US Army ABF TMAP Training Diary

Discussion in 'ABF Freight System' started by MaLsR_JDS, Jun 13, 2017.

  1. MaLsR_JDS

    MaLsR_JDS CDL-A Trainee

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    Originally composed on 25 May:

    I've been a member of truckingboards.com for a little while, and this is the first time I actually have something to contribute to the website instead of solely being a consumer. My time in the Active Duty Army is coming to an end in a few months and I knew that despite all of the wonderful experiences I've had in my career, the ones that stick out most prominently were when I would be the driver for our unit's straight truck and hauling equipment.

    A little background information on me: I'm married and have a 7 year old step son that I am in the process of adopting. I've been in the Army my entire adult life as a musician. It's one of those unique jobs in the military that affords many travel opportunities and constant contact with the general public. Because of my expertise in Jazz (saxophone), I've had the pleasure of playing in countless clubs and throughout the country. Back in the day when the military had more money to spend on recruiting, the band would go on TDY (temporary duty) and I would usually be the one who drove the truck with all of the equipment behind the charter bus. I loved those trips! As a hobby, I fly airplanes and have just under 100hrs total logged time in airplanes such as the Cessna 150/152, 172, 182, Piper Cherokee 180 and Cirrus SR-20. I am also getting into home brewing beer and cycling.

    Back to trucking! Part of the separation process in the Army is to attend a program called SFL-TAP (Soldier For Life-Transition Assistance Program) that is designed to ease the transition process through informative classes and counseling. During a mandatory DoL Employment Class I learned about the ABF Teamster Military Assistance Program (TMAP). Bottom line is that the Army has an agreement with ABF to train separating Soldiers AT their duty station (there are only two that I know of right off hand and I just happened to be stationed at one of them) for 6 weeks to earn their CDL-A and then have a direct flow through for employment.

    While very recently on my second deployment to Iraq, I made it a point to study in preparation for the CDL-A Permit tests. I knew that once I got back I would need to get the ball rolling since I wouldn't have much time left. So, after doing the written application, getting approved by my Command for the program, and completing the online application I went ahead and took all of the tests I could and passed every one of them on the first try.

    The drive home with the paper copy of the permit in my wallet was an amazing feeling. I couldn't believe I was finally getting started on the road (no pun intended) to doing something I truly enjoy and getting paid very well to do it. Because ABF requires a HAZMAT endorsement, I completed the online application to schedule my screening and from there I will get a certificate that will allow me to take the HAZMAT test. According to the program coordinator, I will be taking my drug test and DOT physical about two weeks before the start of class. The class itself starts on Friday the 23rd of June, so I expect to take the physical and drug test either this next week or the week after. ABF is paying for the the drug test and physical but I'm not sure whether that's a TMAP thing or if they do that for everyone.

    A quick update on my progress as of 7 June:

    Today was my scheduled HAZMAT screening day. It took place in Topeka and was about an hour drive away. The whole process is ridiculously easy: Log onto the enrollment website for DHS, input some basic information and set up your appointment time, drive to the screening center for your appointment, show proof of ID (in my case, three different ways), do some fingerprints, pay $86 and I was on my way out the door in less than 10 minutes. Hopefully I will hear back from them soon so I can take the HAZMAT test and officially have all of the endorsements.

    Now to pack and take pictures of things we are selling in preparation for our move. While I know that my situation is very specific, I hope that my experiences will at least be entertaining to read and hopefully informative.

    Update as of 13 June:

    Looking forward to my first DOT physical and drug test this Friday. I checked on the TSA website about my HAZMAT screening and it looks like a determination was made the day after I went to the Topeka location. Hopefully I will be getting the letter saying I was approved (there shouldn't be any issue since I've never been arrested and am Active Military) within the next few days.



    I think that's enough for now, but I will be updating fairly frequently on my progress up until the class starts. From there I will have daily updates about everything from the training to the challenges in completing a successful transition to civilian life.

    Thanks for reading!
     
