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Failing at backing and driving at Truck Driving can I ever make it as a driver?

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Matt T.'s Comment
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I have been 2 weeks at a truck driving school and my backing and driving is not looking good at all. Next week the class takes CDL test and if we pass CDL they hire us as drivers. I passed written test on first try easy and I found the pre-trip easy. After 3 days I had pre-trip and in-cab memorized easily. Memorizing a bunch of material and passing book tests is the easy part, driving is the hard part for me.

Our school evaluates us before we take our CDL on our skills and tells us if we flunk or pass. I flunked the driving and backing evaluation at school :( About half the students did very poorly on the evaluation; they failed or were very close to failing. I got two college degrees and was working as a Computer Technician at my old job before I decided to try trucking, but I feel really stupid in trucking school and feel like a failure.

Family members are thinking I should give up and go back to my old computer job. I haven't even taken the CDL driving test yet, but the backing and driving evaluations the school gives all their students before they take the CDL is not looking good at all. I have a very hard time judging distances. The instructor will tell me bring the truck within 2-3 feet of this cone I have a very hard time eyeballing distances and will bring it 4-5 feet instead. He will say move 6 feet behind this line. I can't just eyeball how much 6 feet is. Instead of it being 6 feet it will be either not enough like 4 feet or too much like 8 feet.

So I don't know what to do. Should I withdraw or wait it out and at least give myself a shot at the CDL exam and see what happens. I feel so discouraged. This is a lot harder than I thought it would be.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.
Pianoman's Comment
member avatar

Two weeks you say? Don't give up just yet. It takes months to get proficient at backing and maneuvering, and I'm still improving after driving for 1.5 years.

Listen to your instructors, take notes, watch youtube videos on backing and shifting, practice every chance you get. If you set your mind to it, you will get it.

When I was in school, I was frustrated because I thought I wouldn't be able to get everything down in time. I actually failed the driving portion my first time and had to retake everything a few days later. Now backing is so easy for me I could do it in my sleep. And last time I drove a manual, I shifted like a pro even though I hadn't driven one in like 4 months.

Right now, just focus on getting through school. You don't need to understand everything--you just need to learn how to pass the tests. Once you finish school and start driving, then you can figure everything out.

I see you're new to the site, so here is our welcome packet. Lots of great material on this site so knock yourself out!

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.
Dan R.'s Comment
member avatar

Two things to keep in mind: 1. The tests, moreso the backing test than the driving test I suppose, are situations you are unlikely to find while out on the road. If yours is anything like the one we did where we had landmarks that we were supposed to use for the backing portion(back until you see the crossbar, then when you're two inches from a line, etc) things will almost certainly be different not just in the truck you get assigned, but with every trailer. For the driving portion, you're driving in a way that is right to the instructor, and that will change when it's just you. Things like checking the mirror are good, but everyone has their own unique style.

2. 'Barely' passing is still passing. This isn't an industry where scores on tests follow you forever. It MIGHT affect what trainer you get, but it's quite unlikely anyone will ever look it up after that because they know that the tests are so divorced from reality that they have little in the way of indicating what kind of driver you'll be.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.
Pete B.'s Comment
member avatar

You should also be given opportunities to GOAL, 'Get Out And Look...' you should not rely on eyeballing distances only, not in CDL school or the real world. For my skills test we were allowed two 'get out and looks,' I highly recommend you use them. I also placed discreet markers on the ground on the backing course before the examiner arrived... helped me know where to stop so that I didn't back out of the lane. Do whatever it takes.

Otherwise, if you can, try to get extra practice... during lunchtime, before the day starts or at the end of the day... for your backing of course. Good luck, don't give up, see it through. I think you get 3 chances to pass... sounds like you just need time behind the wheel. You can do this.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.
Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

The very first thing you have to do is think positive! You'll never perform anything well without confidence. You won't be great at anything coming out of school, but you're certainly as capable as anyone at having good enough skills to pass. Everyone struggles for a long time with this stuff. No one ever feels like they've had enough time to prepare for the exam and most people fully expect the possibility of failing a time or two, but often surprise themselves with a pass the first time.

"Of course I can do this! It's only trucking!"

You have to repeat that to yourself continuously. Do not allow any negative thoughts whatsoever. Just having the confidence that you can learn this and that you have the basic skills needed at this point is going to help you perform better. Take this challenge head on. Pump yourself up. Before you make any attempts at anything, take a couple of deep breaths, tell yourself, "You'll get this", and then just clear your mind completely and relax and let yourself do it.

The little nitpicky stuff, like judging distances, is nothing to worry about at all. It's meaningless. No one can tell a difference of a couple of feet here and there from 60+ feet away. They're trying to get you to develop that ability a little better, but even seasoned pros can hardly do that. That's why when you have to be that accurate, like in a truck stop when you're backing up to another truck, you get out and look several times in the process. You don't ever try to judge tight spaces like that from in the cab.

