After 9 years in the industry and 2 1/2 years at one particular trucking company, I decided to return to that company after I had quit to try other things for about 6 months.
By law the company has to give all new hires a “road test” which usually just entails about a 10 minute drive down the road and back. Well, anybody with 6 months experience can take an 8 hour class to be eligible to give road tests at this particular company and most large companies aren't much different.
So I meet the “road test dude” and we hop in the truck. He had no idea the level of experience I had. I already had 250,000 safe miles of driving in all 48 states and Canada just with this company alone! So I'm relaxed and we're talking as I pull out of the parking lot up a long steep hill to a stop sign. I've never driven this particular truck and every truck has a slightly different feel to the clutch. They are adjusted differently and require different amounts of movement and pressure depending upon a number of factors.
So I stop at the sign, traffic clears, and I get ready to roll. The hill is steep and I didn't quite let the clutch out the perfect amount before getting off the brake and the truck eased back about 6 inches before the clutch grabbed and the truck rolled forward. The distance it rolled and the time period it happened in was so small that by the time he screamed,” WE'RE ROLLING BACKWARDS!!!” we were already rolling forward.
It was a massive overreaction on his part and was quite comical to me. I laughed and said, ”Take it easy man, I know. Don't freak”, and I kept chuckling. He yells,” YOU KNOW I CAN FAIL YOU FOR THAT!” and I smiled and said,”Man, how long have you been driving and how long have you been at this company?” He said three years driving, six months with the company.
I said, ”Man, I've been driving for a total of nine years with nearly one million safe miles (this is not an exaggeration) and 2 ½ years with 250,000 safe miles at this company alone. Now we can turn around and you can tell them I've failed your driving test and that I'm not qualified to drive for this company in your opinion, or we can kick back, relax and enjoy the rest of this ride.” It turned out to be quite a kicked-back, relaxed, and enjoyable ride.
So no matter where you go you will get some of these authoritarian types but don't let em get to ya. They're idiots. The instructors who really care about teaching you all that they can will be very patient and understanding. Nobody is born with the ability to drive a big rig. We all had to learn from scratch. The good instructors haven't forgotten that.
Ok so you've spent a couple weeks in the classroom and backing up the truck. Now the time usually switches to a mix of backing up and actual driving out on the road. Little or no classwork will be required anymore. The nice thing about getting your CDL is that the schools pretty much already know exactly what the written and driving tests will involve. Both the private and trucking company schools have one goal – getting you to pass that test. They both have a HUGE interest at stake. The more students that pass the test the more it will help them... so they are genuinely interested in giving you what you need to get your license.
As you would expect the road portion will generally be in a safe area. They don't want too much pressure on you as a student and they don't want to risk an accident. So don't panic... the road portion of the training is also tons of fun. Believe me, after backing up in a parking lot for weeks you will be very, very eager to get on the road and actually drive FORWARD! You surely will never forget the first time you ever get to do it for real... I certainly haven't.