Vermonter Thinking Of Getting A CDL

Topic 30977 | Page 3

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Kerry L.'s Comment
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Hi Mike,

You pose a lot of good questions. I’m just going to tackle one of them for now. This is just my opinion, but forget your desire to drive a manual. Your chances of achieving that are slim to none. Manuals for new drivers are not happening and trust me, you don’t want it to happen. I trained in all manuals but when I went solo I was assigned an automated truck. At the time I was kind of disappointed but now I would probably quit if asked to drive a manual. Don’t develop an obsession with manual and if you make that a priority in choosing a company you will probably not get a job.

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Bruce K, thanks for the advice. Are the automatics that much better than a standard? How are they in the snow? Do you have the same amount of control on snowy roads? This thought leads to another question...is it better to learn and earn your CDL in the winter or in the summer? Just curious.

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My point is that new drivers are best off by driving an automated tranny truck. When a driver is new, like I am, there is so much to learn and process. Driving a manual adds an additional element of complexity to the equation.

With all due respect to Anne, I think it does a disservice to new drivers to encourage them to narrow their choices in driving by getting focused on driving a manual.

Companies are using automateds because they are safer due to their simplicity. Winter driving? In my opinion, it’s actually safer to drive an automated.

I was glad when I learned that my CDL school of choice only trains on automatics. I have no desire at all to ever get the manual restriction off my license.

Like you said, the learning curve is steep enough with all the things that go into being a successful driver.

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.

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.

James H.'s Comment
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You've gotten good answers based on people's knowledge of what is statistically true on an industrywide basis, and/or their individual experience. Now I think it's time to apply that knowledge to your unique situation. Factors that were important in our decisions may not be relevant for you, and vice versa. At some point you stop the information gathering and just go for it, since there is no single 'right answer' waiting to be discovered, no matter how much research you do. Success depends much more on the student than the school, and much more on the driver than the name on the truck's door. And that's a good thing. Others have said, and I firmly believe, that if you are committed, adaptable, and willing to learn, you will succeed, and if you are arrogant, entitled, and quick to place blame rather than take responsibility, you'll wash out.

Let's assume I am going to attend a pay to train school. I live in Vermont, Chittenden County just outside of Burlington. How far will I need to travel to attend the school?

I'm sure there are multiple CDL training programs in the Burlington area. A google search will find them, and then you have to contact them to find out what they offer, what it costs, and most importantly, where their graduates work. If there are companies you're particularly interested in, I'd reach out to them to find out if they hire inexperienced driver and, if they do, what schools their safety division accepts.

How many of them train you on Standards? I would much rather train on a standard than an automatic.

It doesn't matter how many schools train on standards; you only need to find one. Ask this question when you contact the schools near you. I'm glad I trained on a manual transmission, to avoid having that restriction on my license. In my case I ended up being hired by an LTL company that has a mix of manual and automated. Even if my usual tractor is an automated, sometimes it might need to go in for servicing, or the P&D driver I share the tractor with was delayed, etc. I can use whatever tractor is available. I understand the argument that an automated transmission gives you one less thing to worry about, but honestly it's a very learnable skill. So you have to decide which is more important to you, ease of training and passing the road test, or flexibility afterward. And you always have the option of retaking the road portion of the license test in a standard truck at some point in the future, to remove the restriction.

Next, once you make it through the class and get your CDL-A, do you have to train OTR or can you train as a Regional?

You should ask the specific companies you're interested in. (are you sensing a pattern here?) I was hired by a local company, so all my training was local, home daily.

That being said, why do drivers not like driving in the Northeast?

Multiple reasons, related to the fact that this part of the country has a lot of people, household income, and business activity in a small geographic area. Finding parking can be tough, especially as you get near the major metropolitan areas. Land here is too valuable to devote to acres of parking at a truck stop, when the land owner can put his property to more profitable use. Same with the places you'll deliver to. Land is too valuable to 'waste' on a huge yard, so you'll often find tight conditions. And this part of the country was industrialized in the 19th century and some of these businesses occupy buildings that were built over a century ago, to receive shipments by much smaller vehicles, including horsedrawn. When these buildings and the surrounding roadways were built, nobody was contemplating a 53' van pulled by a sleeper cab. And of course all those people and businesses mean traffic congestion and roads that quickly get beat up and in need of repair.

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.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

LTL:

Less Than Truckload

Refers to carriers that make a lot of smaller pickups and deliveries for multiple customers as opposed to hauling one big load of freight for one customer. This type of hauling is normally done by companies with terminals scattered throughout the country where freight is sorted before being moved on to its destination.

LTL carriers include:

  • FedEx Freight
  • Con-way
  • YRC Freight
  • UPS
  • Old Dominion
  • Estes
  • Yellow-Roadway
  • ABF Freight
  • R+L Carrier

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

P&D:

Pickup & Delivery

Local drivers that stay around their area, usually within 100 mile radius of a terminal, picking up and delivering loads.

LTL (Less Than Truckload) carriers for instance will have Linehaul drivers and P&D drivers. The P&D drivers will deliver loads locally from the terminal and pick up loads returning to the terminal. Linehaul drivers will then run truckloads from terminal to terminal.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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