  2. ABFer

    ABFer Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Thank you for your service, congratulations and good luck. :1036316054:
     
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  3. runawaytrain

    runawaytrain Wear their scorn with pride.

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    Thank you for your service to our country. Keep us updated and welcome to truckingboards!!!
     
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  4. MaLsR_JDS

    MaLsR_JDS CDL-A Trainee

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    Thank you!
     
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  5. MaLsR_JDS

    MaLsR_JDS CDL-A Trainee

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    Thank you! It’s been a long time coming and I cannot wait to once again have the feeling of smiling as I go to work doing something I love.
     
  6. runawaytrain

    runawaytrain Wear their scorn with pride.

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    Try and temper your enthusiasm just a little after all as with anything you will have some dues to pay. Trucking has been good to many of us but it does come with its share of BS. Just be realistic and understand you will have some bad days. Having said that let me say we all are here to help you with your transition.
     
  7. MaLsR_JDS

    MaLsR_JDS CDL-A Trainee

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    Thank you for the advice, I really appreciate it.
     
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  8. Homesick

    Homesick Active Member

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    We have had several TMAP participants come to Atlanta. Some have been road drivers and some have been city drivers. At least one TMAP road driver quit shortly after coming to Atlanta. If you want to get a more personal idea of what the job is really like I would suggest you ask for the contact info for William (Bill) West. He is an Atlanta road driver, was a member of ABF road team and the ATA road team, he worked at Ft. Carson training in the TMAP program and is still giving speeches and promoting the ATA. He will be as honest as he can if you talk with him privately. Tell him homesick posted on the truckingboards and it will break the ice. Good luck.
     
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  9. MaLsR_JDS

    MaLsR_JDS CDL-A Trainee

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    Wow! Thanks for the information and will do.
     
  10. FamilyGuy

    FamilyGuy New Member

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    My advice, and take it how you want, is if you are looking for advice or experience in the workplace ask an OldTimer when you arrive. If you want advice or experience in your SFL-TAP transition ask a prior TMAP participant. You will get both of best worlds.
     
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  11. MaLsR_JDS

    MaLsR_JDS CDL-A Trainee

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    I actually know a guy that went through the TMAP process here, but I haven't been able to contact him yet. But I'll definitely try to learn from the experienced and senior guys at my terminal when I arrive. Thanks!
     
  12. Boilerpeddle

    Boilerpeddle Drawing found in trailer

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    We have had a few TMAP guys come here and overall I don't think they are trained enough. Its not really fair to them. They get the 6 weeks TMAP training then (at least here) they get two weeks riding and driving with an experienced driver. Then they can be turned loose on society. They tell me the first time they pulled a 53 foot van is when they get in my truck. Ready to go deliver that pressure washer to a farmer out in the country in that van? No way. Ready to fight the city streets with all the crazy drivers? No way. Know what to do when you come up against that low bridge or closed road with no turn around? Nope. Know how to spot the difference between soft ground and a good hard gravel lot that has just grown up in grass? Nah.
    It takes time to develop the skills that will give you that little feeling that maybe you shouldn't turn down that road, or watch out for that car its acting funny. Luckily we have gotten a bunch of great guys and apart from a few minor incidents they have done fine. Trained well enough or just lucky?
    I don't know but I'm betting there is a lot of luck there. I would like to see a couple more weeks with an experienced driver and a couple of weeks in the yard then a couple of weeks on the dock(we are a combination board here). And not necessarily all in one shot like spend a week in the truck and a week in the yard then another week in the truck.
     
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  13. MaLsR_JDS

    MaLsR_JDS CDL-A Trainee

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    I agree. 6 weeks isn't necessarily enough time to learn how to drive a truck safely.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2017
  14. FamilyGuy

    FamilyGuy New Member

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    I agree with your perspective and glad your TMAP students are turning out fine. I would ask them how many times they have been behind the wheel before the program. I believe 6 weeks is not enough but in those six weeks, what I understand at least, is they have to learn the equipment, Hazmat, and to pass the state CDL test because none of them have held a CDL.
    This can imagine that this could be tough on someone that has worked in the Army and have to learn the skill set without even being at a Service Center. I know that the TMAP students at our location are hungry and being a sponge to learn from the guys because the program does not offer that experience at the Army installations due to the lack of a Service Center on site. To me the program is set up to get the Soldier that is best suited for ABF and get them to earn a CDL in order to gain the experience at the Service Center. I am all for getting Veterans jobs at ABF because the majority of them are hard workers.
     
