The first day I drove a truck = The date was January 20, 2016. I finally found a location in PA willing to teach me the ropes in order to get my CDL license for driving Optimus. They are the Professional Driver’s Academy in Milton, PA. Today was the first day on site and I worked 1:1 with an instructor Gary. He helped me with the pre-trip inspection stuff, and I actually got to drive the truck around the parking lot a bit! I did straight backing, offset turns, and shifted between reverse and first. It was a cold day, but it was SOOOOOOO cool to envision where I’d be headed in just a few months time!
Officially obtained my CDL permit
It was January 18, 2016. I had self-studied and watched tons of online videos and took more online practice tests than I care to count. Stayed up past midnight for weeks prepping. And though the DMV test exams were tough, I passed! I did get several questions wrong, but it doesn’t matter. I made it through and passed the general knowledge and the air brakes exam. This permit will be valid for 6 months, during which time I plan to practice driving a truck at a school who is willing to teach me. Can’t wait…and stay tuned! CDL Joe is headed for you Optimus!
More about learning how to drive and getting my CDL license:
The day of my road test was Feb 24, 2016. Up to this point I had only taken about 6 lessons with an instructor. Got some good driving time in and around the parking lot, but not that much on the road. Still I was as ready as I would’ve been.
The day of the test I was second in line. So I waiting for hours. I watched the first guy fail the parking lot skills, only to be given a 2nd chance after the instructor was told she set him up wrong. My nerves were going crazy, but finally around 11:45, it was my turn.
I started with the pre-trip inspection (in the pouring rain by the way). I did really well on that part. Then we went inside the truck for the brake test. I screwed up here. I forgot to release the brakes before doing my fanning of the brake. And I thought I was screwed since I realized it too late. I asked her if I can start the brake check again and she agreed. So I went through it again, and this time did everything I was supposed to do.
Next was the parking lot skills. First was a straight line back, which was OK (ended up at a slight angle, but I was still within the lines). Then I did an offset to the driver’s side. Again I did that OK, just a slight angle, but still within the lines.
Then I setup for a 90-degree back. This is where the other guy failed. I was given boundaries not to cross, but I decided to cross them anyway because it would’ve been impossible not to. I took the few points and ended up backing the truck / trailer in one shot. I was so excited!!!
Last up was the road test part. That’s when the nerves really started going. I pull out into the road and start my shifting, only to find out the jake brake was on and I had no clue how to turn it off! Moment of panic sets in. But she was helpful and we figured out how to turn it off together. I grinded on a few gears, I didn’t put the shifter switch all the way down at one point, I rolled back ever so slightly at a stop sign. I made mistakes. But I think by that point she had been impressed enough with what she had seen in pre-trip and parking lot skills that she was a little more lenient.
Not to mention the weather was horrible. Windows and mirrors were completely fogged. Rain was coming down hard (and I didn’t know how to turn on the wipers full speed).
We pulled over at one point to review the emergency pull over procedure. We got on the highway and did a few lane changes. Throughout the trip I was telling her what I was doing (checking mirrors, watching off tracking of the trailer, etc.). I think she appreciated hearing what I was mentally doing.
We finally get back to the CDL test place. My left foot was killing me from the shifting and holding of the clutch. But I was determined not to stall or fail now. We pull in the parking lot, turn around, and park. We sat there for a good 30 seconds while she made some notes. She said ‘I did OK considering the road conditions’. But what did that mean!!!!???
Finally Sarah said “let’s go inside and get your CDL”. I said “OMG THANK YOU!!!!” Words cannot explain how happy I was, especially knowing the few guys who went through 8 weeks of CDL training failed their test just a day prior. They were all watching me in the parking lot, no doubt wondering if this guy who barely took any training would pass. But I did it!
I am officially licensed to drive a tractor trailer. Who knew I would be behind the wheel of a big rig! I thanked Sarah for her hospitality and advice along the way. She said good luck, and we parted ways.
The entire way home I was elated. This CDL stuff was practically my entire life since January. Between the written test, watching vids, practicing, my life was consumed with getting this CDL, while trying to watch the finances and not spend a ton of money getting it. In the end it cost me about $3000. But that’s better than the $5500+ schools wanted for 8 weeks of 5-day training, which never would’ve worked with our schedule.
So as I write this, I now find myself almost lost. Like I don’t know what to do with myself now that I got my CDL. I haven’t been slacking on America’s Footprints, but it also hasn’t been my 100% focus. Now it is. It has to be. Footprints is what will help make our dreams come true.
Congrats Joe! You did it!!!!