Truck Driving School
Truck Driving School – How To Pick The Best One For Your CDL
In order to get a truck drivers job, you must have a commercial drivers license. It used to be called a chauffeurs license, but they changed the name some years ago. I have had mine since 1976 when I was just a pup. I had just got out of the service and had driven some heavier equipment hauling fuel and ammo, but that was not my main job. I had always wanted to drive truck, but it would be years before I could break into this line of work.
When I was in high school, I would sit by the window of my bedroom and I could hear the whining of tires and the rumble of diesel engines in the distance. At night, sounds will carry a long ways, and I could hear the trucks as they went down I-70 in Indiana. I always wondered what it would be like to drive a big truck, and knew someday that I would be doing the same thing.
Moving forwards I tried desperately to see what it would take to get in on the ground floor and get trained to drive a truck. I asked a lot of companies how to get the needed training and applied for many jobs. I was young and did not have any driving time at all. There was a catch 22 situation at the time, to be hired you had to have one year over the road or OTR to be considered for a driving job. How could a person get hired if they could not get any driver training? They did not have the same driver training that they have now. People who want to get a truck driver job now do not have as many worries or road blocks as we did 35 years ago.
I worked in the warehouse and did all that they asked me, I just wanted a fair shake and somebody to show me how to drive a truck safely. My job at North American Van Lines or NAVL was one of my first jobs, and where I was to get what I was waiting for, but it took time and was a bit scary.
My first Driving Time
I don’t know of very many people who actually got their training the way I did, but it was not totally uncommon to get trained to drive in the way I am going to describe to you. I want to state right off that the following driver trainer method is not how they do it now, so don’t be scared. You may even get a good laugh out of it if you were one of those older drivers who got their first drive time in this way.
We had left Great Falls Montana with at least 3 loads of household goods that had come down the ALCAN from Alaska. The agency in Gt. Falls was the stopoff point in the lower 48 for all military relocation for their personal property. We had the job of taking these soldiers goods to their new base assignments in the lower 48.
The owner of the truck had driven all the way from Gt. Falls to western Kansas. That was bit far for legal logs and he was getting tired, so after me asking him if he wanted me to drive a while and give him some sleep, he agreed. I asked him to find a spot to pull over and have him teach me how to shift and get going down the road, he was not inclined to let me work his clutch so much, and I understand that now more than I did then. H e said, “We are doing a driver switch, you get on the doghouse here and I will hold the wheel and hop over while you slip into the drivers seat”. We were going 60 something mph and I was not quite sure how this was going to play out but I knew it may be my only chance for some instruction, so I went for it.
The doghouse is the engine cover as we were driving a cab over or COE, (cab over engine) tractor. I moved into position and waited for his signal as we were on a straight stretch of road, he hollered “OK, NOW” or something to that effect and I slipped into the drivers seat. I grabbed the wheel and waited for further instructions. He said “Keep er’ straight between the lines, don’t use my clutch and give me 5 hours of sleep”. And that was it, no bigtime instructions, no other help in any way. I was a bit taken aback, but didn’t question him at all. I knew this my only chance I was going to get and I could not mess it up.
Since we were in Kansas on I-70 and the road was fairly straight, I knew it would be some time before I would need to ask any questions or worry about stopping. I didn’t know how to shift a 13 speed transmission, so using the clutch was no problem, I couldn’t shift anyways.
I drove for what seemed like an eternity, I was doing a fairly good job in keeping the trailer from encroaching in the next lane and all was good until. At least until we reached our exit, I had to slow down and make the ramp. I did that and was making a feeble attempt at trying to downshift. And to top it off, a state trooper was approaching from the other direction. I made the stop at the end of the ramp and was trying to find a gear. I did not notice the trooper had passed us and turned around. I wa busy trying to find the right gear to get started and making some grinding noises and not moving at all. I noticed the trooper had pulled up behind us and was turning on his lights. I hollered for the owner to get up and he bolted out of the bunk, and we switched places quickly before the trooper could see who was really driving.
He did walk up and took a look at the owner, noticing his tired appearance and disheveled hair, all he said was” Driver, you look like shit, why don’t you pull over and get some real sleep”. Those were the good ol’ days, he didn’t look at any log book or ask any other questions, just wanted the owner to get some sleep. I was relieved at this, I was not asked anything about my status, so we pulled away and found a spot for him to use a restroom break and get some coffee.
The owner was not mad at me, I just told him I needed some more instruction on what to do and how to shift. His answer was “That clutch costs $2000 to replace, you will have to find somebody else to teach you that”. That was my first and last driving instruction from this owner operator.
Find A Good Truck Driving School
My tips for you as a new driver is this, you really do not want to be taught the way I was taught to drive. You deserve better than that and with all the changes in laws these days, you probably would not get by with this type of instruction anyways. The motoring public deserves better as well. You don’t need to be going either to a CDL diploma mill or a really bad truck driving school that does not teach you the basics of safe driving habits.
I graduated from Sage Tech. A top notch truck driving school. They offer one on one ratio, one trainee and one trainer. Finding a school like this will give you many more opportunities for job placement than attending one of the CDL mills. Trust me, these trucking companies know which schools are better than the others and aggressively recruit from these school. If you attend one of the better schools, count on having a trucking company recruiter visiting and taking pre-employment applications from all he or she can do.
They will do their very best to try and convince you that their trucking company is the best out there and explain the various benefits they have and rates per mile to start. Try to ask them a lot of questions about their company and take notes. One of the top companies that recruit heavily is Werner Enterprises. They have to have a steady stream of new trainees to keep the trucks occupied. The turn over rate is high in a lot of these outfits, the pay to start is low, and folks move on once they get their over the road time.
Just remember, a lot of what you hear in these recruiter sessions is designed to get you to sign up and no more. But if you are new, you will not have much info to go on. I was employed at Werner for over 8 years, I can speak about their program as I was also a driver trainer there for 8 years.
If I were you I would at least take a look at one of the better truck driving schools I have ever seen. I have also trained people from Sage, the students are a lot better than most when I get them into my truck.
Learn to drive a Peterbilt over the road. Trucks like these could be your home away from home…
*Information below direct from Sage