Trucking continues to be a profession in which newly minted drivers have excellent prospects of being hired. Despite the fact trucking offers a competitive salary and independent working conditions for drivers, most trucking companies are having a hard time filling the quota of drivers they need. Older drivers are reaching retirement age and leaving the profession in great numbers, and there are no signs that this trend will change anytime soon.
Truck driving is also a profession where you don’t need extensive training. Most drivers will have at least a high school education, but to become competent drivers, they will need vocational training to learn the rules and regulations of the road, and how to operate a tractor-trailer.
If you’ve been thinking of enrolling in a trucking school so you can get your Commercial Driver License and start driving the big rigs, just be aware not all trucking schools are created equal. Training may last anywhere from three or four weeks to as long as two months.
But regardless of the length of the course, most of them will cover all the basics, both in terms of classroom instruction and in driving modules that teach you how to operate a diesel truck.
Your First Weeks in Trucking School
As with most vocational instruction, you can expect to spend a good part of your first couple of weeks in trucking school going over the basics in the classroom. Your instructor will be talking a lot about rules and regulations that you must abide by, both off and on the road. Some of the traffic laws you’ll learn about will pertain to all drivers, but others will pertain specifically to commercial drivers:
- Which lane to operate in
- Yielding to speed
- Keeping proper distances
- How to react to road hazards
- Winter driving
- Driving at night
- Avoiding accidents
- Tire safety
- EPA regulations
- Distracted driving laws
- Headlight and windshield wiper laws
- Move over laws
- Handling hazardous materials
- Avoiding idling
Further, you’ll need to learn about the rules that govern drivers, such as required home time, how many hours a day you can legally drive, electronic logging device rule, driver drug testing, licensing requirements, and securing cargo.
Be aware that there are three different classes of CDL: Class A, Class B, and Class C. The kind of CDL you will earn will depend on the kind of truck you want to drive, and its weight, plus towing weight.
You may wonder why so much time is spent on studying the rules of the road and preparing for your CDL test in trucking school, rather than actual driving — but that’s what most truck driving schools do. You are going to have to pass the written test, the driving test, and the backing test, so just be prepared. Most of your on-the-road training may well be given once a trucking company hires you.
Outside of Class
The above is not to imply you won’t get any actual driving training in trucking school. You most likely will. But even before you start driving, you’ll be in the cab learning things you’ll need to know as a commercial driver. Among them are:
- Conducting a pre-trip inspection
- Logbook training
- Maintaining a vehicle (checking safety, emergency and mechanical equipment)
Then, you’ll move up to actual driving, learning how to shift, how to back up, how to drive in the city, how to park, and other basics of operating a diesel tractor trailer safely.
Enrolling in Truck Driving School
Once you have decided that truck driving is the career path you want to follow, your opportunities for instruction will be abundant. Be sure you look for a reputable school with experienced instructors to conduct the classes and to teach you how to drive. As mentioned above, duration of the class can range from a few weeks to a couple of months, or even longer. In general, a class that lasts two months or so, with at least four days a week of instruction, is standard. At the conclusion of the class, you should receive a certificate or diploma, and be ready to take your CDL examination.
Other things you might look for in a truck driving school are these:
- Availability of financing
- Small class size
- Instruction in local/regional/over-the-road driving
- Fast-paced training
- Resources for recommending prospective employers
Are you Ready to Climb Aboard?
If you’re ready to embark on your truck-driving career, why not contact an admissions counselor at ATI about our Tractor-Trailer Driving program? This program is designed specifically for Virginia residents who want to pursue their CDL training. Don’t hesitate, connect with us today!