Truck driver training has always been done as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Unfortunately this often makes for inadequate training and a frustrating, exhausting experience for new drivers. So why is it done this way? We'll take a look at how training is done, why it's this way, and what you can expect as a new driver.Join The Discussion
Why Is CDL Training Done In Such A Rush?
Hey folks, I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth.com and welcome to another episode of our podcast 'The Road Home' where we help new drivers prepare for life on the road. Today I want to talk about why truck driver training is condensed into such a short and intense training period instead of doing it at a slower, more relaxed pace.
Now when people first get started with their training they realize almost immediately that the trucking industry is a strange beast. There are a number of factors that shape the way the industry trains drivers and unfortunately it can make for less than ideal circumstances.
The overriding factor which shapes CDL training is the fact that there are no minimum time requirements for truck driver training, nor are there any requirements for the curriculumn they cover. As long as you can pass the CDL exams and the DOT physical you can get a CDL and be a truck driver. As far the technical requirements are concerned, it really is as simple as that. Now there is, of course, so much more to this job than passing a quick road test and some written exams but there are no requirements for teaching any of it.
So your first phase of training will be the process of getting your CDL. The goal for the first phase of training is simply to teach you the minimum necessary to pass the State exams and get your CDL. That will include some written exams on the materials contained in the CDL manual, a short driving test, a pre-trip inspection on a truck, and some backing maneuvers. That's it. You're going to learn the basics of how to inspect and maneuver the truck, and the basic rules of the road for commercial vehicles.
Because there are no minimum time requirements for training you're going to see that the training is done as quickly as possible. If a truck driving school wants to remain competitive it must be able to train drivers as quickly and as inexpensively as the competition can. So it kind of becomes a race to see who can help you get your CDL the fastest and the cheapest. That will mean a lot of long days and an overwhelming amount of information in a very short amount of time.
This phase of your training will not normally include things like how to load cargo, how to balance out the weight across your axles, how to use a logbook, or how to manage your time on the road. So at this point you'll have a CDL and you'll be able to drive the truck a little bit but you won't know the first thing about how to actually do most of your job duties as a truck driver.
So after you get your CDL it's time to move onto the second phase of training where you'll go on the road with a trainer at your first company. And once again there are no minimum requirements for this phase of training so the main factor which shapes the way they handle training is competition.
Trucking companies must compete to survive and must take great care of their customers while trying to train their new drivers at the same time. This makes it incredibly important for companies to find a way to make new drivers productive as quickly as possible. It would be really nice to have the time and money to let students relax and drive around in safe areas until they feel comfortable, but financially that would be devastating to the company's bottom line.
So unfortunately during this phase of training the primary focus will be on hauling freight and the secondary concern will be training you to do your job. So don't expect most companies to slowly walk you through the training process. It's going to be fast-paced and they're going to hold your feet to the fire. They're going to expect you and your trainer to keep that freight moving which means you're going to have to learn everything on the fly.
Now during this phase of training is when you're supposed to learn things like how to load cargo, how to balance out the weight across your axles, how to use a logbook, and how to manage your time on the road. They'll also teach you the company's procedures for fueling, routing, freight assignment, payroll, and communication. Well, at least that's the theory. Unfortunately it's common for new drivers to pick up some of these basics and yet still have considerable gaps in their training when it's time to go solo. There simply isn't enough well qualified trainers to do the job and there isn't enough time to cover everything.
Now one thing students often get upset about during this phase of training is the fact that they are given very little time to practice or very little hands-on training. You would expect your trainer to let you practice backing the truck as often as possible. You would also expect to be doing a lot of the hands-on stuff like dropping and hooking, sliding tandems, setting up the navigation system, and handling the route planning.
Unfortunately the circumstances often dictate that the job gets done as quickly as possible so the trainer will often times do a lot of that stuff himself instead of letting you do it. Most of the time they're in a hurry so they want to get things done quickly and they're also afraid you might run into something or make a major mistake on their watch.
So don't expect the second phase of training to focus on developing your skills. Your time on the road will mostly focus on moving freight and your trainer will squeeze in some lessons, and hopefully a little practice, along the way.
So the majority of everything you'll learn will be learned on your own once you go solo. In fact, if you took everything a ten year veteran knows about doing their job at the highest level, only a tiny percentage of that was taught to them directly. The majority of it they learned on their own after going solo.
So don't expect your truck driver training to be slow-paced and relaxing. In fact, it's quite the opposite. Prepare to be overwhelmed with information most of the time. Expect to be thrown into circumstances you're not sure how to handle on a regular basis. And expect your trainer on the road to spend very little time actually training you and the majority of the time on getting the job done by whatever means necessary.
Without a doubt this is far from the ideal system. It seems obvious that truck driver training shouldn't be done based on the fastest, cheapest methods available, but it is. So as a new driver you simply have to work through it as safely as possible and try to keep your sanity in the process. Once you go solo you're going to be learning a lot of tough lessons the hard way. There's no way around that. So be prepared for a tough process but always take your time and focus on safety so when the work is done you can sit back, relax, and enjoy The Road Home.
I'm Brett Aquila with TruckingTruth and we'll see you next time.
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