5 Tips for Semi-Truck Backing

Learning to drive a semi-truck can be a daunting task. Among the different driving skills new truckers need to learn, backing is often the one that causes the most anxiety. If you’re worried about semi-truck backing, you definitely aren’t alone. This skill takes time to develop, but with consistent effort, it’s possible to learn how to safely and effectively back a semi-truck.

Here are some tips for mastering semi-truck backing:

1. Practice

While tips and tricks can help you learn, there’s only so much progress you can make in your driving from reading about it. At the end of the day, you need to get out and practice these skills in order to develop them. Commercial driver’s license (CDL) training programs include time behind the wheel and if you need extra time to practice backing, try talking to your instructor to see if they can accommodate this.

2. Pay Attention While Others Are Backing

Most CDL programs include a mix of time where you are driving and time when you are in the cab observing while another student drives. In order to get the most out of your training, it’s important to actively pay attention even when you’re not the one behind the wheel. You can learn a great deal by seeing what works and what doesn’t for others.

3. Use Your Steering Wheel to Determine the Direction of the Trailer

This trick can help you remember how your trailer will move when you are backing up. If you have your left hand at the bottom of the steering wheel, the direction you move this hand is the direction the trailer will move. For example, if you move the bottom of the wheel to the left, the trailer will move to the left while you’re backing. This is reversed if your hand is at the top of the steering wheel.

4. Get Out and Look (GOAL)

Don’t rely solely on what you can see from inside your cab. It’s important to get out of your truck and look at the area you are backing into and what is around it. This allows you to get a more complete picture of what is behind you. For the CDL skills test, you can have a certain number of “GOALs” in order to pass, but this isn’t the case when you’re out on the road. On the job, don’t let embarrassment stop you from getting out as many times as you need. It’s better to be safe than sorry, and others will understand.

5. Ask For Help When You Need It

This tip applies during training and beyond. While you’re in the process of earning your CDL, ask for help from your instructors. They have extensive experience helping students master backing, and will have some tips and tricks to help you get it down. On the road, ask for spotters if you need it when backing into a tough space. Once you have experience under your belt, you can return the favor.

Truck Driving School in Phoenix, AZ

If you’re ready to become a truck driver, Phoenix Truck Driving Institute can help. We offer high-quality CDL training and can help you earn your license in as little as four weeks.

To learn more about our truck driving school, contact us today.

What to Know About ELDs

The trucking industry is subject to a variety of regulations that are intended to help protect truckers and others on the road. Your commercial driver’s license (CDL) training will cover topics related to these regulations and you’ll be expected to know and follow them during your career.

One such requirement is the cap on hours of service (HOS), which includes limits for driving time and on-duty time. In order to track HOS and ensure compliance, most truck drivers will need to use electronic logging devices (ELDs). It’s important that you understand how these devices work and why they are necessary.

Who Needs to Use ELDs?

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) began enforcing an ELD mandate on February 16, 2016. Since this date, commercial vehicle operators within the United States have needed to use ELDs to track HOS, with some exemptions.

Exempted drivers include:

  • Those driving below a certain distance (short-haul drivers)
  • Those operating a vehicle that has a model year older than 2000
  • Drivers who only keep logs for eight days within a period of 30 days
  • Livestock, agricultural, and farm vehicles
  • Tow-away/drive-away operations in which the commodity being delivered is the commercial vehicle that is being driven

Unless your driving job falls under one of these categories, you’ll need to use an ELD. Most truckers will need to use one of these devices at some point during their career.

How Do ELDs Work?

Specific models of ELDs may have some differences in operation, but they all work in more or less the same way, and the FMCSA mandates minimum requirements for their functionality.

An ELD plugs into a port under a commercial vehicle’s dashboard and syncs with the engine. It will automatically record any driving time and will also track the number of miles driven. Truckers will also need to use the system to log on-duty time when they are not driving as well as off-duty time.

Inspecting ELD Records

If a driver is stopped by a law enforcement officer or undergoes a Department of Transportation (DOT) inspection, the ELD records can be electronically transferred for review. This makes it easy to check for HOS violations compared to having to go over paper logs, and it also prevents falsification.

As a driver, you will need to know and follow HOS regulations in order to avoid violations related to your driving time and your electronic logs.

High-Quality Truck Driver Training

At Phoenix Truck Driving Institute, we cover a variety of topics related to commercial truck driving, including understanding how to use an ELD and track your HOS. We give you the skills and knowledge you need to succeed as a trucker. Our program can help you earn your CDL in as little as four weeks.

To learn more about becoming a truck driver, contact us today.

The Dangers of Distracted Driving

In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, 3,142 people were killed in traffic accidents where distracted driving was a factor. This is according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which also estimates that 18% of injury-causing crashes involve distracted driving. All drivers have a responsibility to avoid distractions, but this is even more important for commercial drivers due to the large size of their vehicles and the increased time they spend on the road.

