Reply To: CDL Student needs more practice time

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I just finished my 2nd week of school (4 week company program), and that’s how I felt during the 1st week. For the 1st week, they’re mostly going to be building foundations like shifting (if you’re learning on a truck with a manual transmission), backing, and turning. Once those start coming together, you’ll start doing more and focusing on more. Even with only a few hours behind the wheel (I’m only getting a couple of hours on the range and about an hour, maybe 2, on the road per day, and that’s with only 1 other student in my class), things will start to come together pretty quickly.

Listen to your instructor, ask questions, and observe the mistakes your classmates are making to try to learn from them. Be proactive in your learning. If you feel you’re not getting something or feel that you’re not learning quickly enough, talk to your instructor about it. There’s been several times where I thought that I was doing poorly, but I discussed my concern with my instructor and I’m actually on pace to complete the program successfully. Communication is key to success.

For backing, the first thing is to set your mirrors properly. For steering while backing, what helps me is to think “steer towards the problem”. What that means is that if you’re too close on the driver’s side (left side), turn the wheel to the left. Another way to think of it is to steer the opposite way that you need the rear of the trailer to go (if the rear of the trailer needs to go left, turn the wheel to the right). During straight line backing, small wheel movements are best (typically no more than 1/4 – 1/2 turn) so the trailer doesn’t kick out too far causing bigger issues. When you’re doing offset backing, the convex (small, rounded mirrors at the bottom of your main mirrors) are going to be your best friends. They can see farther down the trailer than the flat mirrors. You may barely be able to see the cones, but over time you’ll get used to finding them and placing your ICC bumper (trailer bumper) where it needs to be.

Hope this helps, and best of luck to you.