Why I'm Getting A CDL-B, Does It Make Sense

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Pheonix0904's Comment
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I applied and got a job as a school bus driver. My plan is to work for them a year or two and then apply to drive a motor coach. The school bus company offers free training, pays for my DOT exam, back ground check and fingerprints with no time frame that I have to stay with the company. I figure it will give me some time driving larger vehicle and if I can stay focused with 40 kids, I might make a good driver one day. I've thought about driving a coach bus next because it would give me experience with an even larger vehicle, I would get a chance to see sights and companies put you in a room if an overnight stay is needed. I know that when I decide to go to a CDL-A I would be starting over. If I would have found TT before I took the job with the bus company maybe things would be different but I made the commitment now. I do want to drive a truck at some point but I like the idea of easing my way into it. Learning to drive bigger and bigger vehicles and on further and longer routes. I'm single, kids are grown and gone. I've downsized so I can live anywhere. Does this plan make any sense? Any advice?

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.

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.

Bob H.'s Comment
member avatar

Hello and welcome to the forum! Up until recently, I had worked me entire life in retail and satisfied my childhood dream of driving big trucks by joining a volunteer fire company, which is where and why I obtained my CDL(ran 250+ calls a year for 25 yrs. and lived a block from fire house so I drove a LOT). I was an assistant mgr. for a big box retail store and started to burn out, so I started working part time for a local company that has school buses and coach buses as a "plan B". I currently drive coach since leaving retail and can hopefully provide some insite into what you are considering. First, I see nothing wrong with gradually transitioning yourself to larger vehicles if that is more comfortable for you. Now, a little more info about your circumstances would be helpful. I realize you may or may not wish to answer these questions publically, but you need to answer to yourself in order to decide. For example, are you looking for a full time career change or something to keep busy? Your "kids are grown and gone" statement gives the impression of an empty nester looking for something to do. Next, you are considering starting in school bus. This is a part time job (1 or 2 hrs in AM and 1 or 2 at night) that with the end of the school year approaching in all likelyhood you wouldn't start driving until Fall. Does that fit your needs and is it something you can afford to do or do you need a larger, more steady income? Finally, how for along in the process are you with the school bus company? What do they have invested in you at this point? I respect your sense of commitment. However, life is too short to punish yourself for choosing a direction that doesn"t fit. You also don't want to burn bridges. Does the company have coaches too? Open the lines of communication with them as to what your needs and goals are to see what can be worked out. As far as Coach vs. Class A, I can provide some insite there too, but this post is already way too long!

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.

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.

Pheonix0904's Comment
member avatar

Thanks for answering and no I don't mind sharing. You can ask me anything. I will actually be working full time driving a school bus. Well at least 30 hours a week anyway. During the summer I'm told that people just apply for unemployment. I hate the idea of that but I figure it will only be for a summer or two. I'm only 48 so I still need to work full time and hope I have another 15-20 working years to go. I've worked mostly in Banking and Customer Service. Tired of all of it. I've been interested in driving for a while but waited until my last child moved out. So I'm sharing a house with a month to month lease. I'm not stuck here at all. I willing and able to go anywhere. I know you understand what you have to go through with being hired through a school system but for others that do not know, you have to have a background check, your fingerprints taken, 10 year employment check, drug screening and your DOT is yearly, at least here in Maryland. I don't have any points, arrests, I don't do drugs or drink. I've had to pass a fitness test for my company in addition to the DOT. I can not think of a reason why I could not pass other companies fitness tests unless maybe lifting weights above my head. Being female, my upper body strength is not top notch. My expenses are pretty low and I feel I'm far enough in with the school bus company that I would be burning a bridge. I have not heard of a Motor Coach company in my area that didn't want at least a year or two of experience driving professionally. Anyway I hope you were able to understand my rambling and that I answered all your questions. Looking forward for hear from you and very interested in what you have to say on the subject.

Thanks!

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.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Lasonya, I have driven school buses, motor coach and now semi-trucks. I suggest you might skip school buses.

School buses require many more skills in managing students than you will need even on a motor coach. There are legal issues uniqwue to school buses, also. Until the end of last year, I was a middle school teacher. As far as my experience with students these days, you will have your hands full with the kids. If you want to make the small step, skip the school bus and check out motor coaches. Summer is coming up, and those coaches will be rolling with tours. Now is the time to see about the CDL-B, bus endorsements, and hiring.

The things you will learn in the bus business include driving a waaay longer vehicle, moving that big thing in traffic, and shifting, including double clutching. But there is a big change coming, and more trucking (and bus) companies are moving to automatic transmissions. You will probably be subject to the Hours Of Service, including a drivers log.

Then, to move into a truck, and get that CDL-A, you will learn about the trailer, that the semi-truck bends about 1/3 of the way back (most buses don't), and the physical part of connecting tractor to trailer, moving tandems (the rear wheels), weight limits, driving at all hours of the day and night, and more. And don't forget buses usually have people you can talk to. Trucks may be one of the lonliest places to earn a living.