Types of Distracted Driving

Any type of distraction on the road is dangerous and it’s important to be aware of the potential varieties so you know what to avoid.

There are three types of distractions:

  • Manual distractions take your hands off the wheel.
  • Visual distractions take your eyes off the road.
  • Cognitive distractions take your mind off the task of driving.

Many distractions fall into multiple categories. For example, texting while driving is a manual, visual, and cognitive distraction.

What Counts as a Distraction?

Some actions are obviously distracted driving. Texting and driving, for example, is what comes to mind first for most people when they hear this term. Other behaviors can be more difficult to pinpoint as distracted driving, although they are still dangerous. One example of this is talking hands-free on the phone. Many people mistakenly believe this is safe, but research demonstrates that it still poses a danger due to cognitive distraction.

When in doubt, you can likely assume that if you have to ask if a behavior will distract you while driving, it probably does. It’s better to be overly cautious than to put yourself and others at risk.

Why is Distracted Driving Dangerous?

Although many people may think they’re good at multitasking, the truth is that our brains have a limited ability to manage multiple tasks at once. Research shows that multitasking reduces performance and focus. You’ve probably experienced this before. For example, if you’ve ever watched a movie or television show while scrolling on your phone, you may have noticed that you miss parts of the story.

While the above example is relatively harmless, imagine the impact this loss of attention can have when you’re behind the wheel! At 55 miles per hour (mph), your vehicle travels the length of a football field in the time it takes to read a text. Think about how much can change in this short span of time, and it should be clear why distracted driving is so dangerous.

Your Responsibility to Drive Safely

Your actions as a driver affect not only yourself but also others on the road. You have a responsibility to practice safe driving, and this includes avoiding distractions. This is true whether you are a commercial driver or not, but if you do choose to become a trucker, safety is something that should be at the forefront of your mind at all times.

Earn Your CDL

If you are a safe driver and are interested in driving for your career, Phoenix Truck Driving Institute can help you get started. We can help you earn your commercial driver’s license (CDL) in as little as four weeks.

Contact us today to learn more about our CDL training in Phoenix, AZ.

What is a Commercial Learner’s Permit?

To start your career as a trucker, you need to earn a commercial driver’s license (CDL). To do this, you will need to take two exams: a written test and a skills test. Once you pass the written portion of the CDL test, you’ll earn your commercial learner’s permit. This is also known as a CLP or a CDL permit. Getting your commercial learner’s permit is a key step in your trucking training.

When Do You Earn Your CLP?

You will earn your commercial learner’s permit after taking and passing the general knowledge portion of the written CDL test. The test is multiple choice and you must get 80% of the questions right in order to pass. The CDL exam covers basic information about commercial vehicle safety and operation.

To remove the air brakes restriction and earn endorsements, you will need to take additional tests. Students take these written exams at the same time as the general knowledge test. They are not required to earn a CLP, but having endorsements on your license opens up more career opportunities.

Documentation Requirements For Your CDL Permit

In Arizona, you will need to provide the following before you can get your CLP:

  • Documentation of a current Department of Transportation (DOT) physical examination
  • Social security card
  • Valid operator’s (driver’s) license
  • Two documents (one with a photo) demonstrating authorized presence in the United States, or three documents with no photos (Note: you can see the full AZDOT requirements for these documents here)
  • Name change documents, if applicable

What Does a Commercial Learner’s Permit Allow You to Do?

With a CDL permit, you can operate a commercial vehicle on public roadways while under the supervision of a CDL holder in the passenger seat. The person supervising your driving must have a license for the specific type of vehicle you are driving.

Once you have your commercial learner’s permit, you’ll be able to get the on-the-road experience that is necessary to prepare for the CDL skills test.

When Does a CLP Expire?

In Arizona, a CDL instruction permit is valid for six months. If you are not able to take and pass your skills test by this time, it may be necessary to retake the written test in order to renew your CLP.

How Do You Get Your CDL After Earning Your Permit?

You must wait 14 days after earning your commercial learner’s permit to take your skills test. This exam assesses your driving ability. It includes a pre-trip inspection, drills to test basic vehicle control skills, and on-the-road driving. Once you pass all portions of the skills test, you must provide your scores, driver’s license, and CLP to the Motor Vehicle Division (MVD) to receive your CDL.

CDL Training vs Self-Teaching

It is possible to study for and earn your commercial learner’s permit on your own, but it is often difficult to get the supervision and support you need to practice driving a commercial vehicle after this point. When you attend truck driving school, you will have the opportunity to learn from experienced instructions. Additionally, you will have access to job placement assistance and other valuable resources. Many trucking companies also prefer to hire drivers who graduated from a CDL training program as opposed to those who are self-taught.

Prepare For Your CDL Test

If you are ready to get started, Phoenix Truck Driving Institute can help you earn your commercial license in as little as four weeks. We help prepare you for the written test and then transition into hands-on training for your skills exam.

To learn more about earning your CDL at Phoenix Truck Driving Institute, contact us today.