How Military Experience Benefits CDL Training Students

We recently featured past Facebook Fan of the Week Michael Zarate here on the Driver Solutions blog. We talked about a lot in our interview with Michael, and one of the common topics of discussion was his military experience prior to pursuing a truck driving job. Michael spent 21 years in the Army before retiring in 1995. Today, he's going to talk about how his military experience helped him become an OTR truck driver.

Can you talk about how your military experience helped you during CDL training?

I knew CDL training was a 4-week course, so in some ways I compared it to airborne school which was a 3-week program that is different each week.

With truck driving school, I broke it down in my mind week to week and put emphasis on what the objectives were for that week, but I didn't look too far ahead.

The first week of CDL training was a lot of classroom stuff. There were a lot of videos, but I knew we had a test on Thursday, and on Friday I was going to the DMV to take the permit test. So, I took notes and took that first week seriously because I knew that USA Truck wanted us to have endorsements - Hazmat and what not. I went in to the test prepared because I had taken that first week seriously.

You have to take it seriously. If you don't pass that first week, then you have to deal with everything you didn't learn the first week during your second week, in addition to all the new information.

Military training, for me, meant focusing on the task at hand because it builds up. You don't want to be distracted by things that were left behind. I always tried to stay ahead of what I knew was coming up.

After the first week, I took a day to get my fingerprints taken for my Hazmat endorsement and went to the DMV to get all that done. I think military veterans tend to be self-motivated. Yeah, you have people telling you what to do, but a lot of times you're responsible 100% for what you've got to get done. You really can't turn around when it's over and say, 'I wasn't told,' or 'I didn't understand.' You're expected to accomplish your mission.

I think military people do well in CDL training. My roommate at truck driving school school was in the Army for 6 years too, and he did extremely well. He passed all of his tests the first time around and actually left before I did because of the way they scheduled the driving and the testing.

The students who were responsible I think had the self discipline to use the time that was ours to study and do the things that needed to be done.

As a truck driver, I'm going to be gone 3-4 weeks at a time, but look at people in the military - they're gone a year at a time or longer. One of my former ROTC students has had six deployments in the past 4 years. In terms of being away from home, I'm used to that.

Are you a military vet? How do you think your military experience will help you with training? Let us know in the comments!

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