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Author Topic: Commercial Drivers  (Read 1914 times)
Tevo
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« on: September 27, 2011, 08:18:07 AM »

It sounds like there are a lot of current and former commercial truck and bus drivers here so I figured I'd ask a few opinions. Up here in northern AZ a guy has opened his own CDL school with the aim of also getting people experienced in driving in snow and ice and on mountain roads. I have exactly one winter experience driving a car in snow and ice, and the thought of doing it in a bus makes me a little nervous. Then I saw this local CDL school and thought it might be a fun way to get some large vehicle experience (in his rig!) driving on snow, and get a CDL in the process. I don't really plan to work as a driver in the long term, but might do it for a while just for the experience of it. Plus living a somewhat mobile lifestyle I like the opportunities it might open up to pick up jobs somewhat easier when we move.

Cost of this program is only $3700, as it's basically this guy and his wife who are doing it with his truck and not a "real" school (although it is licensed through the state and everything). It's not a trivial amount of money, but seems priced reasonable enough to make it doable without too many concerns.

I was wondering what you guys thought about these sort of ma and pop CDL schools. Is it worth more spending the money to go to a bigger driving school? His speal seems to be that you'll get more one on one attention and you'll get actual snow driving experience in a truck larger than most of the ones schools train you on.

I understand it's probably not worth it just for the snow experience, but I sort of also like the idea of having a CDL in my back pocket just in case. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
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prevosman
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« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2011, 08:29:08 AM »

Some insurance companies offer a discount for RV (bus) insurance if you have a CDL. To keep it valid you also have to have a valid medical. Other than that, unless your home state requires a CDL I don't see much advantage.

If you crave snow driving experience just drive to where there is snow on the ground and start in a huge parking lot to get a feel for it. Driving in snow is no big deal unless you think you are superman. I lived where the average snowfall was 240 inches of snow annually and never had to be pulled from a ditch or out of trouble, nor did I ever wrinkle a fender. But I left the heroics to the idiots.

Teaching skids in a car or bus or truck is like teaching stalls in a plane. The key is to make your corrective actions intuitively, but the real secret is to just avoid skids by driving sensibly. That wet heavy snow is the dangerous snow especially when the temps are near freezing. But when it is below zero even roads with hard packed snow have traction approaching that of dry roads. You just have to adjust your driving to conditions.

I have a class A and in the bus it doesn't do a thing for me.
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Jon Wehrenberg
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« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2011, 08:35:05 AM »

You might want to check on CDL's and the way that they work in your state.  I asked the same question and I was warned away from a CDL unless it's genuinely necessary for driving my bus.  In NC, a CDL is $100 a year (versus ??$15?? for five years), plus if you get a minor speeding ticket (like the cop is sitting behind the "45 MPH" sign at the end of a 55 MPH zone) you get hit more in fines and insurance penalties if you have a CDL.  Also, any infraction involving alcohol is much more harshly treated if you have a CDL (even if the event at issue does not involve a Commercial-type vehicle).

Maybe your state is less of a PITA about all the factors, but it sure doesn't seem to be the way to go for a non-commercial light bus (less than 10 tons) in NC.  (I do plan to take and pass the air-brake part of the CDL test so I can show that if I ever need it but not go the whole way to convert my license into a full CDL.)
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Bruce H; Wallace (near Wilmington) NC
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Len Silva
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« Reply #3 on: September 27, 2011, 08:45:36 AM »

You could take the course without getting the CDL, but I don't think it would accomplish your goals.  My main concern is that a semi truck is not a bus, especially when you are talking about skid control.

You can't grab the trailer brakes and power out like you can with a truck.
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Tevo
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« Reply #4 on: September 27, 2011, 08:56:06 AM »

Thanks for the replies everyone.  Grin  Good stuff including some things I hadn't considered, like the ticket issue. I definitely need to check into that. Just to clarify, though, my main goal isn't necessarily to just become a better driver in snow, but also to have the CDL available for a fallback employment option.

 Some background, my wife and I are fulltimers, and we generally go wherever she gets a desirable job opportunity and stay there a while (we spent 10 months in SD, for instance). This leaves me having to find work, and the idea of being able to have another job avenue is really appealing. Just looking through the local listings, for instance, I see several regional driver opportunities, and a couple involving tourist bus driving that may be interesting. I don't really plan to be a career driver, necessarily, but the idea of having that skill and option is what draws me. Plus I just like learning new skills.

My bigger concern is about the "education" I'll get from a smaller "school", ie. a guy with a truck and a license to teach. Some say the big schools are terrible, that they throw you in a sleeper with a bunch of students and you don't get as much individual time. Some seem to say these small schools are terrible and just after your money. I have no clue on this guy since he just opened his doors.  Huh
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« Reply #5 on: September 27, 2011, 09:23:20 AM »

I may be wrong but $3700 seems very high. A local school near me is going to charge me $725 for the written portion and suppling their truck for the road test. I told them I didn't need the driving lessions and was only concerned with passing the written test, and needed a truck for the road test. I know what I need is a limited course and does not include actual driving instruction so I realize the price quoted reflects that. Before CDL's I had a Class A licence and could have been "grandfathered" in but I let it expire.
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Rick59-4104
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« Reply #6 on: September 27, 2011, 09:30:39 AM »

 I agree that the money seems high...I got my class A 4 years ago, went to the local vo-tech school and got the study materials for $75.00 . A couple of weeks later passed the written test, spent a few days with a friend with a truck ,went back and did the drivers test and was good to go.

 If you are going to drive local when and where your wife is employed a Class B might work for you...


