch in order to up-shift and down-shift. There is an added element in the down-shift by which you apply just enough fuel to get your RPM’s between 900-1000 before you drop to the next lower gear. They call it “the dance” and appropriately so. The instructor took us around the track once, explained (under his breath) how to shift, tossed me the keys and said “take turns.” Then he left us. There we are the 4 of us, going around this track at 15 MPH trying to shift. Actually, we had a couple of challenges. We found shifting to be a close second to importance next to lane control. It turns out stopping the semi is critical as well. Our instructor was no where to be found, so we figured as long as we didn’t die we were probably doing okay. Honestly, I was terrified at the thought of driving this beast in “real world” situations.
Eventually we would make it onto the public roadways. I believe it was the second day actually. One day of shifting and swerving on a closed track was all the practice we needed. Having the front, sides, top and rear of the tractor trailer painted in bright “construction worker” orange, and big bold black lettering saying, STUDENT DRIVER in every visible location, was genius on the schools part. It was like driving an ambulance through crowded streets with the sirens blasting. It was clear open roads…To be continued..