The First Week Of My CDL Training

by Adrian Nunenkamp

So, finally I got into the school on 4/20 and started the classroom phase. My school required that we have already gotten the CDL permit and all five of the required endorsements (combination vehicle, doubles/triples, air brakes, tanker, and hazardous materials). That said, the school did provide two days of review over the general knowledge and endorsements to help those that were struggling. That took care of Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday kicked into high gear (figuratively) with one of the most boring things a trucker has to deal with... but also the most important: your logbook. This, as they explained to us, is your lifeline and the piece of rope that will hang you if you're not careful. Could there be anything more boring than drawing lines to explain to someone what you were doing? (The answer, if you're wondering, is 'yes'. Sitting on the side of the road due to an hour of service violation could be quite boring.)

After the log book and summary explainations were done, then we did a series of practice logs in the log books provided by the school. After lunch, we came back and did a bit on map reading using a trucker's road atlas. If you've never seen one, it's quite a bit like any other road atlas, except it tells you where all of the truck routes are, where the weigh stations are, and even will tell you about road restrictions in certain areas. We finished out the day with a practice run to Houston using both our road atlas (to plan the trip) and the log books (to make sure 'we' didn't go over the HoS rules).

Thursday... ugh. Thursday sucked, and not in a nice way. It was eight solid hours of videos. Yes, they were on important things, I won't argue that. Just sitting and watching videos for eight hours can really wear on a person. I wasn't the only one fighting sleep, I'll tell you that! Friday was a half day of videos, a quiz on the videos from Thursday and Friday, then some classroom training on left and right turns, as well as freight management (that is to say, loading/unloading and securing the cargo). The class was definitely more interesting in the second half. It didn't hurt that our instructor kept giving real life examples from when he was out driving flatbeds.

Today, Friday 4/27, saw us back in the classroom for 5 hours. We did a quick review of Friday's material, then spent a goodly amount of time on shifting. I don't care what anyone tells you, double clutching is very different from driving an every day standard transmission. The school explained the three types of shifts: flatland upshift, flatland downshift, up-hill upshift, up-hill downshift, down-hill up-shift, down-hill down-shift. I was keenly interested in the theory behind how it worked, and it made sense to me. After the classroom phase, we started working out in the yard.

Now, my class isn't very large. It's a grand total of 18 guys from two states. Since we weren't driving, they split us up into three groups of 6 and let us have at. My group started with the couple/uncouple station. There we went step-by-step through the process, and even learned about sliding the 5th wheel and tandems. None of us did anything yet... that starts tomorrow.

Next, we went to the shifting simulator. It wasn't a high-tech piece of equipment, but it does help train you in double clutching. I did fairly well, according to the instructor. We'll see when I get to drive tomorrow afternoon. Finally, we went to the Pre-Trip Inspection station. Guess what we did there? Actually, we only did the in-cab inspection. That is, we did everything that you do once you get into the cab before you drive for the day.

I must say I had fun in the yard part today. It feels good to be learning a new set of skills. I am looking forward to driving tomorrow, and I hope I don't break anything!

Pre-trip Inspection:

A pre-trip inspection is a thorough inspection of the truck completed before driving for the first time each day.

Federal and state laws require that drivers inspect their vehicles. Federal and state inspectors also may inspect your vehicles. If they judge a vehicle to be unsafe, they will put it “out of service” until it is repaired.

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.

Logbook:

A written or electronic record of a driver's duty status which must be maintained at all times. The driver records the amount of time spent driving, on-duty not driving, in the sleeper berth, or off duty. The enforcement of the Hours Of Service Rules (HOS) are based upon the entries put in a driver's logbook.

Combination Vehicle:

A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.

Tandems:

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".

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".

Doubles:

Refers to pulling two trailers at the same time, otherwise known as "pups" or "pup trailers" because they're only about 28 feet long. However there are some states that allow doubles that are each 48 feet in length.

Double Clutch:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

Double Clutching:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
by Brett Aquila

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