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    Ann Arbor, MI

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    1 year ago

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Posted:  10 months, 2 weeks ago

View Topic:

Affordable CDL driving lessons for non-career driver

Thanks for the help so far, guys! Thought I'd give a quick progress update and run one more option past you all...

Henry Ford College (Dearborn) has a whole set of "CDL" classes.

I did end up contacting Henry Ford College. I was hoping I would be able to enroll in just the driving lab, which would mean just a few hours a week stretched over three or four months, to get some real, practical experience with a trained instructor, at minimal cost (looked like potentially a little over $500).

Well I just heard back from the dean this morning and, unfortunately, it's a non-starter. Not only do they require enrollment in all five courses, payment in full is due upfront, to the tune of $8349. I'm not even sure how they can charge that much, when a typical private school in this area runs $4000-5000 for the same training!

As for other options...

Wayne County Community College is starting a CDL program with the City of Detroit (you may be iced out of this). It seems to be new. Info in this PDF file.

Unfortunately, I can't get this link to work. Going to try contacting the school directly and see what I can find...

I also found is this: ABC Training and Testing Refresher and Accelerated Training Programs

These sound a lot like what Big Scott mentioned.

Looking specifically at the ACCELERATED CDL CLASS B COURSE (8 hours instruction, 4 hours "independent study", $1350.00) and the ACCELERATED CDL CLASS A COURSE (16 hours instruction, 8 hours "independent study", $1875). The only practical reason for me to do the class-A over the class-B would be to have flexibility to drive larger combination rigs in the future, although honestly, it would be mostly just for fun, and to fulfill my childhood dream of learning to drive a big rig. Logically, that's probably not worth the extra $525... At any rate, my biggest concern with this route is that it seems pretty expensive for the amount of training you actually get, even factoring in the "complimentary" road skills test they appear to include.

Any thoughts on this option?

Posted:  10 months, 3 weeks ago

View Topic:

Affordable CDL driving lessons for non-career driver

I was always taught to double clutch (especially when loaded)...and never push the clutch all the way in (down), otherwise the clutch brake kicks-in and fouls the shift.

I think my only point of confusion is that, even though I understand the function of the synchro, I'm not sure how it affects the steps you take to change gears. It sounds like what you're saying is that, even with the synchronized Spicer 6+1 (most likely what the 7 is, it seems, although could also be a Fuller -- not sure if they're synchro or not!), I'd still double-clutch, with clutch in only 2" or so for shifts while moving, and only all the way in when starting from a dead stop. I just wouldn't need to rev the engine in downshifts like you would in a non-synchro, and wouldn't need to worry as much about the RPMs dropping too low in upshifts. Am I understanding this right?

You mentioned You-Tube, there are numerous 10 speed shifting videos you can look at.

Yep, and I think I've watched just about every one, from 10's on up to 18's! I think I must have missed the 7-speed videos, though... Anyway, it's one thing to know the theory of how to shift, and another entirely to have the skill.

It takes practice and likely some instruction to get the hang of this at first. Based on your recent reply, I really think some formal training is best for you.

I think that's something we both agree on! Looks like the Henry Ford College program might be a possibility. Probably have to wait until next week to call at this point, though... That said, if anyone else has other suggestions, I'd still love to hear them! :-)

Posted:  10 months, 3 weeks ago

View Topic:

Affordable CDL driving lessons for non-career driver

typically they are either autoshift or Inline 6 speed with synchro assist.

Hmmm... How do I tell from the specs if it is or isn't synchronized? I had just assumed they'd all be non-synchronized. I know all the ones we're looking at are manual: cheapest option with auto is priced in the mid-60's -- no way we can swing that!

Mack units don't say what they have for trans, but I can see what looks like a normal gearshift in one of the pictures, so probably safe to say it's a manual, at least. The non-CDL unit I mentioned says "7 speed", and the other front-runner (CDL required, and slightly above our price range) is listed as 5/2 (Eaton-Fuller 10, I think??? Truck is a '91 International, if that helps). I've attached pictures of each -- I hope it helps!

Maybe a dumb question, but if it's synchronized, do you shift it like you would a car -- i.e., clutch all the way in and don't double-clutch?

