Video: Getting a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Is WAY HARDER Than I Ever Expected!

Here is what it takes.

2021 freightliner southwest truck driver training school

This has been one of my life and career goals for many months/years. I wanted to get a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and be qualified to drive large trucks, including semi-trucks with air brakes. This journey led me to Southwest Truck Driver Training school in Phoenix, Arizona. This is how it all came together. I have my Class A CDL.

I have been studying the DOT books and online CDL practice tests for months. I passed my written tests at a DMV in Colorado a while back. I needed practice time in a big rig in order to pass my trip inspection and driving tests. This is where Southwest TDT comes in. I first met the guys at Southwest TDT in Las Vegas last year. They have another school in Las Vegas, Nevada. They offer several programs for people with various needs, budgets, and requirements. A two-day intensive driving practice class seemed to match my needs the best, so we went for it.

My test vehicle was a Freightliner Cascadia with an automated transmission. Yes, I am not certified to drive a semi-truck with a manual transmission. This is OK for my job of testing new 1-ton trucks with heavy trailers and many new class 4-8 trucks with automated transmissions. All new HD trucks and most new large trucks come equipped with automated transmissions.

The first matter of business was to nail the pre-trip inspection and brake testing procedures. My instructor Eric was very patient and helped me through it. Next up were backing maneuvers practice. There are technically four various back-up maneuvers that a driver needs to master in order to get a CDL. There are straight backing, offset backing, perpendicular backup turn, and parallel parking. I needed to pass three of these tests for my license.

The straight backing was relatively simple. The offset backing was much more challenging. This is basically the semi-tractor and trailer switching lanes while going in reverse in a tight space. It took me several tries to get comfortable with this maneuver and put the big trailer between the cones. Finally, it was the parallel parking maneuver. This is one of the toughest tests, and drivers may not have to use it in their daily jobs – but it is an excellent test of driving awareness and skill. This one took the most practice to get right.

The final part of the test is a city and highway driving loop. The students must prove that they can safely navigate the big rig and trailer around the city. This includes tight intersection turns to the right and to the left.

After everything was said and done, it was time for me to complete the actual test. I was a bit nervous, and my parallel parking job was not as good as it could have been. Still, I was able to pass all of the tests!

Thanks to all of you who supported me and to Southwest Truck Driver Training for helping me achieve a life and career goal!