Taking the step to enroll in a CDL school can be intimidating. Of course, you don’t want to fail. Many people have great success stories from their days as a trucking student, but some have also faced CDL school failure. To get the most out of your time at driving school, you’ll want to remember these common CDL student driver mistakes and try avoiding them at all costs.
5 CDL Student Driver Mistakes to Avoid
1. Choosing the wrong school
Yes, one of the most common CDL student driver mistakes is made before you’re even a student. Choosing the right CDL school can be critical in ensuring you receive the best training and education to set you up for success. You’ll want to look at the school’s reputation, cost, and location to start. Then, dig deeper and check out their graduation rates and if they partner with any companies. You can also look into some reviews of instructors and the school in general to get an idea of what to expect during CDL school. A CDL school that is right for another CDL student driver might not be right for you, so make sure you do proper research before choosing the best CDL school for you.
2. Not fully understanding the career
Many CDL student drivers are in school to get a better paying job without fully understanding the career. But, what they don’t realize, is that trucking isn’t just a job – it’s a lifestyle. Depending on the type of trucking job, you’ll often be away from home for weeks at a time. It seems like common knowledge to most truckers, but some rookies don’t understand it. They also think they’ll be able to just drive locally right away. This isn’t impossible, but most drivers start as an over-the-road (OTR) driver. This means that they will be away from home more often than not.
This is one of the common CDL student driver mistakes that can also be avoided with some basic research. Do a few Google searches to see what truckers say about the lifestyle or read up on some FAQs about the career. If you know a driver personally, it’d be great to get their opinion on the life of a trucker and their experience with the transition. You can also check out trucker podcasts, including our own Big Rig Banter to get a taste of what life on the road is like.
3. Failing to prepare
If you think you can pass CDL school just because you’ve been driving a car for x amount of years, you’re wrong. Download and read through the CDL manual for your state to give yourself a good head start. You can also take CDL practice tests to see just how ready you are for truck driving school. You might be thinking, “isn’t the point of CDL School to teach me these things?” Technically yes, but studying for the CDL beforehand doesn’t hurt. Plus, you’re shelling out a good chunk of money, so the more information you know about trucking ahead of time the better.
4. Having a poor work ethic and bad attitude
Another common CDL student driver mistake that instructors see is a student coming in with a poor work ethic and bad attitude. Most people don’t realize that there’s more to truck driving than just driving. Truckers are also responsible for planning their trips and completing log books. This isn’t the end of their responsibilities – they also have to keep up with pre-trip inspections and stay updated on state/federal regulations.
If you come to school having a bad attitude, you won’t learn as much as other students. Your purpose is to learn and listen to your instructors, so don’t try to be a know-it-all. No one knows absolutely everything, so focus on learning everything that you can. Take in everything that your instructor tells you and apply it to your driving – even if you think your way is better.
5. Leaving your first job too soon
While this doesn’t necessarily fall into CDL student driver mistakes, it’s important to know as a student. Your first job out of CDL school might not be the most ideal and you’ll want to quit after a few months. Whether the cause is a lack of miles, bad management, or anything else, don’t quit too soon. The company that hired you most likely spent a lot of resources on your CDL training, and if you quit right away they may think that you are not serious about your driving career. This can then be filed on your DAC report. As much as you might hate the company you work for, try to stick it out for a year at a minimum. It’ll greatly help your chances of finding employment with a better company. Plus, your first job out of CDL school will teach you a lot of information so it’s important to dive in completely and learn as much as you can in order to better yourself and your career down the road.