Learning to drive a semi truck can be overwhelming for some and real fun for others.
With the right instructor/mentor you will feel at ease and to a degree quite confident, if not at the beginning stage most certainly by the end.
In the beginning, it most likely will be a little difficult for most to grasp as you’ll be going from a car, pickup truck, or van to something much larger with more power.
Not to mention the gears which will be anything from 10 to 18 for a semi truck.
Is Learning to Drive a Semi Truck Hard? Here’s a short summary:
Learning to drive a semi truck is hard as a beginner. It demands a huge amount of responsibility to operate and maneuver. There are many controls and gauges to be wary of. Road regulations are also more stringent. However, with a reputable training school and mentor, it becomes much easier to learn.
Table of Contents
Is driving a Semi Truck Harder than a Car?
It is way harder to drive a semi-truck than a car.
First, we have the obvious size and weight difference then the height and the load which makes driving a truck harder to turn, stop and even change lanes.
It is also harder to see around you along with the stress of keeping yourself and the general public and other road users safe, it is a huge responsibility not to be taken lightly.
A car driver can simply grab his keys check their fuel and maybe look over the tires and oil every so, although often most don’t.
A truck driver has to meet specific regulations and could face fines if they don’t.
They don’t only grab their keys but they have to do a walk around before every journey checking for any imperfections as well as making sure the load is safe.
A car driver will just jump in and ask if everyone has their seatbelts on then head out.
Backing up a truck is a nightmare compared to a car.
Also if a truck driver misses a turn, it’s not as simple as pulling a U-turn to get back on track.
We’re not saying a trucker’s life is bad it’s just harder than driving a car.
Is it Hard to Maneuver and Steer a Semi Truck?
Steering is relatively easy in the newer trucks and even older ones that have had the proper care due to more advanced technology.
Steering a new truck is as effortless as steering the family car.
Maneuvering on the other hand is quite a different subject, but thanks to the easy steering it just comes down to logic and a little planning.
Knowing the size of the truck helps a lot and if it doesn’t then stop and jump out to take a look around as many times as you have to.
Is it Hard to Change Gears on a Semi Truck?
As a beginner, it can be hard, and sitting with all the gears and having to know when to change gears and to which one to select takes a lot of practice.
After time you’ll get the hang of it and it will be easy.
There is a pattern to shifting the gears to match the gear to the speed of the vehicle, just like a car except you have more gears, sounds simple right/
Is it hard to apply Brakes to a Semi Truck?
Applying the break is easy but the response of the driver and the stopping distance of the vehicle is the real issue here.
If a truck driver is not planning the road properly or gets drowsy, their response time is affected which can be catastrophic.
Earlier breaking in response to early planning will make everyone safer, remember the weight of the truck and the time it takes to stop that load is your concern.
Is it Difficult to Haul a Load with a Semi-Truck?
For the truck its what it was made for, so it wouldn’t be hard unless you ignore the weight regulations.
This would be a very bad idea as they’re put in place specifically with the truck’s payload capacity in mind, but for the driver, it can be a different story altogether.
First, they have to think about the route but it’s not as simple as that because they have to also think of alternative routes for diversions.
This can happen at any time, and with a big rig, you can’t just turn anywhere.
Once on diversion, they have to think about low bridges, narrow roads, and hanging wires.
In this case, they would need to plan a few routes just in case and all this on top of keeping to their schedule.
Each state has its own separate rules and regulations for semi-trucks some require permits.
Is it Difficult to know your Blind Spots when driving a Semi-Truck?
Knowing your blind spots can be relatively easy but keeping track is quite a challenge.
In an 80-foot truck and trailer, it’s a constant routine of observation that keeps you and everyone else safe.
Also known as Truck Zones or No Zones/No Go Zones, the four zones are:
- Within 30 feet behind the truck.
- Within 20 feet in front of the truck.
- One lane on the left.
- Two lanes to the right.
These are the areas you (as a truck driver) will not be able to see a vehicle.
What Gauges do you need to Monitor on a Semi Truck whilst Driving?