So relax and have confidence. You'll get through this perfectly fine. It's always a struggle for everyone. Banish all negative thoughts and be excited by the prospect of a daunting challenge.

Steve L.'s Comment
member avatar

Someone once asked me; you know what they call a doctor who got C's in school? Doctor.

Agree with the others. GOAL is there for a reason. If you can use it in testing, do it. Same with pull ups.

Good luck.

Jim A.'s Comment
member avatar

If you need to back up 6 more feet pick a spot on the ground right outside your window keep an eye on that spot till you are even with it.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Matt, 2 weeks isn't that long. I was early into my third week of school when backing began to click and I became more consistent. You are basically attempting to learn something you have never done before, goes against normal thinking where right is left and left is right. One suggestion I will definitely make; try not to focus on what the others in your class are doing. Strip your mind of negative thoughts...no one is born knowing how-to back a semi. There are a lot of tricks, techniques, etc., but nothing takes the place of basic repetition and practice allowing yourself to get the "feel" of the truck. It takes time. Try to get as much practice as possible, to the point of asking for extra help. You do not need to perform a picture perfect, rodeo quality back to pass the CDL test.

Good luck!

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Matt T.'s Comment
member avatar

I guess I did pass the driving evaluation at the school but barely... but I did flunk the backing :(

The driving school is local to me so after work I been driving the same routes in my car my instructor takes us on just to get familiar with the route. I pretend I am in a truck and try to drive my car like I am in a truck. I imagine I am pulling a trailer and so I been practicing taking my turns wide trying to visualize my back tandem tires approaching the apex of the turn then turning and counter steering. My turns were too wide on road evaluation, but I would rather have too wide of turns then not turning enough and my tandem tires hitting the curb. I take my turns in the car the same way I would in the truck at 5-7 mph with a steady pull. I keep close to the left side on right hand turns. I have been practicing making my mirror checks before the intersection, during, after the intersection. I have a habit of driving in my car a little slow, but on the test if you drive 10 mph or lower than the posted speed limit you fail the exam. If you are 5mph or lower it is a warning and then you get points taken off for driving too slow on the driving exam. So I been practicing driving the car at the posted speed limit and not trying to get any lower than 3-4 miles under the speed limit. On ramps in my car I take them like I was taught in a truck at 25 mph. Anytime I make lane changes in the car I look before the turn, during the turn, and then after the turn checking the mirrors. I do an exaggerated head turn now to check my mirrors because I was checking them just using my eyes and got docked for it on school exam. instructor said test examiner can't see eyes move just your head, so been practicing moving my head when I look so the test examiner will actually see me taking my mirror checks. I also say things out loud to so come test day I am showing the test examiner that I know what I am suppose to do.

The backing unfortunately can only practice at school, but will try to get as many turns as I can. At our school sometimes we have 7-12 students per backing instructor so your getting maybe one time to practice your backing in a day, if your lucky maybe twice.

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Don't forget that you can learn a lot from watching other people, also. Watch people doing their backing maneuvers, see what's working and what isn't, try to evaluate everything as it's happening, and then talk to the student after their turn is up. See what they say about what they were thinking and how things were happening.

New drivers tend to do similar things. For instance, when backing up they tend to wait too long before steering and then steer too aggressively. You wait too long to make your move, now you're behind in the maneuver so you try to make up for it by steering hard, then you wait too long again before making the counter move so you steer harder to try to make up for it, and it's spirals downward until the truck is jackknifed and the instructor is cussin' and throws hit hat on the ground and the driver is crying.

rofl-3.gif

So watch each other, talk to each other, try to work it out together. You'll learn a lot that way.

I can't stress enough that everyone feels the same way during their schooling and training phases. You're constantly analyzing everything, you never feel like you know what you're doing, and it always seems like you might be catching on too slowly. You're all in the same boat. Not everyone seems to feel that way, but they do. They just hide it better than others.

I heard a comedian say one time that half the reason people are so depressed is because when you go out in public everyone tries so hard to act like they're happy. He says, "I feel like garbage, I go out in public and see everyone seems happy except me, and then I feel worse like I'm the only one with the problem!"

So just relax and try to enjoy the learning process. Take it all in stride and remember how cool it is to be learning to drive a big rig. You want to work hard and pay attention but there does come a point where you're just trying too hard and your performance is going to suffer for it. You want a balance of being able to think clearly and analyze things without putting undue pressure on yourself or thinking negative.

You'll be fine. You have no idea how normal your thoughts and feelings are at this stage. It's going to work out just fine.

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