Advice for Getting Your CDL
If you want to get a CDL, chances are you will need to go to a CDL or Truck Driving School. Some states require a certain number of hours of classroom training and behind the wheel training before they allow you to take the CDL driving test. There is a push to standardize this training requirement, so if your state does not have an official training requirement to get your CDL and you have someone who drives a truck and is willing to train you… don’t wait around.
I learned to drive a truck before I went to truck driving school. This really helped me out since the school itself was only 3 weeks long, and at least half of that was in a classroom. When we did drive the truck there were several of us taking turns behind the wheel. I think I had about 4 hours of actual driving time before taking my CDL test.
That is 4 hours of time at the school. I had about 6 months of full-time driving unofficially before I got to school. That made everything much easier for me.
Having done both, I think school is necessary. It does not give you the experience or confidence of being on the road. But it does provide for some quality control. If you learn from another driver you will never be any better than the person that taught you.
The person that taught me was not very good. He had a lot of bad habits that I found out about when I went to school. I’m talking about things like “Georgia overdrive” which is when you take the truck out of gear to get a little extra speed going downhill. If you don’t get a chance to sit in a classroom and hear how things are supposed to be done, then the driver that trains you can slip a few things by you that are not only not legal, but are extremely dangerous.
I suppose that’s why some people want to make more laws about how much training a truck driver needs to get their CDL in the first place.
When you are looking at CDL schools you will find full and part time classes. Many community colleges offer part-time evening programs. As a trainer, my best students usually came from these programs. Other schools offer shorter full-time programs. 6-12 weeks is a reasonable time frame.
I believe a 3-week program is too short in most cases. Unless you have driven a large truck before (like some truckers do when they grow up on a farm) then you will want to have more than a few hours behind the wheel. You may also find that the pre-trip inspections are difficult if you do not have a mechanical background to begin with. Do yourself a favor, if you are considering becoming a truck driver, and do not go to a school that is too short to teach you to do the job right.
The one exception to this is a school that offers one-on-one training. Most don’t. A few however will set you up with your own instructor who will make sure that you spend 100 hours or more behind the wheel, actually driving the truck. This will give you the experience you need to have confidence taking your CDL road test, as well as the confidence you may need when you get your first job and have the “trainer” from your new company try to teach you things like how to use “Georgia Overdrive” on your first run out.
Sage is one trucking school that does a one-on-one training program.
Prime, Inc. is a company that offers one-on-one training through their company school.
Both of these are good starting places if you want to become a truck driver.