Rick
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Tevo
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« Reply #7 on: September 27, 2011, 09:46:20 AM »

I may be wrong but $3700 seems very high. A local school near me is going to charge me $725 for the written portion and suppling their truck for the road test. I told them I didn't need the driving lessions and was only concerned with passing the written test, and needed a truck for the road test. I know what I need is a limited course and does not include actual driving instruction so I realize the price quoted reflects that. Before CDL's I had a Class A licence and could have been "grandfathered" in but I let it expire.

I definitely would need the full training, and the ones I priced seemed to be in the $6000+ range. There may be some cheaper ones around, as I haven't researched all too many of them. According to him, the value in his school is that he trains you on a larger truck than most of the ones do, and focuses on mountain driving and snow/ice skills. I have no idea if this is of any real value or not, but it's what he really pushes.
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« Reply #8 on: September 27, 2011, 10:54:11 AM »

To me it doesn't sound worth your while.

But let me emphasize why in my & only opinion.

I have been driving for a living for over 30 yrs and never took anything other than drivers ed in HS.

I learned to drive cars & pick ups just like anyone else.
I had a job driving tow trucks and I moved up from small 1 tons to medium 2 ton trucks.
Then I got a job driving local dumps 2-5 ton trucks and also hauling equipment.
I thin learned to operate the big tow trucks hauling tractor trailers and buses etc.
I never once went to truck driving school and if ya ask me was better self taught than 99% of the CDL school wonders that come out of these schools.

NOW that said I realize since the CDL came out it's harder to get a CDL without going thru the schools, but not impossible!

The problem with the schools is that they have X amount of time to get x number of drivers qualified. And no amount of class room, behind the wheel or riding with other students equals more time than actual driving time. (But many of these school claim after X weeks in our school you'll have the equivalent of 3 yrs driving experience!     BS! The only way to get experience is to just do it!

As for getting a CDL and not needing it. I wouldn't do that either. With a  CDL your considered a "professional driver" and as such ANYTIME ANYTHING happens, you are always presumed at fault and it's your job to defend yourself from that!

If you get a bogus speed trap speeding ticket your not allowed to take defensive driving courses to protect your record ar anything like that! I would not get a CDL just to have it if not needed. (all my friends who used to have CDLs have let them go for liability reasons!)
FWIW  Grin  BK  Grin
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Busted Knuckle aka Bryce Gaston
KY Lakeside Travel's Busted Knuckle Garage
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Grin Keep SMILING it makes people wonder what yer up to! Grin (at least thats what momma always told me! Grin)
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« Reply #9 on: September 27, 2011, 10:59:00 AM »

Come to indiana this winter I will "train" you to drive in the snow for $3700 Grin  

Seriously tho. Driving in snow, mountains, and driving a big truck is mostly common since.  I tought myself how to drive a big truck and studdied on my own with books that are free from the dmv.  I had to rent the drive test vehicle for $150 so I had around $200 in getting my cdls.

Something else to consider.  Most trucking companys wont hire anyone without any experience and most wont hire any without 5 years current experience.

Eric
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travlinman
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« Reply #10 on: September 27, 2011, 01:05:20 PM »

Check with your local school  and transit districts you may be able to get free training and part time job!

TM
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Steve & Kristen Full time nomads since '06 - PD4106-674  8V71/V730
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« Reply #11 on: September 27, 2011, 08:24:45 PM »

I can see the interest in taking this course. Not many schools teach adverse weather driving. The course sounds like fun and if you have the money to blow, go for it. Professional drivers may not have a choice and have to drive in all kinds of weather.
While my ability to drive in bad weather was learned from growing up and living in NY I now would avoid snow and ice at all costs while driving my bus. Other than a situation beyond my control my bus stays parked and safe unfilled the road conditions are to my liking....
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« Reply #12 on: September 28, 2011, 10:02:04 AM »

I would look and see if I could find a "skid pad" school.  Here in Michigan we have the Michigan Center for Defensive Driving.  It is a one day school that puts you in situations that you do not want to get into.  All this is done on a skid pad that is the equivilant to driving on slushy roads.  It is geared to commercial trucks but they also train school bus drivers there too.  It is no substitute for seat time going down a big hill on ice during white out conditions...but it doesn't have near the pucker factor either.  You can google them for more information.  I've had the class many years ago and it was a real eye opener.
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Dennis Watson
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Tevo
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« Reply #13 on: September 28, 2011, 01:29:17 PM »

Thanks for all the responses guys. I know that it's probably not necessary, or even worthwhile, to get a CDL just to drive the bus. I want it for the employment options though. I love the skid pad school idea. I expect to be volunteering at a local Fire Department soon and they are probably going to send me to their Emergency Vehicle Operations Course, so I'm hoping that will be similar (though I doubt they'll let me powerslide their firetruck).
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« Reply #14 on: September 28, 2011, 02:07:19 PM »

If they do, you damn well better have a video for us.
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Bill B /bus
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« Reply #15 on: September 28, 2011, 05:35:07 PM »

The thing about buses is the slide. When it starts to go sideways you probably won't catch it. Maybe 10 years ago the Flying Dutchman wrote for National Bus Trader about safety issues. He postulated that at about 12 degrees off tracking then you are done as the steering angle can't be achieved fast enough to exceed the off tracking angle. In a car you can change the steering angle quick enough to catch the slide/skid. Having had to drive in way too many snow/ice storms I can recover a skid in a small vehicle without thinking. Got caught a couple of times in the bus by a snowstorm. Slow and steady. Early braking was OK.
Wet snow or icing roads then the bus is parked. Buses are big, heavy and absolutely unforgiving without traction.
Solution is to stay off less than ideal traction roads. Dry is good. Wet is not good. Snow and ice is parked

Bill
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Bill & Lynn
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