CDL Training - Getting Ready for Test Day

by TruckerMike

Not too much to write about today, but I thought I'd get a quick post up. As usual, the day started off with our pre-trip. I did very well and am getting pretty confident that I can pass this portion of the test with no issues. Some of my classmates have a ways to go, but they just need to put the study time in.

Out in the yard, I did very well. My 45 degree backing skills are getting more refined each time I do it and I'm feeling very confident about the yard all together. I did fail once today though. On my measured right turn, I just barely clipped the cone. I just touched the corner of it and it wiggled a little bit. But that's enough for a fail. To be honest, I was really pushing my luck. I was trying a new technique and just wanted to see how close I could get to the cone. So this doesn't concern me in the least. The other 3 times I went, I did perfect on both the measured stop, measured right turn, and my 45 degree back is nothing to fret over. In fact, on my last test, I got all zero's. I'm still the only one in my class to get a zero score and now I've done it twice! Aside from my "fail" the highest amount of points I got was 3. That's enough to pass with pleanty of wiggle room.


I was a little disappointed when we went out on the road today. Don't get me wrong, I loved the drive. In fact, we went in my favorite direction...West. There is very little congestion out that way and we were just cruizin' along country roads. I whipped out my iPhone while another student was driving and started playing some truckin' music (Smokey and the Bandit, Drivin' my Life Away, Convoy, etc.). There were three of us in the truck and we're all very good drivers, so it was easy to relax and enjoy the ride. The reason I'm disappointed is there was not much of a challenge on this drive. We were mostly just driving straight at 50mph with some very small towns mixed in. I felt we could have handled more of a challenge at this point.

I did manage to make one bonehead mistake though. We had to make a U-Turn and since we were on country roads, there really wasn't anywhere to do it. We saw a side street that lead into a parking lot but it was coming up fast. I had to slow down quickly and make a left turn so we could get ourselves turned around. Well, as we slowed, I went to downshift into 5th gear but forgot to switch the gear selector from high to low gear. So instead of shifting into 5th gear, I shifted into 10th. I began to make the turn, let off the clutch, and stalled the freakin' truck right in the middle of my turn. I held up traffic for a bit before I could get it restarted and get out of the way. I was pretty pissed about that mistake. Such an easy thing to avoid and definately not something I should forget to do at this point in the game. My instructor wasn't hard on me though. In fact, he didn't really say anything at all. I took the liberty to yell at myself. But otherwise, the trip went well.


At the end of the day, we got some rather interesting news. The Secretary of State called and said our driving exams would be moved up a week. So, our pre-trip exam will now be on February 10th with the driving exams spread out over the 11th and 12th. That's next week! This was unexpected and not planned by my school. But the Secretary of State basically said "too bad, this is when we're coming."

I feel confident that I'll pass the pre-trip inspection and the yard skills test. But I'm a little nervous about the road test. My instructors tell me the road test is one of the easier tests to pass, but this is where I'm the least comfortable. I know I can drive safely, but any little mistake and they will fail you. My biggest fear is grinding a gear, then not being able to get the truck in gear again. If I roll in neutral for longer than the length of the truck, it's a fail. If I don't cancel a turn signal or forget to use a turn signal, it's a fail. If the trailer goes on the shoulder or hits a curb, it's a fail. I just feel like so many things can go wrong.The route we take isn't that hard. I just worry about making a dumb mistake. We are allowed to fail 3 times, then we must wait for one month to retest. I'm sure I'll do ok, but I'm pretty nervous about this. It's coming up much sooner than expected! They key thing is I just need to stay calm and "go for a drive." I can't let my nerves get to me.

So, I'm going to try and get as much time on the road as possible. I feel like I'm above average in my class, but I still want some more practice shifting before I take my test. By this time next week, I may be an official CDL holder. Then the real adventure will begin!

Until next time, drive safely.


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.


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.


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.


Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

by Brett Aquila

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