What a fucking weekend.
My little brother and his cute little cupcake drove down to help me and Miss Carol celebrate my tractor-trailerin’ CDL’ness.
‘Cause I’d done it. I’d passed. I’m a trucker, baby.
We tested out on Friday and I sailed through the tests that the Department of Transportation has decided necessary for me to haul 40 tons of whatever to wherever in the lower 48 states, Mexico, and Canada.
And I’m glad and should’ve been floating. I mean, the CDL course had been a grueling marathon of time and money. After spending 5 grand and two months studying and practicing and after having taken 7 written tests and a grueling 3 hour driving skills test you’d think I would’ve have been more stoked than I was.
But I wasn’t.
‘Cause I was the only one of my truckmates to pass.
Ordinarily I could care less about other people. Call it ego, call it narcissism (boy I love typing that word), call it selfishness, call it self-centeredness, call it what you will, I mostly just love me.
But after spending a month confined to a tractor trailer cab with my three truckmates and our instructor I realized I liked these guys and I was really hoping we’d all pass and get our CDL’s and move through rosy lives full of rainbows and unicorns. Or strippers and blowjobs. You know, whatever.
We’d been through so much together.
We were all of us early to the VDOT testing site on Friday. Michael (the Ghana guy) was oddly distant, kinda wandering around, Derek was nervously smoking cigarettes worrying about the pre-trip, and Haner was excitedly showing me all his shit in his car. (He was headed home to Mississippi and a job orientation with Werner (a huge trucking firm), and to his wife that he hasn’t seen since January just as soon as he tested out). He was tense and excited.
We were all nervous.
Then we found out Michael was distant because he wasn’t going to be allowed to test out. He needs another coupla months courting a 10-gear shift pattern and a clutch. I hope he gets it.
The DOT test is in three parts. The first part is the pre-trip inspection. It’s kinda like the pre-flight inspection a pilot makes before takeoff but without the wings and flight attendants. It’s mostly memorization and explanation of 105 different parts, lights, gauges, and systems on the truck. It’s easy to remember but effing hard to emote. Trust me.
Of the 105 you have to score 85 or better. Derek got an 82. He knew the stuff and was studying right up until he was tested so I’m thinking he just did the deer in the headlights thing and froze. (Of the two that I missed, one was checking the oil- pffffft, these things need OIL?)
The second part of the test is combination backing. You take the truck and trailer out of a curve and then back down 50 feet of cones keeping the rear tandem tire (that’s the one waaay down there at the far end of the trailer) within 3 feet of the cones. Then, you pull forward, they reset the cones in an arc, and you back down into a curve, again keeping that rear tandem tire within 3 feet of the cones.
It sounds stupidly simple but, really?, it’s refreshingly difficult. Joseph, the other Ghana guy, in the other truck, failed the straight back and was done. I tried to feel sorry for him but I couldn’t ’cause did I mention I mostly just care about me? And, you know, my truckmates?
The third and final part of the test is road skills. It’s roughly 10 miles and 30 minutes long and is designed to show the tester that you can handle a big rig and the special rules that apply to us. Like, for example, did you know that when a trucker is making a right hand turn we can’t roll our tandem tires over the curb crushing the pedestrians waiting to cross, nor can we swing the trailer too wide allowing an impatient four-wheeler to scoot underneath our offtracking trailer tires? Who knew?
Double clutch upshift, double clutch downshift, don’t grind gears, don’t kiss a curb, don’t roll over a sidewalk, don’t blow through a caution light, don’t do this and please, oh please, do that. You nervously put yourself and the truck though it’s paces hoping you don’t fuck up and then it’s over.
I got back from the final phase and received the documentation from my tester that I’d passed, shook hands with my instructors and watched as Haner pulled into the lot. He got out of the cab without a piece of paper.
He’d failed the road course.
I wish I could’ve given him mine.
He needed it so much more than I did or do. To see the look of anguish on his face was heart-rending.
I know now that a CDL shouldn’t be easy to get. It’s a huge responsibility and something that shouldn’t be taken lightly and something that should be used but I really don’t know what I’m going to do with mine yet.
So it’s just sitting and brooding, a still and dark dream.