My struggle (mein kampf, as some would say.)

Well, guess what? I failed. Again. 🙁

I had to get up at ungodly o’clock on my days holiday to get to the training place for 7am, and could not get to sleep last night through thinking about my test and worrying.

I made a few mistakes on the way to the test centre, nothing major, but not what you want to be doing on the way to a test. When we pulled up at the centre an instructor from a different school shouted to my instructor to tell him some hot news, the content of which I missed by going to the loo. Then when another instructor from my place pulled in my instructor was straight up to him to tell him the gossip. Apparently someone called M*** B****** was there at the test centre. I wasn’t really paying attention as they discussed it amongst themselves, saying he was a menace, that they had no regard for him, that he was here now because they had got rid of him somewhere else, etc.

Then some chap walked in and shouted my name, shook my hand and said he’d be examining me, pleased to meet me, his name was M*** B*****!

Oh the delicious irony. How I laughed.

So I set off thinking I was going to fail no matter what. I did my first exercise, a very simple manoeuvre, just a reverse into a coned area with the arse end snug at the simulated dock. To do this they have fitted a bulldog clip to one of the mudguards, you just line that up with a pre-selected spot on the pre-dock area and you know you are spot-on. I can do this every time. I was out in one truck on Saturday, a different one today, and the bulldog clip is in a different place!

Lined it up spot-on, inches short. Failed (though I didn’t know it) on the first exercise, before I’d even got on the road for my test!  If that had of been all I’d have failed on I would have been having very serious words with my trainers. A frank exchange of views, and possibly feet.

However, I managed to fail on my own (de) merit. The valuable and unforgettable lesson I learnt today is traffic lights come in two kinds. Round red, orange, green, and round red and orange but arrowed green. This I was previously aware of, on some level. What I am fully horrifically conscious of now is the fact that if it is the latter, arrowed green, it means there is more than one set of lights in play. I was travelling along a road, he said take the next turn on the right, I indicated, changed lane, saw the light was green (arrow) and proceeded. He said "Stop! It’s a red light"

I said "where?" Looking straight at a green light, and then he pointed out the other set of lights next to it, which were indeed on red! FAIL!

There were two other incidents. Straight after the red light fracas he reckons I clipped a kerb. I’m not sure I did, but not sure I didn’t either. And gears, again.

When I took the fail sheet back they had a look at it and said that considering it was him, that was a remarkably clean sheet for minor faults, and that I obviously don’t need more lessons, just back in for another test.

That is a mercy. Can’t afford to keep lashing out more dosh, yet ironically, can’t afford to stop now!

On the bright side, there was only the gears issue that I don’t feel confident I could be totally on top of, next time. Everything else was just really momentary lapses of concentration. Even with himself as an examiner I had a really confident and competent drive. On the drive home in the Micra I had a revelation. I’ve been dreading (when I finally get my licenses and a job) the first drive. But I realised today, if someone asked me to drive one of the trucks I’ve been training in, I would be OK with it now. Cautious, but not frightened.

As always there is more to say, but it’s getting on, and I have to be up shortly. I’m tired. Quite a portion of which is down to me being a tad miserable. Still, a good sleep, regroup my joi de vivre (however the French write it) and I should be back on top. :’(

Driving

This really is going to be a quick one, 6-2 tomorrow. However, have to say after me getting all nervous in the interlude, my four hour session today was the most productive to date. I had the older chap, who’s company it appears to be, taking me. If only I’d have had him from the start!

He was, until he retired from the game three years ago, a driving test examiner. So he was telling me what to do as a driver, why I’m doing it (such as having to brake down before a corner to accelerate through it, this transfers the weight of your load backwards onto the rear wheels and you drag it through the corner under control. As opposed to going in too fast, trying to brake, the weight shifting forward and pushing you across the road.) When you understand why you’re doing something you can apply it to every situation that needs it. You don’t have to guess when to apply rules.

Also there are set drills for every situation, pull in to a stop, it’s mirrors, indicate, allow a count of five for following traffic to register and react, brake, stop, handbrake, neutral, (range selector) button down, cancel indicator.

