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Day Four: First Written Test

December 10, 1999

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I scored 88 out of 100 in my first test of material which will be part of the official CDL written exam. After giving me the happy news, my instructor jolted me with another bit of news: I am scheduled for the real thing, the Pennsylvania written exam, on Monday, Dec. 14. That is less than two class days away.
These guys don't mess around.
But I'm not really worried. I am feeling more confident with each passing day. I give them a lot of credit for that. Frankly, I am pleasantly surprised at how much ground we have covered and how much of the information is taking up permanent residence.
The game plan is to finish up on tankers and hazardous materials tomorrow morning and put me on the driving simulator in the afternoon.
The teaching here is one on one for each student. Richard Yourling, my principal classroom instructor (his name was misspelled in previous entries), grilled me most of the day. We covered brake lag, stopping distances, dissected an S-cam drum brake, discussed traction, hydroplaning and other surface condition subjects, and went into considerable detail on the written air brake test, hazardous materials, double/triples.
Nifty new words and phrases are now part of my vocabulary: converter dollies, pintle hooks, engine overspeeding, overdriving headlights.

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One of my classmates is Dennis, 36, a chef on the late shift in a local eatery. He tells me this is not his first attempt at learning to drive. Four years ago he put his own money down to attend a school run by large Midwestern carrier. He left after a week.
"The classes sometimes had as many as 50 people in them," he told me. "They were actually a combination of two classes. Five, six trucks for us to work with. I might get two hours in one in a day and that wasn't even consecutive training time. The rest of the day the students stood around talking as we waited for another turn. I knew I wouldn't learn to drive there."
Today Gary Houlis put him on the driving simulator and had him double-clutching in no time at all. He spent the rest of the day on the outdoor course practicing driving.
Alan, another of our class members, took his CDL driving test today. From the smile on his face when he returned this afternoon it was clear he had passed. The instructors presented him with his diploma. He has a driving job already, pulling flatbed freight throughout the Northeast.
Two weeks, folks. Then it will be my turn.

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