The Mack (hard to see the shifter, I know)...6-7_horse_morton_davis_horse_van_mack_midliner_13.jpg

Non-CDL option (also looks like this one has hydraulic brakes -- meh :-( ):1995_international_6_horse_imperatore_van_5.jpg

Above our price range option (CDL req'd, listed as 5/2):1991_international_crew_cab_8_horse_dibella_van_10.jpg

Posted:  10 months, 3 weeks ago

View Topic:

Affordable CDL driving lessons for non-career driver

Thanks for the input so far, guys! You've definitely given me some food for thought.

There are places that you can pay that will get you a CDL in one day. All they do is run you through the maneuvers and some road driving in the morning and road test that afternoon. These places uses smaller trailers and/or trucks to make it easier. The CDL you get from these places will not lead to a job driving for a company. Also, may make insurance more costly. You can take the test in the truck you buy or a similar one. Check with your state's DMV for the requirements you would need. Good luck.

Sounds like this may be a reasonable option just to get the license, and being unhireable wouldn't be a big issue for me. I wasn't seeing anything like that in my searching, but will take another look. My biggest worry with this strategy is that I wouldn't be able to get the hang of shifting a non-synchro trans in one morning. I know the "how" of it from watching several youtube videos, but don't know how long it will take to get the feel for it. I'm not too worried about the size of the truck we're looking at, since the rig I used to drive was pushing 50' (trailer was 32' from front of the gooseneck to the rear bumper, hitched to a F350 crew cab), and the van, being a single unit, should be easier. Insurance cost might be another matter entirely. I have no idea how deeply they look into your training background when they calculate that.

confused.gif

Anybody here know??? Might need to do some more research on the subject...

Gotta tell you, I'm starting to lean toward the 100 hour course. Wonder if they'd let me do one week a month spread over three months...

Posted:  10 months, 3 weeks ago

View Topic:

Affordable CDL driving lessons for non-career driver

Thanks for the response! One of the programs I emailed actually operates out of our local community college -- I never received a response, but should, perhaps, try again.

Please keep something in mind,...any CDL school teaches the bare bones minimum necessary to pass the tests. That's it, nothing more. Your skills will be raw and your experience limited.

Excellent point -- definitely something I've thought about and don't have a great solution for. In many ways, I wish it made sense for me to take a year and go through a paid training program, but unfortunately it just doesn't make sense in terms of lifestyle and finances.

Can you tell us a lot little more about the truck? Size and the approximate loaded weight?

I'd be glad to give some more detail that I left out of the original post in the interest of brevity...

My GF and I run a horseback riding lesson program, with 8 horses of our own and a handful of client-owned horses. For me, this is a side gig on top of the day job I mentioned. We typically go to shows 6-8 times/year, taking 6-8 total to each show. Up until now, we've been doing this with a 2-horse trailer and her dad's 2004 gas-powered F350. With 3-4 round-trips per show, at ~6mpg, this quickly gets very costly and time-consuming, and are looking at doing even more next year! Add to it that the trailer lights stopped working completely in the middle of a run a while back (AFTER spending $300 replacing the harness), and the ~30 year old steel trailer frame is on its last legs, and it's pretty clear we need a better solution for next show season.

The obvious option would be a new trailer. We need a 6 horse, and ones that would work for us run anywhere from $20,000-$90,000+, depending on age, condition, etc... These have a dry weight of ~14,000, so GCW of the truck and loaded trailer could easily exceed 26,001. I've towed similar units in the past, and only recently found out that, technically speaking, I should have had a CDL for that. However, the farm I worked for at the time didn't require it, I was none the wiser, and, thankfully, never had a problem on any of several interstate trips.

The biggest problem with this plan is that her dad's 350 isn't up to the job and we'd need to upgrade, pushing the overall cost well beyond our current means. We're also not excited about the idea of trading one of our small cars for a big, thirsty truck when we already have a pickup available for general use just for the cost of fuel.

Enter plan B: a self-propelled horse van. If you're not familiar with the beast, it's basically a straight truck that's custom built to haul horses. Not only would they get us rolling in one swoop, they also give a much smoother, more consistent ride, and are easier to handle and maneuver than a comparable truck and trailer. Some don't require a CDL, while others do, with those that do typically selling for quite a bit less because of lower demand. The choice between CDL/non-CDL, at any rate, doesn't seem (in my mind) to substantially change the risk profile of operating the truck: all the units we can afford are manual shift, all 25,950-33,000 GVWR, and all those on our list have air brakes (because their catastrophic failure mode is to stop -- much nicer than the failure mode of hydraulic brakes!).

