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How to Succeed at Truck Driving School

Without really trying? Nope, you'll have to work at it

Want to succeed at truck driving school? Well, of course you do. You want your CDL and you want a good start to a profitable career. Here are a few suggestions.

Pay Attention

It might seem abundantly obvious; how would anyone be able to learn the simplest of skills, let alone something like trck driving, without paying attention? You might be surprised, though, at how little attention is paid by some students. True, virtually everyone pays attention while they're behind the wheel but, unless you're taking one-on-one training, you'll probably spend between 2/3 and 1/2 of your time observing one or two other students while they're behind the wheel.

Surprisingly, you can learn a lot observing your classmates. Believe me, you'll find this to be true in all phases of your training; pre-trip, backing and driving. During the pre-trip you'll learn a lot by listening to the way your classmates go through the pre-trip, and providing critique. While practicing backing maneuvers you'll find there is much to be learned while watching others from outside the truck. You'll be able to learn from both the successful and unsuccessful maneuvers. Most of all, during behind-the-wheel training, pay attention to the instruction given to other students because some situations may not present themselves while you're the one driving.

What all this means is that you'll want to put your cell phone away, focus forward, and, importantly, ask relevant questions.

Stay Positive

Above all, believe in yourself. Henry Ford gave us all some sound insight into the power of positive thinking: "Whether you think you can or think you cannot, either way, you are right." During difficult days, and there are sure to be one or two of those, it might be difficult to maintain a positive attitude but it's critical that you do just that. Mistakes will be made but there's more of a chance that you'll learn from them if you continue to believe in your eventually successful outcome.

Additionally,you might be surprised to find that many students come into truck driver training with a negative attitude. Do your best to avoid falling prey to their negativity. In fact, you might be wise to avoid those individuals; to the extent that you can without being antisocial. You might think you can be of assistance to them but, in my experience, it's much more likely that, while attempting to pull someone up, out of their mire, their weight and thrashing is likely to drag you down.

Above all, you might want to follow the wise counsel provided by Winston Churchill during some of the darkest days of World War II: "Never, never, never give up."

Stay Calm

Yes, an instructor is going to be watching you and, yes, other students will be watching you. Will there be criticism? Absolutely. Will you feel pressure? I don't see how you could avoid it. Through all of it you'll be well advised to remain calm. Consider the following: when your instructor takes you and your truckmates on a demonstration drive you might notice that he or she misses a shift or two. At the very least, one or two shifts will be less than perfect. After the demonstration, hop in the hot seat for a drive of your own. You might miss more than one or two shifts but the big difference between you and your instructor isn't the number of shifts you miss it's the difference in your attitudes: Your instructor takes the mistake in stride while you, most likely, believe the event to be catastrophic. Your instructor will simply fix the problem and move on. You, the student, on the other hand, may become alarmed at the miscue and, consequently, experience great difficulty recovering the gear. Stay calm, listen to your instructor, and you'll gain insight into acceptable methods of gear recovery. If you're calm, the next time you miss or muff a gear, you'll simply recover and move on.

Take Responsibility for Your Own Success

Truck driving schools tout the quality of their instructors, the brilliance of their job placement services, and the success rate of their students. All of those are worthwhile items to investigate while shopping for a school but that last one, in reality, has more to do with the students than the school. Great training, and, let's face it, most truck driving schools provide exactly that, is no guarantee of success.

Truck driving instructors, for the most part, will be offering their absolute best and providing as much insight and instruction as they possibly can. Still, no matter how hard they work, your success is entirely in your own hands. Instructors can, for example, tell you how to shift, show you how to shift, but it's you who must actually shift. Instructors can explain how to back a trailer, show you how to back a trailer, but, again, it's up to you to perform.

Throughout you training you may find shifting, or backing or some other facet of the curriculum posing problems. You might feel you're failing. Don't let those feelings overtake you. Let me offer a couple more quotes from Winston Churchill: "Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm." And, along those lines: "Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts."