What It Takes To Become A CDL School Instructor

Topic 21884 | Page 1

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Errol V.'s Comment
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I have posted my original training diaries ( CDL Training and Orientation and Training Driving) and now I'm starting a new job as Instructor at the Swift Academy (read CDL school) in Memphis, TN.

This might not be a true diary, but I'll describe the things I have to do to become a full Driver Instructor, as well as other observations about the students in the class. BTW, my current class is in the 3rd week of training (close to testing out). There are now 14 members of the class, 6 have left for various reasons. Another instructor told me this class's original size (20 students) is rather small.

First Week Since I'm already an employee with Swift, I've already done the new-hire paperwork. However, I did need to do a drug test (both "the cup" and hair follicle.) Next I got my very own Instructor Vest. I was assigned to follow another instructor around and see how things go during a school day.

Backing range! We stand on the range all day, except for breaks and lunch. Mostly talking to students in the trucks on how to complete the backing maneuvers. After a bit, I went on my own to a truck and the two students practicing. I worked with them to get the 90º Alley Dock down.

After the third day of doing this, I hope things will change because I want to see how other things go. There are three skills taught at Swift Academy: Straight Line backing, Offset (left and right), and the Alley Dock. CDL testing is done at the Academy. Three of the instructors are certified by the state as Third Party CDL Examiners. If this is for Tennessee only, I don't know.

Some things I found to be common problems students have at the Alley Dock range:

Aim: As a truck starts backing and starting the tractor/ trailer bend people have a tendency to cut in towards the cones early. That left cone is quickly demolished, or the driver has to really do some extreme trailer wriggling to fix this problem. If this happens to you, instead of aiming for the cone, aim your tandems toward a spot midway between the two front cones. That way the tandems will come in just "inside" the cone-cornered box.

People see the steering turns and angles of the trailer/ tractor as steps in a process. "Turn hard right, get almost a 45º angle. Then turn hard left to straighten out." In an Alley Dock situation, this will probably get your tandems to the right place, but the trailer will be way out past the "out-of-bounds" line to the right, along with the tractor drive wheels. The steps must be blended – start the next thing before the current “job” is done – that will continue to work out for a bit more.

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.

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".

PackRat's Comment
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That reads like quite a bit of standing, Errol. Going from one extreme (sitting while driving) to another would be murder on my back. How about yours?

Errol V.'s Comment
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That reads like quite a bit of standing, Errol. Going from one extreme (sitting while driving) to another would be murder on my back. How about yours?

Legs. I've got to keep walking.

Han Solo Cup's Comment
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A diary from a trainer's perspective is an awesome idea! I'm definitely going to follow this one closely.

Errol V.'s Comment
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Yesterday (Wednesday) we got a new class. These people actually started on Monday, but they started with some Academy orientation then some Map and Route Planning. Yesterday was their introduction to the Big Trucks.

First assignment: straight line backing. All Day. Out, then back. Don't think this is so simple. A semi-truck is nearly 80 feet long, and you need to keep control of the trailer. And the trailer axles are way back at the back, This is not like a boat or ATV trailer. A few students managed to have trouble all day on this.

Today the class concentrated on Pre-Trip. Instructors demonstrated the points of the Pre-Trip Inspection , then the students spent most of the day walking around a truck. (They had three Volvos to choose from.)

Class size is a bit shocking. The class started on Monday with 13 students, rather small - the other classes started with around 20 or so. Two original students had language problems - their English was not good enough. Two others did not pass the DOT physical. So nine came over to our classroom. So yesterday there was a class of eight! This morning, one had left and never showed for class, and another had to leave for some reason. By the end of the day we were already at 6 students. And we have three instructors, plus me, an instructor trainee.

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.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Rob T.'s Comment
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I'm not sure if your able to discuss it or not, don't want you to get in trouble, but how does it seem they're doing? Obviously they're just beginning the learning process but does it seem like most are genuinely interested and taking it Seriously? How long of a training process do you have until you become a full fledged instructor? I gotta give you props errol, not only have you had a very positive influence on here, helping those just starting out but how you're going to have a direxr impact on helping to learn the skills required to obtain their CDL. I think this will be a great diary for those getting ready for school. It'll help the students understand what to expect and exactly how fast paced the school is for company sponsored schools.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Errol V.'s Comment
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I'm not sure if your able to discuss it or not, don't want you to get in trouble, but how does it seem they're doing?

The small class is "doing" as well as about any class. A few nailed the straight back the first try, one couldn't back onto a basketball court, but he did do well enough to pass the evaluation. All 6 did pass. Onward to the offset and 90° alley dock!

Errol V.'s Comment
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Into the second week, we lost a student. Now there are five.

A student had a very common "crash"*: While back-turning like backing into an alley dock, the student watched very intently out the left side of his truck, and crunched his right headlight into another truck. Many people have this fender bender in their rookie year. I had mine. But in school, there is no tolerance for any crash property damage.

The remaining five students are practicing up their skills for the school eval. And, it rained all day! School policy is we practice in any and all weather (except tornadoes and such. Duhh!) Some students had rain gear, others just got wet and cold for the day.

With so few students, I moved temporarily to a new class (about nine students) for their first day, trying their best at the straight line back. This should be a simple "back the truck up in a straight line." A few got a good start but eventually had a big bend getting all out of bounds. Their heads had gotten confused with which way to turn. Remember when you are backing even a car, you turn the wheel "the other way" to make a turn. Now add a 53 foot trailer that has a mind of its own. See The Backing Range At Trucking Driving School - It's Like Clown Soup For The Soul

* "Crash" is a technical term. This was not a "Cuh-RASH" at any speed, but property damage happened to a vehicle.

Rob T.'s Comment
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Jeez Errol did ya fall off the map? Do you find it less stressful teaching snotty kids, or teaching adults that don't take it seriously and think they know it all? How do you enjoy having a set schedule, and being able to have a better life/work balance?

Errol V.'s Comment
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Jeez Errol did ya fall off the map? Do you find it less stressful teaching snotty kids, or teaching adults that don't take it seriously and think they know it all? How do you enjoy having a set schedule, and being able to have a better life/work balance?

OK, OK, Rob! I'm back! It's easier to teach the CDL students by far. If they mess up, they are outta here! Most do take the class seriously, and a few have been booted because of drug reports (often from their original drug test in the deep dive.)

Some students are asked to leave because they do not speak enough English. Sadly, since we cannot supply translators for foreign speakers, we cannot let them stay on. And a few simply disappear.

After a few weeks, the class I was starting with moved to Road Training, where I do not follow them, and of course the CDL test. So I have little information of my success rate.

I have joined in with several classes. Iv the time I've been on the backing range with them, I have developed quite a few suggestions for all that backing. I might set up a blog here with "Backing Clinic" topics. (not to be confused with my Backing Practice™ series.)

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.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

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