CDL Test Day - What It Was Like Taking (and passing!) the CDL Test

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Wow, the day has finally arrived! We are scheduled to take our CDL road test today! We got about 2 inches of snow last night which is not a big deal around here, but I was still a bit concerned about the road conditions. The last thing I wanted was another delay in getting my CDL. I woke up bright and early and was out of the house by about 5:45 am. As I walked to my car, I nearly fell on my butt due to the ice covering the ground. Then, I had one heck of a time leaving my neighborhood since the street was a complete sheet of ice. Not a great way to start the day! As I got onto the main roads, they seemed to be in much better condition but still had some patchy ice spots. By the time I made it to the school, the roads were in pretty decent shape so I figured we'd get the CDL test in.

I was the first person to show up and was extremely nervous. I felt ready, but being tested is not fun! There are a million ways to fail, and only a hand full of ways to pass. All of the ways to fail kept going through my mind. It wasn't so much the CDL road test that worried me. The yard skills test was the one I was scared of. All it took was a few inches too far forward, a turn that was a little too tight, a bad 45 degree back, and I fail. I kept telling myself, "There is nothing to be nervous about. Just do what you've been doing and you'll be fine. Even if you fail, you can just retest. This is not a big deal." Well, that's easy to say, but I was nervous as hell. One advantage to showing up early is I was able to get in a practice run on the yard skills test. I did just fine, but was still nervious for the test.

Once again, we waited around for the CDL examiner who came at about 9:30 am. But I was jumping for joy when I found out it wasn't the same examiner as the first guy who came out! That first examiner was the examiner from Hell! There's no way any other examiner could be as bad as him. My relief was quickly filled with nervousness again though. The time was near. This is what 4 weeks of hard work came down to!

Before we could start with the yard skills test, there were a few students who needed to do their pre-trip inspection exam. These students were guys who had a class B CDL and were simply upgrading to a class A CDL. They joined our class about mid-way through. Luckily, every one of them passed the pre-trip exam. My school did an absolutely fantastic job at preparing us for the pre-trip.

Once they were done with the pre-trip, the yard skills test was up. I was 5th in line. I wish I was first. I just wanted to get it over with! The agony was killing me. The more I waited the more nervous I got. All 4 of the students who went before me passed. Awesome! Then it was my turn. I took the long.....very long walk out to the truck. I get in and the seat is moved all the way forward. I hate when people mess with the seat. The yard truck is sort of old, and kind of a pain, so it wasn't easy readjusting the seat. But I took my time and got comfortable. I was so nervous I was nearly shaking. But now was not the time to freeze up. So I put the truck in gear, took a deep breath, released the brakes, and said to myself "just one more time."

I was able to relax myself a bit and just concentrate on the course. The first thing I had to do was drive the truck forward through some cones, then stop at a specific point. The closer I got, the less points I would get (points are bad). If I was too far away or too far forward from this 4 ft area, it would be an automatic fail. So I pull closer and closer, then hit the brakes. Zero points! Phew!

Next up, I had to do a straight back between cones 12 feet apart and back up for about 100 ft or so. This has never been a problem for me. I turned on my 4 way flashers and backed her up nice and slow. Piece of cake.

Now it was time for the measured right turn. I was required to get the rear trailer tandems (wheels) as close to a cone during a right turn as possible. The first foot from the cone is zero points, the second foot is 4 points, the third foot is 8 points, and anything over that is an automatic fail. Hitting the cone would also be a fail. I decided since I got a zero on the pull-up, I'd just play it safe and take a 4 on the right turn. But as I made the turn, I could see I was in perfect position for a zero. It probably wasn't worth the risk, but I shot for the zero anyway. I made it perfectly.

