Things You Won’t Learn in CDL School (+ What To Do About It)

Students at CDL Training School

So, you’ve finished your truck driver training.

Your program was probably around 3-4 weeks, if you’re like most drivers (especially the company sponsored schools).

CDL School Does Not Make You a Truck Driver

But let’s be real here.

When you stepped out of that school on your final day, did you honestly feel ready to hit the road solo?

  • Were you confident enough to control a massive rig at 60 mph down the interstate?
  • Could you smoothly backup your truck and trailer into a tight loading dock spot?
  • Were you worried you’d get lost and didn’t know how to get back onto your route?
  • Did you know what to do when the rain on your windshield suddenly turned to ice?

Chances are, the majority of drivers, if they were honest, would answer ‘No’ to most of these questions.

Students at CDL Training School

CDL School is Just the Beginning

CDL school does its job in teaching you the basics— some maneuvers, rules and regs, pre-trip etc….

Driver training programs are typically sufficient to get the CDL.


Many programs fall short in prepping drivers for the real-world challenges of trucking.

And that’s where these schools fail our truck drivers.

You Won’t Learn These 5 Important Things

1. The Dangers

CDL school gives you safety rules to memorize.

A truck driving job is one of the most dangerous jobs there is.

  • Training delve into the nitty-gritty of avoiding accidents. In fact, many schools don’t give the trainees sufficient behind the wheel training which I strongly feel is a huge mistake.
  • They won’t tell you how hazardous loading docks can be or how slippery a flatbed can get when chaining or tarping. I witnessed a new driver get run over in a crowded loading dock area ….he was a victim of just being at the wrong place at the wrong time, and just not knowing any better.

2. How To Handle the Equipment Like a Pro

  • Sure, they show you how to steer and basic maneuvers, but most schools skip essential skills like scaling a truck or maneuvering the fifth wheel for proper weight distribution.
  • Depending on the school, don’t count on learning manual transmission shifting; they often stick to automatics.
  • And students aren’t in training LONG ENOUGH to master the skills!

3. Load Securement

  • Load securement is vital. Yet we’ve learned that many schools skim over it or skip it entirely. Properly securing loads prevents damage, injuries, and even rollovers, but not everyone learns this crucial skill in school.

4. Knowing When to Say ‘No

  • Training programs typically don’t teach you how to advocate for yourself.
  • You won’t hear in school when it’s best to refuse a task, like taking on a specialized load you’re not trained for.
  • Or doing a favour for the company by running over your hours of service.

All drivers especially new drivers should learn to advocate for themselves and not allow themselves to be bullied.

5. Getting Into the Right Truck Driving Job

It’s so important to get into the right field of trucking that works for you. There’s little to no advice to help new drivers with this. New drivers can be doomed to job hop right out of driving school as they jump from one job to the next, as jobs don’t meet their expectations.

CDL School Trainer with truck driver training student

The Responsibility Is On You

After CDL school, it’s on you to become a real truck driver.

  • Seek out mentors, whether within your trucking company or from seasoned drivers outside the company. Learn from their experiences. Ask questions.
  • Practice. Take the time to practice your driving skills every chance you get. Keep honing those vital skills through resources like Smart Trucking.
  • Get to know what’s going on in your industry. It keeps you on top of your game…… it’s what puts you on the path to becoming a professional in your chosen field of work.


CDL school gives you a license, but it’s just the first step.

To be a true truck driver, you’ll need ongoing learning, mentorship, and a keen sense of safety and responsibility on the road.

Make it your job to be the best you can be.

CDL student driver with his trainer

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