You’ll remember that last week I alluded to my DH (dear hubby in RV vernacular) making the decision he’d need a job to pay off the debt incurred with trying to avoid abandoning the little box on wheels we’d tried driving east. We got as far as Indiana where he alternately wrenched on both the MoHo and the little Chevy Tracker (better known as “the Toad“, also in RV vernacular).
My intrepid hubby looked at a number of possibilities, including being the local Wally World greeter, but during the winter in Snow Bird paradise (Yuma, AZ), there is little hope of that going very far. In exasperation one day, he announced to me that he’d decided the local truck driving school looked like a dandy place to begin a new career. In a panic, I reminded him he had entered his 7th decade, we had no money for school, and I couldn’t imagine him becoming an OTR (“over the road“ in trucking vernacular) truck driver at this stage of our lives. While some schools boast a three-week course, many extend from a month to six weeks. Uh oh.
There is a serious shortage of truck drivers leading to increasing demand that will soon top 111,000 drivers. They offer financial assistance for schooling and the course is GI Bill approved. There are three kinds of schools:
- Private schools (may or may not include placement)
- Company paid CDL training
- Public institutions–vocational, technical, etc.
The man is nothing if not determined. To my complete dismay, he arranged the financial aspect and began to pass a barrage of physicals as well as background and driver’s license check. (All tests on your dime.) Not surprisingly (I knew he was a stud), he passed all the physical tests they could throw at him (including drug tests) and next I knew was packing a lunch and heading off to school–definitely excited at starting over–again.
Classroom studies with introduction to big rigs graduates into time behind the wheel. (The written test must be successfully passed to be promoted into the driving phase.) In Arizona, driving must accrue a documented number of hours and includes lots of back-up practice. Practice leads to little tests along the way, like quizzes, all leading to the big one and he passed his first skills test within a month. Skills’ testing is divided into three categories:
- Vehicle inspection
- Basic controls test
- Road test
And trucks? What kind of trucks? They are as varied as cell phones, being roughly divided into (what else), three categories:
- Doubles and triples
If your head spinning yet? It’s very possible the image in your head includes a big, boxy, refrigerated (or not) flame-decorated and autographed 18-wheeler. Good luck with that.
As I mentioned last week, he had signed with a trucking company in Phoenix, AZ within a week of gaining his license. The trucking company put him under an additional two-week (utilizing a “team” approach) newbie program to further scrutinize his skills, make recommendations, and show him the ropes. He was assigned a flatbed! Somehow, that had not been a consideration! Flatbed cargo usually requires tarping: Steel and lumber. Contrary to what you might think, it’s the lumber tarps that weigh in the heaviest–140 lbs–and these must wrap the cargo securely with belts and bungees.
Next thing I knew, DH was headed to Wisconsin to pick up a brand new company truck. He now has over 75k successful miles under his belt, a variety of tales to tell, muscles he’d forgotten he had, and places in this country he had no idea existed. Some loads have been interesting, others exciting, but it has never been dull–much like my life with him.
©2016 Virginia Williams