If you do that every time you can’t go wrong. You have come to a safe stop and you are in a start position. You can’t roll back because your handbrake is on, you can’t set off in the wrong gear as you are in neutral in low range (so you have to select the appropriate gear. If you don’t, you can easily forget and select ‘3rd’, but because you didn’t click the button down to the low range gear box, you  are in fact trying to set off in 7th. Then you stall. And feel very foolish. And panic, and let the truck roll back as you are fighting with the gears. Only done it once, but it was on a test!) Also you have cancelled your indicator so can’t move off with the wrong signal.

That was a long-winded way off demonstrating that if you have a procedure to follow you can drill it in so you can’t do it wrong. One less thing to fail on.

Also being with him he showed me some basics, how do you check for air leaks? On the Q&A sheet it just says ‘check the gauges are reading the right pressure, audio warnings are off, walk around the vehicle and listen for obvious leaks.’ Fine as far as it goes, but he said ‘turn on your engine, watch the gauges are at 9 or 10 bars, then turn it off one click and check that the dials don’t drop when the engine isn’t charging them.’

That is what you need to know not just to pass a test, but to survive having a fault. If you have no air, you have no brakes. That could prove entertaining, briefly, on a hill descent with a full load.

Anyway, it was a really informative session, if not wildly entertaining to read about. By the end of it though I was actually sat back in my seat, and holding a relaxed conversation. Previously I have been sweat-soaked, rigid with tension, and unable to finish a sentence before the instructor was yelling at me not to kill some other driver or demolish some roadside structure. (They knew the risks!)

For posterity, I was going down the East Lancs today, a dual carriage way, (so although it says 60mph, trucks can only do 50) when Peter said to take  a lane to follow a certain direction, which meant moving over into the right hand lane. I did so and a car came flying up the inside lane beeping his horn the whole way!

How big do they want the L plates? I was doing everything exactly to the letter of the highway code, and I got that! I was more amused than anything. If anything had happened as a result of that incident I would have been blameless. I can only assume the Muppet in the car had no idea that different rules apply to trucks.

Round ours there is a Walkers crisps warehouse, and the artic’s are always going from the warehouse to the motorway, down the one lane access road. They must have go sick of complaints because the trailers all sport a big 40 sticker on the back, saying ‘on a single carriageway trucks are only allowed to do 40mph.’ ‘It’s the law.’

So much for brevity. Well we’ll see if I have finally got this sussed on Monday. Watch this space!

Buck.

My Bad

This is going to be a quick one, got hardly any sleep last night and I’ve said I’ll work my day off tomorrow, which means I’ll not get a day off now till next Tuesday.

Anyway, had to write again as I have been dwelling on what I wrote yesterday. I was tired (as ever on the 6-2 shift) and ranting. As pertains to Luke and Mandy (his chick), that is. Been feeling guilty all day.

A more balanced view of the status of quid pro quo of favours earned and used would have to take into account the fact that this computer is one that Mandy gave us / me. This fancy monitor was given to us by Luke, as is an even fancier one he recently left for us. And what little computer literacy I have was learnt from Luke. I feel a bit of a heel in short. Still, I have a natural reserve of guilt so vast you could run a medium sized Catholic country on it, this is just one more drop in that vast ocean.

On the positive side, I had some brilliant news today. I was getting a bit concerned that I was running up all this debt for a job that only pays just over a pound and hour more than my current one. With the working time directive stating that you can’t work more than 45 hours (48?) per week, I was thinking that it was going to be a long time before the job paid for the training. Then I got talking to one of the drivers at work, and the hours per week refers to driving. So, with (paid) breaks that’s 53. Also all the hours you are sat around waiting for trailers and such is paid and not out of your 45 hours. He was saying that most of the drivers get £500 per week, and that he had earned 32K last year!

That is well worth running up the credit card for! OK, so it’s a lot of hours, but it beats having to work your day off, and the sweat and graft part is fifteen minutes per store, not constant for the whole shift. Good for my elbows, good for my bank balance. And he and another driver allayed my fears about driving such a big and scary vehicle. They said that once you’re used to them, trailers are easier to drive than rigids.

Right, sure there’s more but I have to hit the Z’s.

Later,

Buck.