Shifting Patterns While Approaching A Stop Light. PLEASE HELP!

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Kyle W.'s Comment
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So I’m in CDL school and tested today. PTI went great, as did my maneuvers. On my road test, things were going good until I was approaching a red light. I downshifted no prob to 5th, and just as I’m almost stopped, maybe 5mph, the light turns green. This is when I freak out. I guess I just don’t know what the right thing to do at this point? I can’t stay in 5th and try to start out right, I’d most likely stall? So the obvious solution is downshift right? Now should I downshift into 4th or??? And to add another dumb question can I skip gears when downshifting, like 5th to 3rd??? As you can guess I lost a gear during my test and blew it. I seriously think the stress an anxiety of today cut my lifespan down a bit. Please any and all input would be greatly appreciated.


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.
Cwc's Comment
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First and foremost... Relax. Second good question on skipping gears and the short answer is yes you can skip them. But the better question is do they want you to skip gears. Where I went to school one instructor wanted you to if you could While another just wanted you to run numerically. Both are right.Looking at If from either perspective is this. If you can do it without killing it or messing up your ahead of the game.

If you run numerically it will get ingrained in your head what gear to go to at what speed. Sounds like you might be the latter. No big deal it just takes a little time. Down shifting early? Or while traveling at a higher than prescribed speed for that particular gear. Rev high.

Just takes a little time to get the pattern and the timing right. They know this... So... Relax. Your not going through anything the rest of us haven't.

Susan D. 's Comment
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On a 10 speed manual, think of it like this.. your low side gets you rolling and your high side gets you speeding up.

I'm assuming you're empty as you were tested? When I'm empty I start out I. 3rd or if aimed downhill 4th or 5th depending on the slope. If I'm loaded, I'll start in 2nd. If you have a tendency to stall, start in 1st.. that seems to help new drivers who stall when having to take off going uphill.

You can skip gears. As long it's an appropriate gear for your road speed and rpms, you're good to go.

This might help: 6th gear =1 + 5 = 15 mph 7th gear = 2 + 5 = 25 mph 8th gear = 3 + 5 = 35 mph 9th gear = 4 + 5 = 45 omg 10th gear = 5 + 5 = 55 mph

1st through 5th simply get you rolling. For 5 mph try 3rd or 4th. Every truck is slightly different and it depends on how it's set up. Next time you drive. Start in 1st and see what speed you need to shift to 2nd, 3rd, 4th, etc.

Just stay calm and take your time. You can do this.

Cwc's Comment
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Also if your dragging around an empty trailer and your moving at all you should be ok in 4th. If your in 5th and on the brakes one foot is already on the clutch. Time to roll again? Clutch neutral, clutch rev, gear down and go.

When I started I always said in my head what to do for shifting. Up shifting was Clutch neutral clutch gear Down shifting was Clutch neutral ,clutch rev gear.

Kyle W.'s Comment
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Thanks CWC I really do appreciate your input. Please humor me, I know you don’t know the truck etc but in a 9 speed as I’m approaching the light what gear should I be in. Instructors have said 5th. Or should it be lower say 4th? And if I’m in 5th coming up to the stop and the light turns green, I should downshift I’m guessing correct?

Mark B.'s Comment
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The short answer is if the wheels are still turning, and you are still in 5th gear, leave it in gear and gently let the clutch pedal back out. Feel for the clutch to grab without letting the engine stall - don't dump the clutch. Assuming you are driving a late-model truck, you should have more than enough torque at idle to continue moving with an empty/light trailer with little problem in that low gear. If you take it out of gear at that low of a speed, just clutch and move the selector stick directly to 4th or 3rd - you don't need to rev the engine to match road speed if you are only moving 1-2 mph. Taking a grind is worth one point, stalling the truck or impeding traffic is an auto-fail.

On the exam, keep it simple, and don't forget to breathe! 😃

Mark B.'s Comment
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Thanks CWC I really do appreciate your input. Please humor me, I know you don’t know the truck etc but in a 9 speed as I’m approaching the light what gear should I be in. Instructors have said 5th. Or should it be lower say 4th? And if I’m in 5th coming up to the stop and the light turns green, I should downshift I’m guessing correct?

In a 9-speed, personally I would downshift to 4th for this reason. It should still take off in 5th if the wheels were still moving, but it might be rough and you would have to ride the clutch pedal. I assumed you were testing in a 10-speed.

Bruce K.'s Comment
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If you are not in the intersection and the dreaded red/green light monster confronts you, stop and catch your normal starting gear. Then proceed if the light is still green. The examiner will not fault you for exercising caution at an intersection. To panic and rush things will usually result in a stall. Automatic fail. This happened to me during my road test. I had to make a quick decision on whether to stop or downshift to avoid a stall. I chose to stop and after the test, the examiner told me I made the correct decision. Most examiners know you are not experienced enough to make instantaneous decisions and will credit you when you err on the side of caution.


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Marc Lee's Comment
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We were taught this too... (thanks Susan)

This might help: 6th gear = 1 + 5 = 15 mph 7th gear = 2 + 5 = 25 mph 8th gear = 3 + 5 = 35 mph 9th gear = 4 + 5 = 45 mph 10th gear = 5 + 5 = 55 mph

Trainer was trying to get me to recognize that both engine speed and vehicle speed matter... that was where I sometimes struggled. Especially if a shift was missed... as vehicle speed dropped just getting the RPMs back didn't necessarily solve the problem... a lower gear was still needed.

PROS please weigh in here!

The other thing they taught us was:

Stop Sign = Lowest High Gear (6th on a 10-speed)

Stop Light = Highest Low Gear (5th on a 10-speed)

Stop Sign logic was because we come to a full stop we can take the time to switch to low range and downshift as necessary.

Stop Light logic was if the light changes before we come to a complete stop we will be ready to roll. If RPMs and vehicle speeds are too low than a downshift is appropriate.

PROS please confirm I have my part right and please share more on this. (Still stuff I need to practice but I think I was given the right info.).

Of course J.B. Hunt uses the Smith System and wants a 2-second (or longer) pause to allow for redlight runners to clear the intersection so coming to a complete stop and shifting to a starting gear might be an option!


Kyle W.'s Comment
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Thanks Susan that makes so much sense no wonder I didn’t get it lol. The truck is a 9 speed so I’m thinking it should be 3/4 gear at 6mph roughly. I think I’d be better of approaching in 4th and if I can drop to 3rd. Then I can either stop or continue through the intersection if it turns green. Not sure why this didn’t come to me earlier, it’s almost as if I only had to downshift into 5th, which for a stop sign works great. But with a light things can change green/red so I need to be ready and in a lower gear in case I need to speed back up! Thanks again!!!!

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