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    Beginning a career as a commercial truck driver used to be pretty easy. You'd ride along with a trucker, usually starting in your teens, do some of the dirty-work for him, get to know the equipment, and eventually the trucker would teach you how to operate the vehicle. Then, after some practice and more learning, you'd go to the DMV, take the test and become a commercial driver. Of course, that was then.

    Nowadays, it takes more than just time with a driver to learn all you'll need to know to drive a commercial vehicle. In most training schools, you'll not only learn about trucks, the way they work, and how to drive them, but you'll learn about on board electronics systems, GPS devises, tracking controls, electronic manifest, logging your driving hours on line, and even how to send e-mail to the main office if you need assistance.

    Commercial Driver Education

    Commercial driver training is an investment in your education. These programs are written by professional educators, and have been updated to teach the latest skills necessary for a successful career as a truck driver. Some training centers can also help you find a professional driving position once you are out of school.

    Program Basics

    Commercial driver training is usually done in two parts: the classroom training and the behind-the-wheel training. Here's a rundown on the classes used in a regular training course:

    • Anatomy of a truck.
    • How to operate the vehicle.
    • Understanding the gears, engine and braking system of a large vehicle.
    • Ride-along training in a variety of vehicles.
    • Using a driving simulator.
    • Hands-on driving instruction.
    • Closed driving track demonstrations and training.
    • Driving in various traffic conditions.
    • Driving on a two lane road, the highway and freeway.
    • Experience driving different types of tractors hauling different types of trailers.
    • Basic truck electronics and computer training.

    Electronics and Trucks

    Most commercial vehicles these days are equipped with a variety of electronics including systems to check the truck and trailer weight, the balance of the cargo load, monitor the exact location of the truck, check the engine, report engine trouble immediately, bring up a map for the driver, keep track of tire temperature, e-mail the family at home, and make an automatic call for help in an emergency.

    Get Fit

    It is important for a professional truck driver to be fit and healthy. You may find yourself having to load or unload, rearrange cargo, or place large tarps around loads and fasten them into place. You will also find yourself having to chain your tires alone from time to time and the removal of excess snow is a regular chore, and the manual maneuvering of the load weight over the axels happens more often than you'd think.

    Being physically fit will ensure that you can keep your truck, your cargo, yourself, and other driver safe on the road.

    Trucking School Admissions

    In order to register for trucking school, you must be able to answer "yes" to all of these questions:

    • Are you at least 21 years old?
    • Do you currently have a Wisconsin driver's license?
    • Do you have an excellent driving record?
    • Can you pass the DOT physical exam?
    • Can you pass a drug and alcohol screening?

    Before Classes Begin

    Some schools will want students to attend an orientation class in order to become familiar with the school's rules, hours, schedule, and teaching methods.

    Some trucking schools want the full cost of tuition up front, before you ever see a classroom. Others have funding sources and can help you get loans and other financial assistance in order to attend school. You must have your Wisconsin Class D license before you may begin training for a CDL.

    Learning More

    You will learn more than just what you need to know to pass your DCL testing with the DMV. You will learn skills that you may need on the road, such as emergency assistance, rescue, and advanced safe driving skills. These are a few of the extra certifications you may receive while you are learning to be a commercial driver:

    Once you complete your training, you will be issued a certificate for each of the skill sets you have mastered. If you receive a certification above the requirements for licensing, hang on to it and be sure to list it on your resume. Employers like to see that their potential employees are involved and well educated.

    Good luck in your career as a commercial driver!

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