First the good news: I PASSED!
But what a slog it was. I got to the DPS office at 7:31 (I drove directly from home with a few lawn chairs) and found about half the team already there. The other trainer had one of his failures from the previous day on the parallel parking pad and was putting her through her paces. Back and forth at least half a dozen times. I didn’t pay close attention but I could hear the revving and bucking of the engine and could always see movement out of the corner of my eye. When I looked I could see the trainer walking outside of the truck and assumed he was talking her through the left, right, straighten, right, left steps to nestle the tractor and trailer neatly into the 120-foot space.
The other failure was sitting by the fence either on the phone or texting. “Don’t you want a try,” I asked. “Nope. I’m ready,” he replied.
The line at that DPS office for other business was already stretched the length of the building. We all waited around and after 30 minutes or so, the Limey finally arrived after gassing up our rig at the Flying J. He had the non-test takers with him.
It had already been decided. The two failures from yesterday would be the first two test takers today. Bovine excrement! I expressed my absolute concern that I would get the opportunity to test TODAY! I was assured that would not be a problem. A bit past 8:30 an examiner came out and the other trainer hooked her up with the guy failure, who was, buy the way, a two time failure. If he failed this time he would have to do more than take the road test again. He would have to take the WHOLE course over again. And it sounded like he would have to pay extra for the privilege. He had a very hard time with the P-park. The examiner actually seemed to offer encouragement allowed him to restart two more times. She finally waved him forward and got into the cab. They disappeared onto the course. Half an hour later they returned and, alas, he had failed again.
The infraction that triggered the ejection was not his running of a red light which led to his ejection yesterday. It was his failure to proceed through a green light. He said he thought it was about to turn yellow. Mmmm hmmm. It sounded like he was pretty weak all the way around and this was what pushed the examiner past the desire to allow him onto the roads alone. He was sorely disappointed to say the least. The other trainer could only shake his head.
Next up was the lady failure from yesterday. She got in the truck and after the air brake test, executed an adequate straight line back up. The parallel park was not adequate. I’m not certain that she even got one cone in. To me, the secret of the P-park was getting the trailer angled so it was heading at the back curbside corner. The young lady was making adjustments far ahead of that orientation. She actually ended up with the rear wheels outside the cones altogether. It was as though she was making a straight line backup that included A LOT of turning. She was allowed THREE retries. It was not to be. The examiner drew her finger across her throat and it was over. The other instructor gathered the other failure and the other non-test takers from his team and headed back to the school yard. I am sure the young lady was crushed. She would miss the Sunday Stevens orientation and have to test again next Wednesday. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if somehow, her third retest was “facilitated.”
That left Ali, Kraut and me. In that order. I would be batting cleanup. Ali was sweating bullets. He had downed a few coffees and had snarfed down two sandwiches. Even though it was in the low 80s, he was sweating bullets.
Kraut was even more quiet than he was yesterday. He was Nervous (note the capital “N”).
I was quietly stressed. Still worried about the day coming to a close and me not getting tested, I kept talking and cracking wise. We were all glad to have chairs to sit on.
Ali finally got the summons at around 10:30. He fudged up the air brake test (we found out later), nailed the straight line backing and then, on the third adjustment, got his truck into a suitable position for the P-park. The examiner hopped in and off they went. He returned with an upturned thumb.
As Ali walked into the DPS offices to get his temporary Class A Commercial Drivers License, I got a closer look at him. His shirt was soaked in a diagonal strip from left shoulder to right side of his waist, right where his safety belt crossed his torso. As he walked by, I could see his whole back was sweat soaked as well. But he passed.
It was close to 11:30. After 20 minutes the first examiner of the day came out and said they would be handling other testing and taking lunch but would be back to get Kraut and me at 1:15 or 2:00. Riiiiight.
We took our lunches and were ready to go by the earlier time. How naive we were. It was almost 2:00 before another examiner came out and took a supremely nervous Kraut through his paces. When he returned from the road course, The Limey was summoned and there was some discussion about his test and left lane into right lane turning. The Limey took me aside and offered his words of encouragement. By this time it was after 3:00.
Another 20 minutes later, an examiner we hadn’t seen before came to the truck and gave me instructions for the air brake test, which I executed perfectly. I then executed a flawless straight line backup. She then told me to set up for the P-park I was confident. Until she told me that I was to execute the parallel park without my front wheels leaving the concrete. ALL the other trainees were told that the gravel just off the concrete was okay. The grass just beyond the gravel was not to be touched. My confidence melted somewhat. After an initial rearward move I felt my alignment not conducive to a good result. I pulled ahead and gave it another go and ended up within two feet of the curb. The examiner hopped in and gave me instructions for the road part of the test and off we went. Whereas the other trainer told me the examiners were very engaging and did everything the could to put the examinees at ease, my examiner was a cold fish and there would be no hint of warmth much less a single calming word. But hey, I’m an adult.
I drove everywhere she told me to drive. My upshifting was excellent. My downshifting was spotty. I missed a few signals. Because I was her first big rig exam of the day, she didn’t have anyone to compare me to. She didn’t ride along with the failures over the last two days. She didn’t know that I had spent almost 15 hours waiting for my shot behind the wheel. But although she docked me 21 points, including a deduct for the parallel park, I had PASSED (cue angel choir)!!!
I would have liked to ride back to the shed with the other members of my team but I was in my own car which I would be driving back to the dealership. My lease was up and we were turning the car back in and contracting the family fleet to a single vehicle. THAT extra expense will not be missed. And of course, since I’ll be on the road all the time, we won’t be needing a second car sitting in the garage.
Final thought: I would have liked a perfect score, at least something in the 90s, I was satisfied with a pass. Dallas, here I come.