How to Get the Most from On-Road Training When Taking CDL Classes

150 150 5th Wheel Training Institute Team

If you’re looking to get into trucking, that means taking CDL classes in Ontario – but your education should go beyond book learning to pass the CDL class.  Getting your CDL is only part of the equation. If you want to get a good job after getting your license, you need real on-road experience. That means getting in plenty of hours in training, along with your driving mentor at your first driving job. 90% of trucking companies won’t just hire a new driver and send them on their way, you will go through a training program with the company.

For some of our students, this can be the most difficult part of their training after they have graduated and left their Ontario trucking school. When you’re stuck in a cab with a mentor for many hours at a time – potentially even days, if you’re training for long-haul trucking – it’s easy for tempers to flare. However, this is by far your best opportunity to get in the experience you need to impress employers.

Hours are hours, so if you stick with the training, you’ll eventually get the experience you need. But smart students will find ways to make the most of this training time. With our decades spent helping people become truck drivers, we know the difficulties that come with on-road training, so we have some tips for making it go more smoothly.

How To Make The Most Of Your Ontario Trucking School Practical Training

1 – Maintain a positive attitude

We get it – sometimes you’ll have personality conflicts with your driving coach. Not always, of course. We’ve also seen coaches and pupils form strong bonds, with the coach acting as a mentor even past the point training was over.  It just depends on who you end up with, and how well you get along with them.

Either way, you should do everything possible to keep a positive attitude going.  Always remember that you’re there to learn and that everything which happens can be a learning opportunity. You’re building the experience needed to be impressive to employers once you have a CDL. If anything, overcoming hardship and still succeeding will be more impressive to them. When you’re on the road, you will run into obstacles, and having the willpower to persevere and overcome will serve you well throughout your career.

So be polite and respectful, if at all possible. Keep an open mind. Always ask yourself “what can I learn from this?” It really is a turn-lemons-into-lemonade situation.

2 – Learn from your coach’s mistakes

At Fifth Wheel, we pull our trainers from actual truckers with real-world experience, so it’s rare for our trainers to really mess up. Still, everyone is human, and everyone has their blind spots and foibles. No trainer or mentor is perfect.

For example, some drivers these days get into a bad habit of following their GPS too closely. GPS systems are an amazing tool, but they still shouldn’t entirely overshadow your own observational powers and common sense. One of the most common complaints we do hear is about trainers over-relying on the GPS and getting themselves – and their trainee – lost or off-course.

Well, even that’s a learning opportunity.  It might be really frustrating in the moment, but it’s also a valuable lesson. Getting lost every now and then may even be a good thing, in the grand scheme, since it teaches the sort of self-reliance and problem-solving skills that genuinely can’t be taught in a classroom.

Believe it or not, a training run that goes “perfectly” is in some ways worse than one which goes awry, in terms of learning opportunities.

3 – Ask for training in areas you’re deficient

Your driver-mentor isn’t a mind-reader, and since you’re most likely doing actual real-world jobs while working with them, they’re going to naturally focus on getting those jobs done. That means you may not get training in all the areas you know you need to work on.

So, ask for more training.

The best example of this is backing up. It’s by far the most difficult skill to master in truck driving, but it’s also something that you only do occasionally when on the road. Most drivers report needing at least a year of practice before they really feel confident in their reverse-driving skills. Since road training generally only lasts a few weeks, this is a problem.

If you know you need more practice backing up – and trust us, you do – then make sure to bring it up with your mentor. The good ones will find time to help you get more practice in. Even practicing in a big truck lot parking lot while on a break is a lot better than nothing.

4 – Be wary of lease operator trainers

This is one of the reasons that it’s better to work for an established fleet, rather than trying to work for a small independent broker. It’s all too easy to end up working alongside a lease operator, which is someone who leases or is otherwise paying off their truck. These operators tend to be extremely money-focused and for good reason. Trucks are expensive, and they’re often under tight financial pressures to make enough money to live on and keep up their payments.  They also face huge insurance premiums training a new driver so you both need to be earning every minute you are on the road.

The issue is that this can easily get in the way of training. Like, going back to the reverse-driving situation, a lease operator trainer is probably going to be reluctant to “waste” fuel and time on practicing backing up. You’re going to struggle to get all the training you need if you ever want to go independent, which is why it’s better to attend a real Ontario trucking school  then join a large fleet for a year or two.

5 – Ask for feedback and coaching

Finally, you should always be seeking extra feedback from your trainers and mentors. Now, some will be happy – or even eager – to offer plenty of feedback already, but it never hurts to ask. They’ll always have something more to say.

This is particularly important when you get the feeling something went wrong, or almost went wrong. Like, “Hey, on that last downhill, I could feel the trailer starting to get away from me. How can I keep it under control on steep hills while braking?” Even if they didn’t notice the problem themselves, they’ll undoubtedly have plenty of ideas and suggestions to help you the next time it comes up.

Again, it just goes back to how your general attitude should be “I learned from everything”. Once you’re licensed and, on the road, you’ll be responsible for huge loads of cargo, all by yourself. Not only is this a massive responsibility from a financial point of view, but it also makes you potentially dangerous. An out-of-control truck is truly terrifying. The more you learn during your training months, the less likely you are to have major problems on the job.

5th Wheel Training Institute Provides Excellent CDL Classes

We’re one of Ontario’s top trucking and heavy vehicle training schools, with a history of excellence going back to the 1980s.  We offer dedicated training facilities with simulated job sites, along with plenty of opportunities for longer stints on the road. We’re so well-regarded that numerous companies in the industry come to us to recruit straight from our recent graduates!

If the road calls to you, 5WTI can make it happen. Click here to contact us and learn more.


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