After an imperfect airbrake test, I was instructed to do a straight line back up and then pull ahead for my first parallel park. I still don’t understand the point of a P-park in a semi, but if the move is a required part of the road test, I will master it. The Limey talked – actually borderline yelled me through the move in his inimitable Cockney accent:
Put your hand on the 12 o’clock position and give the wheel one turn to the left. Back up until your trailer is pointed to the orange cone closest to the curb. Now crank the wheel to the right. More. More. To the right. The right. Now straighten out and keep backing. Keep backing. Straighten her out. What are you slowing down for? Keep moving. You have to do it in one fluid motion. Yeah? Are you close to the cones? Don’t hit them. Get close but don’t hit them. STOP! Now shift into first, crank the wheel to the right. The right! The right! Get yourself over to the curb. Good. Now straighten her out again. Don’t hit the cones in front. Alright?
Done. The Limey said that although it was sloppy, it would have passed. It was barely 7:30 and I was already exhausted.
We then journeyed to our starting point on Rankin for our street driving exercises for the day. Kraut got behind the wheel first and the abuse continued. For a little diversion, the Limey took us up to Conroe to check out the road test courses. Hibachi drove, and sphincters were contracted all around. As mentioned earlier Hibachi is the worst shifter of the group and here we were, along for the ride on his first venture into traffic. Oh, and his first venture onto the freeway. We limped around the corner onto the feeder road and he was barely able to make it to the on ramp of the freeway across three lanes of traffic. Miraculously, we did make it and Hibachi was barreling onto I-45 at a blistering 20 miles per hour.
Kraut buckled his seat belt, but I figured we were better off having Hibachi tooling north on the freeway at 55 to 60 miles an hour than jerking us around city streets, administering side to side as well as front to back whiplash.
We got to Conroe and made our way over to the DPS office on 1st Street. Damn. We will be taking our road test on teensy little two lane roads that don’t have a shoulder. The Limey talked us through all the places we had to “stay left, stay right, wait for traffic to clear and make damn sure you don’t find yourself toodling through a yellow light that turns red on your way to the freeway.”
After a couple of hours in Conroe, we made our way back to Houston and it was my turn behind the wheel. It was a quiet affair. I ground a few gears, hit a curb and (curses) I rolled through a stop sign. I don’t remember doing it, but I cannot formally dispute the charge. I ended with a near perfect 150 foot straight line backup that took us to convenience store number two where we could take a break.
Rules for the day:
- Wide turns
- Watch the trailer
- Slow the &$%# down!
- Don’t be in a hurry
- Don’t worry about the traffic behind you or holding anybody up
- You’re doing great, just refine your technique
ADDENDUM: The other guys broke our new (old) tractor. The top of the shift knob was loose and finally came off. I wasn’t driving when it happened (yea!). When the other guys fixed it, the range switch on the shifter hissed whenever it was flipped into high range. NOT. MY. FAULT. Although I did set a new team goal: We break a truck a day for the rest of our training.