Here is where the nerves start coming back. It was time for the 45 degree back. This is where most people fail. I did my set-up, put on my 4 way flashers, put the truck in reverse, stuck my head out the window, and started to back up. Everything looked good at first. The trailer was going where I wanted it to with no problems. Then I saw the trailer going a bit too far to the left so I cranked the wheel hard left. It was too late. If I kept going back, I would have hit a cone. Luckily, we are allowed one free 20ft pull-up. So I stopped the truck, turned the wheel hard right and began to pull forward. As I inched forward, I then swung the wheel hard left to re-center myself, then got the wheels straight. Now all I had to do was back it in straight and not go too far. I inched the truck back. For this part, there is a 3 ft area. The first foot is worth 6 points, the second foot is worth 3 points, the last foot is worth zero points, and anything over 3 ft is a fail. You are also allowed to get out and look one time. So even if you stop short, you can back it up a little further. Since I had zero points going into the backing test, I decided to play it safe. I stopped early, set the brakes, held my breath, and stepped out of the truck. I made the excruciating walk along the 48 ft trailer to see where I was. I was at the 6 point mark. The examiner said, "You look straight between the cones and are centered in the 6 point marker. Since you had both zero's going into this, you have a passing score. I'll see you on the road test." YES!!!! WooHoo!!! I began walking back to the building and gave all of my classmates a big thumbs up to let them know I passed. The relief I felt was unbelievable. I think I even gave somebody a hug, I'm not sure. It's hard to describe the excitement I felt. I was on top of the world! Just one more test to go!

Unfortunately, a few of my classmates after me weren't so lucky. One of them was too crooked on the 45 degree back and failed. Another went too far back on the 45 degree and also failed. The third person who failed hit a cone on the measured right turn. It was hard to stay excited when they came walking into the building. It really bummed everybody out. But as a whole we did pretty good. Those who didn't pass get to retest tomorrow. And with the exception of one person, those who failed are people who have been having problems.

So here I was on the home stretch. I was not nearly as worried about the road test as the yard skills test. I don't mean to sound conceded or over confident, but I can drive the truck very well. I know I still have a ton to learn, but that road course is cake and I can shift just fine.If you read my last post, you saw that the white road truck we were preparing to drive for the test broke down. They brought the white truck back in the morning and said it was fixed and ready to go. Well, it wasn't. The truck started acting up again in our lot. So, we had to use the red truck. It didn't matter much to me, but some of the students were a bit upset about it. We spent a lot of time driving the white truck and many of the students hadn't been in the red truck for a week or so.

I was the third person to go on the road test. The examiner didn't say much other than where to turn. Of course I already knew where to turn as we have driven the course many times before. The trip started without problems. I did miss a gear once though. I went to shift from 5th gear to 6th gear which requires you to move a "gear selector valve" as 6th gear shares the same position as 1st gear. I forgot to hit the selector valve which is something I haven't done for a while. So the gear made a nasty grinding sound. I knew right away what I did, corrected the problem, and got her in gear smoothly. That is the single only problem I had on the entire trip. The trip lasted about 20 minutes. As I was on the home stretch just a few blocks from the school, I got the chills. I knew I had this in the bag. Left turn signal on, downshift, turn back into the school, and that was it! The CDL examiner said "Congratulations, you passed. You can go to the DMV around 3 pm and get your new license."

YYYEEEEESSSSSSS!!!! I went inside and was greeted with three very happy instructors. The owner of the school said "Congratulations, you finally got your head out of your ass. Not bad for an amateur!" You really have to know that guy, but he said that all in fun. I'm truly going to miss the instructors I had.

There was some quick paperwork that I had to fill out, then I was free to go. As excited as I was to finally be done with training, I didn't want to leave! Each of my instructors had their own personality and we all got along great. My fellow classmates became friends. The fun times I had while in training were now over. It was a little sad to go! I'm so happy that I chose the school I did, because I could not have had a better experience. I'm truly going to miss those instructors. We had some fun times. They brought me from never touching a truck before in my life, to obtaining my CDL in just 4 short weeks. I give a lot of credit to them. Their blood pressure must be through the roof!

Anyway, I did it! I already have my CDL license in my wallet. Next up, I will start the real training with a trucking company. As of right now, it appears the first or second week of March I will start with a company. I am still deciding between a couple outfits, so I don't have an exact start date yet. But a full six weeks or so with a trainer out in the real world is going to be a valuable experience. I'm scared to death of backing up in a truck stop. My experience with backing up a truck so far is being surrounded by $5 orange cones. Now I'll be backing between two trucks worth $150,000 a piece. Why am I doing this again!?!?

Thank you so much for all the support everyone has given me. Your comments and emails really do mean a lot. I hope you tag along as I start driving out in the real world. This is going to get very interesting!

Until next time, drive safely!


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