Thursday, July 23, 2009

Road Warrior

Semi-big day for yours truly. Today I passed my Illinois Secretary of State exam and now have my CDL-A (Commercial Driver's License--Class A). I am only shy three endorsements which I will have by next week's end or thereabouts. For the uninitiated, endorsements are simply certifying that you can drive particular scenarios such as double/triple trailers, tankers, hazardous materials (which are the three I lack) and one could even get approved for busses. But if a job arises that doesn't require these endorsements I lack, I can drive their big rigs.

So nice to get that little monkey off my back. I wasn't as nervous as I thought I would be, though I prayed a lot, for both myself and the other candidates (though two out of four failed---perhaps my prayers were only half as good as I thought or I needed to pray twice as much as I did). I got a good natured examiner and light traffic with all the lights in my favor. Only one spot on the road course presented a challenge. I was idling in sixth gear approaching an intersection where I could see the left turn arrow had been on for a while. Four or five vehicles in my lane began to move, but the last care didn't move at all (the dude wasn't paying attention). At this point in the course, I would normally have downshifted only to sixth and if necessary, just stopped at the intersection. With a vehicle in front of you, you have to be able to see the pavement between you and not go closer (gives you the chance to go around if the guy stalls and is also a safety issue). I was at a point where I probably should have just stopped and then started over from second gear, but the dude began to move. I was already flipping the selector button down for the low gears and the stick just slipped out of gear. As I was still rolling a bit, I revved and tried to put it into fifth and got a bit of grind, so I revved again and it slipped nicely into fourth and I was able to proceed as if nothing special had happened (showing I was in control, when actually for a second there, I wasn't---there was no real danger, though, it just doesn't look good on such a test). Had I had trouble shifting to fourth, I probably would have failed the test. The rest of the test was uneventful except for the congratulations from the examiner when it was over.

For the rest of the day I didn't want to do anything. I was more anxious having passed than I was waiting for my turn to test. So nice to have it behind me. Now, of course, I have to think about if I even want to do this work. The liklihood of having to go over-the-road is very high and though I part of me wants to do that, it's also the part of me that wants to be a cowboy. Not really practical for who I am now at this age. I may have no choice, but I gotta see what I can find close to home that'll get me home every night. My life is what I do AFTER work. I don't want to live to work, I want to work to live (that is if I MUST work). All the things I like to do, all the things that mean I have a life happens after I punch out. At my age, I don't want to do less of it, I want to do more. And the worst of it, being away for extended periods from my wife and child----not good.

But I am happy that I passed the test and did so on the first try. No re-takes necessary for ole Marshall Art. Now I can focus on another test in three weeks, that being my first rank in ju jutsu. This should have happened over a year ago had I not developed a need for another ACL in my knee. Then the lay-off and less money. So now I can get anxious all over again.

14 comments:

4simpsons said...

Congratulations, Marshall! Thanks for sharing that. Blessings to you on your next steps. I hope that you have a lot of ministry opportunities with all the people you'll meet.

Mark said...

Congratulations, Old boy!

LOL!

Boy, all that gear shifting and selector switching and stuff sounds complicated.

I met a man recently that had just gotten his CDL class A, and he was having trouble finding work with no experience. But then, he was limiting himself only to jobs that would have him home every night.

I assume you won't place such limits on yourself. Not exclusively anyway.

Marshall Art said...

I am holding off on OTR gigs until I've exhausted every possible local jobs. But no, if my ICC bar's to the wall, wanderer I will be.

4simpsons said...

I could use some lessons. I'll be pulling a U-Haul trailer in a couple weeks to take my daughter to her ballet company. I tend to get careless with those sorts of things.

tugboatcapn said...

Congratulations, Marshall!

(But then again, I never doubted that you would pass the test.)

If it makes you feel any better, you have now had more official training for truck driving than I have, and I made a living at it for nearly twenty years.

I'm proud of you, anyway.

Good job, Brother!

Marshall Art said...

Thanks all for the kind words. Sat in class all day today learning how to fill out log books. *yawn*

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

Dude, that's awesome. Did that myself a few years back, and while the trucker-life wasn't for me (drove Midwest regional, with one stint teaming OTR), I have done it. It's a lonely life, and sleep is a luxury.

Congratulations. Not everyone can do it, as you learned.

Marshall Art said...

Thank you, Geoffrey. I haven't been out yet. Still have a couple days to finish, and then to get that Haz-mat endorsement. IF I have to hook up with an OTR gig, there are regional positions open that will (should---musn't assume their pitch will manifest as advertised) get me home on the weekends. Then it would be waiting out a list until my name rises to the top for local runs. BUT! I'm still hoping and praying a local gig materializes before thirty days passes, or else it's over the road I'll be. One must do what one must do if one must do it.

Marshall Art said...

BTW, Geoffrey. Who were you with?

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

MCT - Midwest Coast Transport. They have a bunch of contracts, including what they call their "K" runs - all with Kraft, plus some others. As far east as the OH/PA border, up into Michigan, west as far as St. Cloud, MN and Omaha (try running I-80 thru Iowa the day after a big ice storm, now there's fun). Down to Missouri. They also have a contract with 3M, running team-only (home weekends), but I did that once cause a driver's teammate was out sick. In a week (from Sunday PM) went from Bloomington, IL down to Atlanta to TX back up to southern MO to IN, then KY back up to IL (short week - Thanksgiving). Driving thru TX was a hoot, especially coming up on Dallas during sunrise. It's flat, there's nothing, then all of a sudden - POP - a city. Plus, that week, I got to go down Mt. Eagle on I-75 out of TN into Georgia. I was nervous (I won't lie), but made it just fine.

I would have liked it better had I been younger and not had a family. I missed them terribly, even tho a few times I managed to swing thru and even have dinner and spend the night. Plus, having to take off on Sunday night after getting in late on Fri made for a short weekend.

If you find a good route, snatch it up. Ran one week from Remington, IN to Omaha, via Des Moines (paper from IN to IA and NE; candy back to Aurora, IL). If I had that route, I probably would have kept it up. Roughly 2200 miles a week, home Fri afternoon out early Mon morning. Ah, well.

Marshall Art said...

Indeed, both the family issue and the fact that my "life" is after work, not work itself. All those things that make it a life will have to be put aside in order to pay the dues. But if I must, I must. So far, must is only likely, not confirmed. I have a few irons near the fire, if not quite in it yet. I'll take two or three weeks to see what I can find locally and then I'll pretty much have to take an OTR gig. The one for which I've been pre-approved has regional runs in this area, so I'll at least be home on weekends. I wish my girl was heading out of her teen years instead of into them.

Cameron said...

Congrats Marshall. A friend of mine just did the same thing and is now too weighing his options not really wanting to do the long hauling. But he says the local stuff just isn't there right now. Hopefully you've had better luck in your area.

Marshall Art said...

Thanks, Cameron.

Actually, it's about the same in this area. I've a couple of possibilities, but nothing I can really count on at this point. I'll give it a couple of weeks to see if anything shakes down, and then likely go with an OTR gig. I'm somewhat resigned to it as it is.

tugboatcapn said...

Look at the bright side, Marshall...

I'm interviewing with a company that wants to send me to New Zealand for two years...

(But I could make a quarter of a million dollars.)

Decisions, decisions...