So – back to getting the CDL. First you study the state CDL guide and at the department of licensing (DOL) take the tests for the ratings that you want. Combination vehicle , tanker, bus, triples, hazardous materials, air-brakes, etc. The DOL will also set you up with a CDL learner's permit that allows you to drive with an experienced CDL driver in the other seat. Along the way, you go to your doctor and get a DOT physical. At last, you are ready to go to trucking school. At the school we had a combination of class time, lab time, driving time, and observation time. Weekly tests let us know how we were doing.
Interestingly enough, the biggest cause for test failures is the pre-trip inspection of the truck which you perform each day to know that the truck is safe and ready to go. So a significant amount of time is spent in school discussing and learning the proper way to do this inspection. Other time is spent practicing driving in various conditions – town, freeway, backing etc, and trying to figure out how to smoothly shift. This is one of the toughest parts (for me anyway), and even the pro's sometimes run into a bad shift. Time is spent talking about securing loads, installing chains, theory of air-brake systems, using log-books, load distribution, how to deal with weigh stations, and so on.
Finally, after logging the 160 hours (or more), it's time to take the test. The testing person was a third-party contractor certified by, and hired by the state. I was as nervous as I was forty-five years ago when I took my original driver's license test. The test entails three parts:
Here you need to go through a very complete and detailed check of the truck for safety. It starts with the tests for the air brakes, which involves a number of steps, if you miss any of them, your test is over right away. Then during a walk-around of the vehicle, you check integrity of steering, suspension, wheels and tires, fluid-levels, frame, air and electrical lines, etc. Essentially, it's necessary to memorize the state CDL procedure for this part of the test, and as I mentioned, it's the part of the test causing most failures.
This part of the test demonstrates that you can handle your semi in a loading dock situation. The first part is to back the truck and trailer straight back into a 100' long alley that is 12' wide.The alley is created with cones, but you have to ensure that you don't hit any, and even that the mirrors don't go over top of the cones. At the rear of the alley, you need to stop with the back of the trailer in a 2' long area. Points are deducted of you hit any cones, or need to stop and go forward. And if you forget to check mirrors, beep your horn and turn on flashers before you start backing. I got dinged for forgetting the 4-way flashers. The next part of the test is to pull out of the alley at a 45 degree angle, and then negotiate the truck back into the aisle from this angle. It isn't necessary to go all the way back, the stop-cone zone is further forward during this part of the test.
On the road test, you are evaluated as you drive in city, freeway, and side-road conditions. Part of the test involves stopping the rig half-way up a hill, parking it within 12" of the curb, then entering traffic again as you take off up the hill safely and without rolling back. The tester is looking for driving errors such as not checking mirrors, driving over curbs (immediate disqualification), properly negotiating rail road tracks, proper shifting and braking, etc.
Once you pass these tests, you can be issued your CDL for the class truck you have driven and with the endorsements for which you have taken the written tests. Evidently, soon there will be a CDL differentiation for manual vs. automatic transmission. You will need a separate endorsement if you want to be certified for driving a manual transmission.
When I first found out that the CDL school was required, I thought that it was just another unnecessary state requirement. But after taking the training, I think it was extremely valuable, and a very good idea that it's a requirement. Makes me safer, and also the other people on the road. When I think of all the people out there driving around with motor homes and large trailers, it makes me think that some sort of abbreviated training for those vehicles would be a good idea too. After all, we require special training for motorcycles, yet they seldom do damage to others - driving heavy-weight machines around has a lot of damage potential to others.
After I got my truck, even though it was for personal use, I discovered that I couldn't license it unless I applied for a USDOT number. This requires that you have a sign on the side of your truck with your (or your company) name, home town, and USDOT number. Driving around with your name in big letters on the door makes you a more polite driver. If everybody had to do that, we'd probably have a little less road-rage.
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.
A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:
A vehicle with two separate parts - the power unit (tractor) and the trailer. Tractor-trailers are considered combination vehicles.
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.
Well, I spoke to Randy for nearly an hour last night about his first full day at truck driving school, and it was a 12-hour marathon starting at 7 am.
by Rick Huffman
Backing up a truck and learning to shift are two key elements at truck driving school, but some patient instructors are helping our class immensely.
by Rick Huffman
It was time to take the CDL exam and all of us were very nervous. Most of us failed our first attempt and the pressure was on to pass and get our CDL.
by Brian Laine
In part I of intro to truck driving we talked about some mechanical aspects of big rigs. Now we'll cover a little more and take one for a drive.
Going through a company-sponsored CDL training program is no bed of roses. Here are some of my experiences and some challenges you can expect to face.
by Philosopher Paul
I've completed my CDL training and I now have my CDL but there was plenty of stress and some rough teachers to deal with along the way - here's the story
by Tanya Bons
Choosing a truck driving school is not difficult when you know the right factors to consider. Here is a great article to help you choose your CDL training
by Driver Solutions
CDL training is certainly not easy. Here's four main reasons why people tend to fail their training at truck driving school and how to prevent them.
Most people get through truck driving school, but others do not. Here's some great advice that will help you pass truck driving school with flying colors.
by Brett Aquila
Learning to back up a rig is clumsy at best. Nothing about it is easy. Having fun with it helps make learning easier, but prepare to embarrass yourself!
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