I took the first portion of my exam yesterday morning. I arrived at the DMV with all the necessary documents in hand only to find out that they changed the law last Thursday in Virginia. Since I am technically getting a “new” document, my drivers license is no longer enough proof of “presence.” I had to make the 30 minute drive back home to get my passport and birth certificate. Once back at the DMV, I moved quickly through the process and was placed in front of the computer to test in three areas: General Knowledge (50 questions), Air Brakes (25 questions) and Combination Vehicles (25 questions). THIS WAS THE HARDEST EXAM I’VE EVER TAKEN! It took me more than an hour to finish up the test.
I easily passed the General Knowledge and Air Brakes portions. I didn’t do so well on the Combination Vehicle section. This part of the test deals with information about trailers being pulled behind the truck. Because our trailer is a utility type trailer, I don’t have all the things that this part of the exam covers – fifth wheel, kingpin, glad hands, couplers, service/emergency lines, etc. I simply back my truck until the trailer ball, lower the trailer into place, connect the electrical cable (lights and brakes) and we’re on our way. But in order to get my CDL, I also need to know how to handle a full blown 53 foot semi-trailer with air brakes! I’ll never drive one of these!
I’m retaking that portion of the exam again today. I’ve been studying – visualizing the process of coupling and uncoupling a trailer, test air flow through the entire braking system, getting to know my tractor protection values and Johnson bar, my shut-off valves and cut-out cocks. When I’m done with this exam, I’ll have the beginnings of a new career – Trucking Across America.