Hey you. Do you remember how easy it was to get your driver's license? Yeah about that... Childs play. Want to pass the Class A commercial driver's test? You may have failed before you even began.
In the United States of 'Murrica driving a semi truck conjures up romantic images of the lone modern cowboy diving his awesome diesel powered 54 foot mural of the wild west into the sunset. That, or some meth addled hillbilly who has probably paid last time he got any at the local truck stop five hours ago. It is the second image that is the reason getting your CDL is so hard.
The thinking goes as thus: "I have a wife, she drives the kids to and from school and the grocery store while I, a (lawmaker of some sort), sit at work and do something lawer-y. I want her to be alive when I get home because A) I want some dinner tonight and 2) I kind of like her. Should I make getting a regular license more of a scholastic endeavor? No I shall make getting the ability to drive a big heavy dangerous semi-truck almost impossible. That will make sure I have dinner tonight. I hope its not meatloaf again." /scene
Has this worked? Actually it has. By making the license hard to get you eliminate a lot of the unwashed masses and bring in a more "suit and tie" employee. The thought is they wont do as much dumb stuff on the road as they need to keep their job to pay off their art history college debt. Add on top of that the harsher penalties that CDL holders face when they get speeding, DUI's, DWI's, reckless driving, and other tickets and you end up having a safer driver overall.
So how does the test to even get a class A CDL compare with the standard divers license test?
The written test for the regular driver's license can seem daunting. "You mean there is a Front and back? So Many Questions!" The CDL requires you to retake that test. Then the Class a test requires another test, again front and back. Think that's it? Nope. You probably need your airbrake test if you want to hop into any old Peterbilt and run it down the road. Front and Back. Want to haul liquids? Tanker test. Front. Back. Want to haul more than one trailer? Doubles and Triples. only the front... Ha! Just kidding, Back too. Hazardous Material? Haz Mat test Front, Back, and FBI Background check! Miss too many questions? Fail the background check? Are a Terrorist?
Phew at least now you can get your permit now right?
Where is your health card? Health card? Health card. You have to go to an occupational doctor and they have to check to make sure that you are healthy enough to drive your 40 ton missile down the road. Heart problems? You are going to raise eyebrows. Reflex issues? Heads will shake at you. Can't see well enough? You're humped. Go home. We don't need you on the road.
Congratulations! You passed all of the written test and you aren't dead enough to drive a truck. Now what? You take your Class 8 truck and trailer (you have one of these, right?) to the DMV and find out that you need an appointment to take the test. Crap! Fine you make an appointment and come back and the DMV tester (who wants you to fail so they can go on about their "Christians for Israel" support group that "you should really attend" after you tell them that you are from the Palestinian Territories o_O ) comes sauntering out. They don't say much and expects you, like a bad date, to do all the talking. First you tell him or her (you're not really sure and you don't want to be rude) you want to do your airbrake test. This needs to be done perfectly and You need to say all the numbers exactly while you do your checks. Miss something? Anything? You Sure?
Or maybe you pass. Congrats!
Now you need to check over your big rig. Everything needs to be checked and you need to tell the tester exactly what you are checking and what you need to check about it. Is it brakes or tires? Miss one thing and you miss that one thing on all 18 of the wheels. That's 18 points down the drain. You know what that means?
But let's say you don't. Let's say you did everything right up until now. Your written test was flawless. Your physique is impressive and slightly intimidating. You have a degree in air brake fluid dynamics. You've built the truck yourself and know every single nut and bolt and slack adjuster and its molecular build up.
You think you are in the clear? You think you are out of the woods? You haven't even got out of the tree. Dust that bark and sap off your crotch because now you have to do the skills test.
It's good to have dreams. Do you know what else it's good to have? Skills!
And you are going to need it. Park the truck by backing into a blind alley? You better know how to do that. Back up perfectly straight? That really should be second nature to you now. Making turns without hitting or running stuff over? Do we really have to cover that part or are you just a big lummox that you need a reminder?
Last but absolutely maybe not least is parallel parking. "That doesn't seem CRAZY hard" you might think. However the parallel parking test is a misnomer. The trailer is parked parallel to a line and the tractor is perpendicularly parked. So in the end it looks like an "L" if God were looking down and smiling on your efforts. If you've come this part of the test He probably has. At this point He might give His attention to more pressing matters and feeling confident you decide to run over a cone.
On the Road
Good news! Your tester thinks you are attractive and totally doesn't see that bright orange pancake that was a cone coming out from your rear duals because He/She (you still haven't figured that out) was gawking at you like a dog gawks at the forbidden sausage. Moving on to the on the road section of road you are met by rapidly changing yellow lights, highway onramps with half the people moving too slow and half operating at the speed known as "Plaid", and the occasional Google driverless car. That lady in the 10 year old cherokee who doesn't look like she is about to pull out of that parking lot? She does and she wants to make a career out of that slow right turn into your lane. That construction zone you moved over for and slowed down for way in advance? The excavator operator is a novice who likes to swing his boom into traffic and almost makes a nasty gash in your truck. The people honking at you while they do 75 in a school zone do you no favors. Then you have to remember to call out the railroad crossings and the pedestrian crossings. Don't forget about bri...
Yeah... you are supposed to call out the height of bridges. You forgot that. It just opened up your trailer like a can of proverbial worms.
You know, screw this. I'm taking up Blogging.