The Stresses of Truck Driver Testing

truck driver, truck driving, truck driving test, road test, AZ truck driver

This is a reminder to me, to make everyone feel safe when I’m driving.

A Test of Patience

Damn all of the tests and exams I did in high school, university and college. Yes, I graduated from all three institutions. In doing so, I succumbed to the opinions and whims of many teachers, professors and instructors.

You want to know what’s the most damning? Look where all that learning and eternal quizzing got me: a career path that’s disheveled and endlessly discouraging. Sometimes I long to live out the rest of my years on an Nepalese mountainside, actively practicing Buddhism. This past summer, I decided on a career path that’s designed to rescue me from visions of eternal career failure. Guess what I unwittingly pitted myself against? That’s right: more tests and exams.

In the truck driving business, you get trained to get tested. Yeah, I realize life in general is like that. But for the longest time I was evaluated on the type of work I was very good at: writing and relating.

Now I’m being tested on my ability to drive a 70-foot-long tractor-trailer proficiently along highway and city streets. That, while keeping a close eye out for people and inanimate objects that might cross my path. I’m also being judged on my skills in connecting the tractor to the trailer, backing up the entire rig, completing the pre-trip inspection, finding my way to and from trip destinations, and my understanding of the limitless laws and regulations that predominate the industry. I may get very good at all of these things, but that will take time.

I Got A 90!

My first major test went off without a hitch, figuratively. A few weeks ago I passed my road test on a soggy winter day. I was psyched for it to be a juggernaut. I had every last bit of knowledge gained at the Ontario Truck Driving School ready to show off proudly to the examiner from the Ministry of Transportation. But I wasn’t going to get the chance to share all of it. While covering her head from raindrops, she passed over parts of the test and went straight for the nitty gritty: just drive and don’t screw it up. She didn’t say that but it’s the clear objective.

I nearly aced that exam, finishing with a score of 90. That’s not bad at all considering the rain and poor visibility. And I missed the first turn she instructed me to take. I was on a bit of a high after learning my test result. But that high didn’t last too many days. I still had to do the four-hour written test and quickly learn how to shift gears in a truck with manual transmission. And I had to get a job.

Shifty Business

Shifting gears has turned out to be my biggest challenge. Until January of this year, I’d never once touched a stick shift. Now I’m enveloped in a world of clutching, double-clutching, upshifting, downshifting, braking and accelerating – all done while driving the truck without incident.

truck, tractor trailer, gear shift, stick dhift

Your typical gear shifter in a truck

I’ve worked hard at shifting gears – or “driving stick,” as many truckers call it. But I’m still a beginner. I actually landed a position at a company where the entire fleet of trucks are standard transmission. This company is letting me train until I get up to speed on shifting. They’re evaluating my progress. Again with the testing!

I could have joined another company that drivers only automatic trucks, but I would have viewed that as taking the easy way out. After all, I’ve been told that real truck drivers “drive stick” while the rest just steer.

There was another big consideration: if I learned only automatic transmissions I may be limiting my career options. So, I decided to test my learning curve now and set myself up for future success. Once I’ve mastered the stick shift and gotten my first year of trucking under my belt, I’ll be all set to do any kind of trucking.

Hopefully that means a long term position with these guys. I’m not telling you yet who they are. I’ll wait to see how it goes. I’ve learned enough in life to know that I’m going to keep my mouth shut until I’ve got the job all figured out. Right now, every day is about learning … and testing myself.

2 thoughts on “The Stresses of Truck Driver Testing

  1. Dave Walker

    Hey Erich it’s me Dave ,your best friend from OTDS back in 2016… Congrats on landing a job. I’ll be passing out resumes at the end of March ones all my personal commitments are done. I don’t know about you but I’m still waiting to hear from Monica at OTDS with regards to my proof of course completion (I’ll call her Tuesday I guess)… I checked your site every now and then to see how you did on the drive test, and see tonight that you have made two rather quick updates . After reading about the shifting did the guys at OTDS not show you how to shift without the clutch ?? . I was a full blown retard when it came to double-clutching and what’s his name knew it ,so he took me to the pro level of driving stick . I stopped using the clutch altogether (except for starting and stopping). The only thing I needed more practice time on was the downshift. Any who….happy “family day” weekend and stay in touch Werner

    1. Erich Schmidt Post author

      Hi Dave. Thanks for the note. I’m working at Wayfreight, south of Guelph. So far it’s only training, so I’m not going far or getting paid handsomely. I hope your job search goes smoothly and you’re working in no time. I haven’t heard from Monica either. I don’t think Wayfreight cares about my course completion. They only care about my AZ license, passport, FastPass… They did show me how to shift without the clutch but I’m getting used to using the clutch and am okay at the double clutch. Downshifting is even going smoothly. My hangup now is when I’m forced to stop – like at a light – right before a hill and then have to de-cluch, un-brake and accelerate. I’m finding that tricky. I really have no experience at it. Best of luck going forward. Are you on Facebook, by any chance? You’ll find me at Cheers, E. (Werner)


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