This is how my schooling is broken down. I attend nights and Sundays. I go from M-F 6-11, and Sunday 7-6, and attend for four weeks. That means I physically put in 35 hours a week plus homework. With credited time for homework, I put in 160 hours worth of work.
The first week is paperwork, and learning about parts. We learn about how to fill out our logbooks, and put in applications to many different companies. I was good at the paperwork, and to be honest the whole first week moved kind of slow for me. During this time you study hard to pass the DMV's Class A Learner's Permit. There are three parts to it. General Knowledge, Combination Vehicle, and Air Breaks. I was the only one in my class who passed any of the parts on the first try. That's right, I passed all three parts on the first try.
The second week was learning how to shift (NOT FRIGG'IN EASY), and learning how to do a pre-trip inspection. The pre-trip inspection (PTI) is quite intenstive. There are 105 parts on a truck that you should look over to see if they are in working order. It's a very important safety step. So in-between trying to get the truck to upshift, downshift, stay straight, not hit any cones on the course, we also try to learn all the parts on the truck for the PTI test. It's a lot to learn in just one week. Also during this time, if you are moderately ok moving the truck and trailer around you get to drive on the regular roads, instead of the track. It's only for a short distance, but it gives you some real life experience being on the road.
At the end of week two, you take your PTI test. Something very important on the test is the order you test your brakes in (The In-Cab part of the test.) In the real world if you did it wrong it wouldn't help you determine if there was a problem. So I can understand them automatically failing you if you did it in the wrong order. Also there is a part where you have to turn off the engine, but leave the electricity on. You have to do that in the right order as well or you automatically fail.
Then week three, they really start to put a lot on you. You get to start going on the road more, and learning how to backup, off-set, parallel park, and do a 90 degree turn into an alley. First off, I'll talk about the road. The trucks we drive are 10 speeds. They have a low gear setting (reverse plus gears 1-5) and a high gear setting (high reverse, plus gears 6-10). Around the track the highest gear we get to go in is 6th. So being on the road lets us learn to use all 10 forward gears. It also gives us major practice in downshifting.
Now, if you thought going forward was hard, try going backward. Once you understand how to go exactly straight backwards, that part is not difficult. What's tough is moving backwards in places that you can't see. Due to the big trailer you have many, many blind spots. At the end of week three you take the backing test. Last week it was brutal. How brutal? 12 of 16 people failed it.
The final week is the preparation for the road test. I haven't gotten there yet, but it's mainly getting rid of bad habits, and getting your shifting (both upshifting and downshifting) much smoother. It's also learning the course. You have to make sure to do a railroad check, and hazardous materials check.
So here's the problem I have with Roadmaster. First, the instructors do know what they are talking about, but they are not exactly friendly. They still have the trucker attitude and trucker langauge. I don't believe they can get it through their heads that this is the first time we are doing this. I mean you don't expect a baby to walk the first day it's born. You can't expect us to do well the first time up, especially while backing up.
The problem I have with my main instructor is that, he is terrible at managing time. He's trying to take care of the night classes' paperwork, and other classes' paperwork. So a lot of the time he is catching up on paperwork during class time. We are already on a tight schedule, so when a half hour to hour a day get cut out due to bad time management, we end up paying the price.
There is one Instructor there who I will call Del, because that is his real name. He is simply put,.... an asshole. I don't know how he ever got hired. I had to do one day of driving with him when he filled in for my regular instuctor. He was impatient, unhelpful, and again... an asshole. When I was doing my very first backing exercise he made comments about "just do it, screw it up, and then I'll fix it." He then yelled (and the rest of this is an exact quote) "Get your foot off the clutch. Do that, and I'm going to put you in a dress. And I'm going to make sure it's something nice and sexy. Don't you think you'd look really silly with that long hair and a beard while wearing a sexy dress?" At this point I clentched my jaw, and kept my mouth shut. He then asked in a loud mouthed, white trash way, "Why ain't you laugh'in? Don't you have a sense of humor?"
Now as I had my jaw clenched, I figured I had a few options. I could take his head off, but I'd get thrown in jail, lose the money I spent on school, never get my Class A, and ruin my life. I could return the name calling, get thrown out of class, be told it was all my fault, possibly loss my money, and never get my Class A. I kept my mouth shut for the time being. No arguement, no fighting.
What I did do was go to my regular instructor. On the phone he was really upset, and said he would take care of the situation. What ended up happening was that he "talked" to Del, and Del apologized to him, not me. So, no bosses, or higher ups were notified. In other words it was all swept under the rug. Truthfully, I'm just waiting for retaliation. I'm sure this boy's club is out to protect themselves. As soon as I am finished with Roadmaster, I will go straight the boss. The funny thing is that the boss is a woman. I'm sure she will appreciate Del's opinion of women. I can only hope she's above the good old boy's club.
Here' a problem mainly with the day classes. They have everything I described in three weeks, not four. They have 16 people in a class with very little one on one training. They also have very little time behind the wheel due to so many people being in the class. For comparision, my night class at it's highest point had 5 people in it. If I'm having problems getting prepared for driving, I'd hate to think the problems they are having. Frankly, it's just not enough time.
The next problem I would like to discuss is the trucks. I understand they don't want to run brand new $150,000 trucks. But the ones they run have at least 500,000 miles on them. One particular green Volvo had 1.1 million miles on it. A lot of these trucks are actually given to the school, they don't buy them. In other words they are in such bad condition that it is cheaper for the trucking companies to give it to the school, get the write off for the taxes, than to trade it to a dealer or junkyard. Again, I don't expect them to get new trucks, but maybe something that runs halfway decent. Most have multiple problems, and honestly can't pass a PTI test. They actually have trucks (and trailers) that they call yard trucks and road trucks. The yard trucks never leave the yard. The road trucks are just safe enough to take on the road. They know what pieces of garbage most of those trucks are.
The next complaint I have is with Human Resources, also known as Tanya. Once I have graduated school, I should get a shirt that says, "I survived Hurricane Tanya." I shouldn't be too tough on her. My best guess would be that she is manic depressive. She is all over the place, good, bad, and loud all at the same time. In other words, manic. Trying to get her on the phone, or return a call is impossible. Trying to talk to her is.... well one way talking. Her talking one way at you, non-stop. Again, I realize that she has to deal with truckers all day, but a little professional curtacy would be nice.
There is one thing that I don't want to complain about, but I do want to inform. If you pay for the program in cash, it costs $4995. If you secure a loan though the school, it will cost $6,500 plus 19% interest. In some ways, it is a bit much, but then again, it is an unsecured loan. They are always risky. I have seen all the dropouts, and I'm sure they aren't paying one red cent. So, I understand why they have to charge what they do. However, it is important to know how the game is played upfront.
My biggest complaint is that the program just doesn't work. You don't have enough time to properly learn how to drive a big rig. Between, all the homework, paperwork, DMV, PTI, backing, road tests, there is too much for a 3 or 4 week program. I wonder how many "Roadmaster Graduates" get into so many accidents that they are washed out of the industy? How many get back the time and money that they put into the program? I was told that some community colleges have a driver program that lasts a regular college semester. It also costs a lot less. If you have a choice, definately go for the Com. College. I just can't recommend Roadmaster.