Gauge layouts vary from truck to truck but all of them are important to a truck driver and help them keep on top of situations before they occur.
Below is a list of gauges to regularly keep tabs on:
- Engine Oil Temperture (check when driving)
- Oil Pressure Gauge (check when driving) needle should move 40 – 90 when accelerating.
- Outside Air Temperture Gauge (check when driving).
- Water Temperture Gauge (check when driving) max 200.
- Air Pressure Gauge.
- Manifold Pressure Gauge.
- Main Transmission Temp Gauge.
- Rear & Front Driver Temp Gauge.
- Exhaust Temp Gauge.
- Rear Suspension Gauge.
- Amp Gauge.
- Fuel Filter Gauge.
- Air Cleaner Gauge.
- Battery Voltage Gauge (check when driving) must be above 12v.
- Alternator Voltage.
- EATS status (soot – ash)
Not all trucks have all of these gauges, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with each gauge and its function in your truck.
Are Road Regulations for Semi Trucks different from that of a Car?
There are a few more rules truck drivers need to follow in addition to the regular road traffic laws.
This varies from driver work hours to weight load requirements. Stop checks and tachometers are some of the ways to enforce these laws.
A truck driver can drive a maximum of 11 hours after 10 consecutive hours off duty. This can be extended to 14 hours under adverse conditions.
They must take a 30-minute break if they have driven for 8 hours straight.
It is the driver’s job to make sure the truck isn’t over its max payload.
This will be monitored at the depot. You will also get a printout and can get checked on your journey.
How Long does it take to Learn to Drive a Semi Truck?
Each state has its own idea on the length of training.
A trainee truck driver needs to complete their CDL. It also depends on whether you can attend your CDL training part or full time.
However, before all that you need to have your (CLP) commercial learners permit for at least 14 days.
Companies require between 120 to 160 hours of training to be completed and signed off by a fully qualified instructor/mentor.
This can be done in three to four weeks or longer if you can’t put in the time.
A lot of schools offer weekend training for those with tight schedules.
The curriculum is a challenging one that takes time and patience to learn but is required not only by law and the training school but by your moral obligation to public safety.
At what Age can you Learn to Drive a Semi Truck?
You must be 18 with two years of driving experience to drive within a state and 21 years old with two years of experience to drive across state lines.
You should not have any suspensions from traffic violations, DUI/DWIs, failing to pay child support, or failing to appear in court.
You must also pass a background test and have proof of citizenship, be able to read and speak English as well as have a valid medical examiners certificate.
I know it sounds like a tough and lengthy process just to get a license, but it is definitely worth it.
What Qualifications do you need to Learn to drive a Semi Truck?
As it stands, other than having the required above documents there are no formal qualifications to enter into a CDL school for training.
Upon successful completion of your training, you will be presented with a certificate.
You may then have to complete a short training program with the company you apply for to be eligible for the role and some go as far as a pre-employment drug screening.
Do you need a Driving License to Drive a Semi Truck?
It is a requirement under law for anyone wanting to operate a semi-truck on public roads to hold an in-date full CDL license with an up-to-date medical examiner’s report and emissions report.
What does it Take to Drive a Semi Truck?
Other than all the requirements we have stated so far it takes guts to be a truck driver.
When you consider the size of what you are driving, it also takes skill and bags of patience with other vehicles on the road who don’t all understand the space you need.
Loving the opening road and being alone for long periods of time, a positive mental attitude in an almost laid-back but not too laid-back way is good.
Most of all it takes the want, the want to do the job, and the want to be a truck driver.
Where can you Learn to Drive a Semi Truck?
At the many certified truck driving schools across the entire country.
These are typically found at community colleges and come at a fee of between $4000 to $10,000, to be paid upfront.
There is a cheaper way! By enrolling in a trucking company training program, they will take you every step of the way and some even offer job guarantees upon completion and also pay you while you train.
They will probably make you sign a conditional contract to say you will stay with the company for an (x) amount of time.
However, it really is a great way to get your foot in the door and a path we would recommend.