My suggestion is to check out the Trucking Truth materials, follow along on the forums, and get a taste of what trucking is all about. It is definitely not unheard of that people move from their previous job right into a truck driver seat!

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".

Double Clutch:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

Double Clutching:

To engage and then disengage the clutch twice for every gear change.

When double clutching you will push in the clutch, take the gearshift out of gear, release the clutch, press the clutch in again, shift the gearshift into the next gear, then release the clutch.

This is done on standard transmissions which do not have synchronizers in them, like those found in almost all Class A trucks.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Belluavir's Comment
member avatar

Life is short, if big rigs is the goal, why start lower down then you have to?

Old School's Comment
member avatar
Life is short, if big rigs is the goal, why start lower down then you have to?

I completely agree with Belluavire.

It has always been my opinion that Class A vehicles cannot be compared with Class B. That is not a statement based on any particular bias or feeling of superiority as a Class A driver - I have driven them all and there is just no comparison.

I always recommend that a person wanting to get into truck driving just go ahead and go for the whole enchilada when you are getting started. The only problem I see with your plan is that you somehow think that you can work your way up into being accustomed to a larger vehicle. It sounds logical, but once you realize that larger vehicle in the class A license bends or articulates in the middle you will find that none of those class B vehicles did a thing to help you compensate for that.

You sound like an ideal candidate for a paid training program like they have at Prime, Inc. They take their time with you and you will be very comfortable with that huge vehicle once they turn you loose as a solo driver. Plus I think they are paying 700 bucks a week now during the second portion of their training period. You can check them out by going to the Company-Sponsored Training section on this site. Also if you will just search "Prime" at the search bar at the top of this page you will find more information about them than you can at their own web site.

What ever path you take, stay in touch with us, we always enjoy hearing about the successes and struggles of our members here. We will be glad to answer any questions you come up with along the way.

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.

Company-sponsored Training:

A Company-Sponsored Training Program is a school that is owned and operated by a trucking company.

The schooling often requires little or no money up front. Instead of paying up-front tuition you will sign an agreement to work for the company for a specified amount of time after graduation, usually around a year, at a slightly lower rate of pay in order to pay for the training.

If you choose to quit working for the company before your year is up, they will normally require you to pay back a prorated amount of money for the schooling. The amount you pay back will be comparable to what you would have paid if you went to an independently owned school.

Company-sponsored training can be an excellent way to get your career underway if you can't afford the tuition up front for private schooling.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

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.

Pheonix0904's Comment
member avatar

Thanks to everyone for their input. I was hoping that someone here would have some real life experiences with Buses.

When Bob H. answered my post I sat down and took a hard look at myself and the truth is it's about my confidence. Had a few things go on lately and I need some success right now. I need to feel some steady ground under my feet. I know I want to and can do the job. I just need some time to breath.

I've been lurking for awhile. I've read a lot of posts and Bret's book. I've read about the Lifestyle. I did everything I was "supposed" to do before. I got married, had the house with the white picket fence and the dog named spot. I took care of my elderly parents and raided two upstanding people. Well now I'm divorced, both parents are dead and my kids live on thousands of miles away form me. I'm ready to do what I wanted to do. Unfortunately I went with the bus company before finding TT, and went to some other sites. Per some people I read that I could be accepted for training, go out there and because I made a mistake in paperwork or did not pick something up fast enough I could be left stranded where ever I was. Even if I made it through training I could be put with a trainer that could leave me stranded on the side of a road because I was difficult (which could mean I refused his advances). I might have to wait for months for a female trainer and even If I got one she could be hell on wheels herself. While I know that a lot, maybe even most of "problems" lead back to the driver but I also know that whenever your dealing with people they can be some crap involved. Sorry I just don't buy that everything complaint against a company is the drivers fault and every company has treated everyone one the up and up. One of the things that attract me to trucking is that it can be a level playing field. The truck dos not care what gender, race of religion you are. I believe most places will care most about if you can do the job. I'm mature, I want to go and learn. I don't have a problem with keeping my mouth shut and my ears open. I know a thing or two about hard work.

Now that summer is here I think I will apply to bus companies. I don't have anything to lose. When school starts again I will have a job there is nothing else.

Ok, sorry. No one will ever respond if I keep writing books instead of messages. Bare with me please. I'll learn to keep it short.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Lasonya, truth is part of the name of this website, you actually can get truth about trucking here. Looks like you did your homework. I hope you can find a "Busing Truth" place, too.

You said a few things of a negative nature. Sure, things like that have happened, but these are exceptions to the general environment of trucking. The important thing for you though, is to make your own decision, and by investigating things, you are safely settled with your choice.

I drove local tour bus routes for one season. Everyone was on vacation. We all had a good time.

Good luck!

(Don't worry about the book writing thing - a post is limited to 5,500 characters. Occasionally someone had had to make Theo posts!

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