We Are Street Legal!

Carlisle, Pennsylvania

It’s official. We are truck drivers. We have commercial drivers’ licenses. I’m too exhausted to be thrilled. Thank you Schneider.

For the past week different instructors have had us drive around and around and around, turning, turning, turning on these quaint Pennsylvania roads, many designed and built long before anyone dreamed of a big a truck.

“Take your space” and “it’s only paint, it’s only paint” drilled into our heads.

This morning we drove to Binghampton, New York for our third and final attempt to pass the New York State driving test. We went the long way. Small highways. Lots of curves.

Our last two appointments were at 0830. Today our appointment was at 1430. The test is done on residential and city streets. As the day progresses, traffic gets heavier. The test allows us to “lose” 50 points before we fail. We lost five points each, me for parallel parking too far from curb – a calculated move on my part because hitting the curb is an auto-fail in New York State and Greg lost his five for making a too wide right turn.

I stalled the truck on a hill at a red light. Crap! I’m out, I thought.

As soon as the truck stalled, something inside me took over. I pulled the tractor and trailer brakes, turned the key off, remembered to count one-two before turning it over and allowing the gauges to recycle. That gave me enough time to realize that my pre-select button was still up – button down there are five low gears, button up, there are five high gears. It’s the button that changes the gears from low-to-high.

Pre-select DOWN! I shifted to second gear, the light turned green and off I went. It all took less than 15 seconds. All I could think was damn, I’m out, but I wasn’t.

It may have helped that the driving examiner’s cellphone rang just as I stalled the truck. He took the call, when he hung up, I was moving again.

It was also a completely different route than the first two tests. Either it was much easier or I am becoming a truck driver.

I didn’t realize I passed for a few minutes. The examiner doesn’t say, “Congratulations driver, you have successfully passed the New York State Commercial Driving Road Test. You may now legally drive a big truck on the highways and byways of America.”

He handed me a piece of paper and said, “exchange this for your license at a DMV in 7 to 10 days.” With that I was street legal – are they insane?!?!?!?!?!?

We will get the license Friday when we return to New York. A the same time we will write the test for the Hazardous Materials endorsement. On Monday we return to the Carlisle Operating Center where we will get our power. That’s what they call the tractor, our “power.”

It’s taken two days short of eight weeks to become a truck driver. The Schneider instructors told me that we “just weren’t ready until today.”

Our classmates are already delivering loads. They say it’s nerve wracking, but fun. We talked to a 13-year drive at the Operating Center yesterday. He says he refused to leave the “Big Roads” for the first six months, except to pick up and deliver. Big Roads are Interstate Highways.

He warned us about New Guy Tax. There are a lot of details about the job to ensure that you get paid for everything you do and to ensure everything gets done property. Mess it up and it costs the driver in lost money.

Everyone knows I’m a stickler for getting paid, I’m sure it will all work out.

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