We're looking at a few options here: http://www.frankdibella.com/vans_search, and the current front-runner is the Morton-Davis/Mack Midliner #102, with 33k GVWR, ~32' in total length. It's listed at $16,000. The next-best non-CDL option is $33,000 (granted, with a newer truck) -- we're leaning toward the Mack on cost alone. Besides, we'd have a ready-made excuse for people who ask to if they can use it to move!

smile.gif

Anyway, even though I could skate on a farm endorsement within MI, the truck is in PA so I'd need the CDL just to drive it home. I'm unwilling to risk a ticket or, worse, an accident by taking it on interstates without proper training and licensing!

On a side note, I've discussed pros and cons of the Mack with my 40+ year veteran OTR driver uncle (now retired) and he agreed it might be a good option, given some strong caveats. Plan would be to (hopefully) get 5-10 years out of the tractor (driving <10k miles/yr), then swap the van body onto a newer air ride Pete or Ken.

Truth is, no one is well prepared to drive a semi-truck solo, fresh out of school. Especially a loaded one approaching 80,000lbs in gross weight. I know your intentions are good, but your risk?

Very good point and, even though a 33,000lb straight truck isn't quite an 80,000lb semi, it's well taken. Suffice it to say, I'm VERY safety-conscious when hauling horses, regardless of the type of rig. Properly-secured freight is one thing, but live animals are another entirely, and I take the risks very seriously. I've driven large pickup-truck/trailer rigs for many years, and the lady who trained me did so by putting a cup of water filled ~1/2" from the top on the floorboard and having me drive and back around cones. If I spilled a drop or drove over a cone, I failed. This is the approach I'll be taking to driving whatever rig we settle on!

Posted:  10 months, 3 weeks ago

View Topic:

Affordable CDL driving lessons for non-career driver

So I've been a member here for the last few months and, first off, I want to offer a big "Thank You!" for all the training resources, and say how much I've enjoyed the blog posts and stories about the trucking lifestyle. Ever since I was a kid, I've dreamed of driving a big rig, but my life took a different path. I've got a steady day job that I love and wouldn't want to give up, but now find myself needing a CDL to drive a truck for my GF's horseback riding instruction program. The online training program here was invaluable in attaining my learner's permit, and, along with some great youtube videos, I'm confident about the pre-trip inspection, but I need to get some behind the wheel experience if I hope to pass the skills test. So now I'm looking for an affordable way to get the hang of shifting and driving a commercial truck safely.

As far as training options go, I've already learned a lot from this site and a few others...

I know the lowest cost option would be a company sponsored program, but that won't work for me because I can't take a year off from work and still have a job to come back to, not to mention that my current life and responsibilities aren't compatible with being away for weeks at a time. (Bummer, because I actually really like the idea of taking a year to go OTR and see the country!)

Private schools offer a more viable option, and I've already contacted 8 in my area, of which I heard back from only 3. The biggest drawbacks here are cost (I've seen as low as $3000 and up to $5000), and the need to take off 3-4 weeks off from work, which my boss would not be happy about! Among the responses I've gotten, the best was a three week, 100 hour course, which I qualify for because I already have the learners permit. The cost is normally $3995, but they offered to cut me a deal at $3000 with the option for 12 month, 0% financing. I know I would get a solid foundation from this program, but it's still quite costly. My day job pays pretty well, but not so well that $250/month wouldn't be sorely missed, and getting the time off from work is a shaky proposition at best! Considering my return on investment would be substantially lower than a typical career-oriented CDL student, I'm just not sure it makes sense.

Last option I've considered is finding a local owner/operator, who has some spare time evenings/weekends, and is willing to help me out for some extra money. I'm thinking this may be the most economical option, assuming I can find a suitable truck owner. Problem is, I don't know if it's realistic, considering there may be very few drivers with sufficient spare time, a willingness to let me grind the gears on their equipment, and insurance that wouldn't balk at covering losses should the worst happen with me behind the wheel. Even if this elusive person does exist, I'm not sure how to find them. Best I've come up with is leaving my number with the manager of the local TA service station -- still no word, so thinking that may be a no-go. Suffice it to say, I'm currently a little stuck when it comes to this option, and I need help if I'm going to somehow make it happen.

Anyway, that's the extent of my ideas, and I'm not sure there's a winner among them. However, if there's one thing I've learned from the forums here, it's that truckers are great at getting the job done, no matter the challenges. I'm hoping some of you folks can help me do just that with some feedback on the options I've given, new ideas I may not have thought of, and maybe even some direction on how to see those ideas through. Thanks in advance for any and all advice!

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