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  15. MaLsR_JDS

    MaLsR_JDS CDL-A Trainee

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    Agreed. I fall into that hungry to learn category. I’ve wanted to drive for a living for awhile and take defensive driving very seriously. Hopefully my training will allow me to extend my defensive driving mentality to the truck. Nothing has ever been handed to me in the Army and I expect to have to work hard to learn about an industry I wish to participate in.
     
  16. Abf trainer

    Abf trainer New Member

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    T.M.A.P is set up to introduce them to basic driving skills and get them familiar with ABF trucks. We preach safety! and the importance of paying attention to detail. This will never take the place of experience in the real world of ltl or on the job training. They receive roughly 480 minutes of training a day for 6 weeks which includes in classroom and BTW training.
     
    Last edited: Jun 14, 2017
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  17. MaLsR_JDS

    MaLsR_JDS CDL-A Trainee

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    And I cannot wait to get started in a little over a week! This is a huge life change for myself, and my family since the military is all I've known my entire adult life. I will give it every ounce of effort I can pour into it.
     
  18. Boilerpeddle

    Boilerpeddle Drawing found in trailer

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    You guys seem to be doing a good job with the time and equipment you have.
     
  19. Boilerpeddle

    Boilerpeddle Drawing found in trailer

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    Just remember that every terminal (I'm not a big fan of the term service center) is very different and they have very different managers. You are used to having things laid, a solid set of rules. The mentality that if you need to know it they will tell you will get very frustrated here. And be prepared to not see the inside of a truck for quite a while after the initial training period. But remember there is pride in all work, even if you may not like it right now you should do your best and seek out those that you see know how to do a good job and ask them for help. The mentality of doing your best will carry over to whatever you do. That's what I like about the TMAP program. Military people already have a good start on that mental attitude.
     
  20. ABFer

    ABFer Super Moderator Staff Member

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    Are you training these recruits in all aspects of the LTL industry? Or at least, as many as you can? Or are you just teaching them how to drive the truck and maybe unload the truck. i e are you teaching them how to pay attention to their body positions and movements when lifting and moving freight? It may sound trivial and ridiculous but our bodies are at least as much at risk as the freight, the trucks and the motoring public. Sure, it's easy to say, "Keep your back straight and lift with your knees", but what do they do with that 80 lb 10' long box that shows up and has to go into that 3/4 loaded pup? That scenario right there is a broken back waiting to happen. Are you hammering into their heads "body first, freight last"? You should be, it's sad to see a 30 year old worker end his career with one wrong move.

    And how about those residential deliveries? Are you explaining the services rendered and the obligations that go with each level of service? What is that driver to do when the homeowner shows them a staircase, up or down, and says, "it goes up/down there"? Do you provide them with weight limits on what they should wrestle down off of a trailer? i e a washer, dryer, refrigerator, generator, etc? Or do you just tell them, "See what you can do with it", like they always tell me? And one more thing that I strongly urge you to teach them...how to get that #2200 pallet of 8' long wood flooring, rubber mulch, ceramic tile, etc on and off of that liftgate safely. And not just on a good concrete or asphalt pad, train them how it's done safely on an upgrade driveway with stones and holes in the asphalt.

    You're probably thinking that I'm just being a smart ass right now but I am not. These are serious, real life scenarios that we encounter and endure on a daily basis and nobody but us cares about it. My advice to the man, if you see something that will stretch the physical capabilities of your body, refuse to do it. If you wouldn't do it for yourself at home, refuse to do it, it's not your freight, it's not your problem and while you're querying the elders for information and advice look at what shape their bodies are in and how they walk, this is serious business that is not taken seriously enough.
     
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