People looking to become professional truck drivers typically go through CDL training to earn a license, then start looking for work. Yet no CDL training course can fully prepare a new driver for what lies ahead. Courses are usually just a few weeks long, providing just enough training for the new driver to earn a CDL. Real-life training does not begin until the new license holder gets behind the wheel and starts driving.
Some the best trucking firms in the country hire inexperienced drivers, send them to CDL school, and then bring them on board right away. The drivers then undergo on-the-job training alongside driver trainers who have years of experience. C.R. England is an example of one motor carrier who does things this way. What their drivers learn through on-the-job training sets them up for a lifetime of success.
So what is learned in on-the-job training? After three weeks of classroom training, a number of tests, and the final test to get a commercial driver’s license, a new driver understands the basic concepts of commercial driving. The are additional things that are only learned through on-the-job training; here are five of them:
1. Rules and Regulations
CDL instructors touch on federal rules and regulations to some extent. However, they cannot possibly cover enough applications of those rules and regulations to account for every kind of trucking job out there. So new drivers must learn how to apply the knowledge they gained in the classroom to the actual job they will be performing.
Take flatbed trucking, for example. CDL trainers do not have the time or resources to teach truckers how to properly secure cargo according to federal and state regulations. So flatbedders learn to do that on-the-job.
2. Real-World Driving Skills
The little amount of behind-the-wheel training students get in CDL school is not enough to prepare them for real-world driving. With a driver trainer at his side, the new driver will learn to safely operate trucks in real-world weather conditions, in different volumes of traffic, and on various kinds of roads. Truckers will also learn the subtle nuances of difficult tasks like reversing and navigating tight city streets.
3. Route Planning
Planning routes is a big part of making money as a truck driver. Drivers want to find the fastest and most efficient route to get where they are going so that they can keep the wheels turning. Unfortunately, it takes time to learn all the best routes to take. Local and regional truck drivers can learn routes more quickly than over-the-road truckers.
4. Scheduling Pickups and Deliveries
Truck drivers work with dispatchers to arrange pickups and deliveries. Veteran drivers know that very few loads work out exactly as planned. In the real world, scheduling is more of an art form than anything else. New truckers have to learn from their driver trainers how to balance the demands of dispatchers with their own capabilities and the needs of shippers and receivers.
5. Roadside Inspections
Last but not least are roadside inspections and weigh stations. Getting through inspections and weigh stations is a matter of two things: making sure everything on the rig is up to snuff and learning how to conduct oneself in the presence of inspectors and police officers. Driver trainers have plenty of stories to tell new drivers; stories that teach new drivers how to get through inspections.
Completing CDL school is just the start of a truck driver’s training. What cannot be learned in CDL school is learned through on-the-job training. And that is most of what truckers learn, by the way.