CDL-A Training

This 4-week, 160-hour course is designed to prepare drivers for the State of Michigan Commercial Driver License test and to become professional truck drivers.  It is intended for those who have little or no experience driving tractor-trailer rigs.  The course includes knowledge of state & federal regulations governing commercial motor vehicles as well as skills in inspecting, maneuvering, and driving tractor-trailer rigs.  We also teach skills that will maximize your employability.

Our approach is similar to the one used by the airlines and the military to train pilots:

  • Teach knowledge and concepts in the classroom
  • Develop skills through practice in the simulator
  • Master skills through range and road driving in a tractor-trailer rig

Classes run 7:30 am-6:00 pm Monday through Thursday for 4 weeks.  The course includes:

  • 80 hours of classroom instruction*
  • 40 hours of driving simulator instruction (20 hours driving; 20 hours observing)*
  • 12 hours of commercial vehicle inspection lab
  • 28 hours of behind-the-wheel (BTW) driving

*Additional inspection lab and BTW driving time may be substituted for some classroom and simulator time.


A typical outline for this course is as follows:

  • Week 1: Orientation; Michigan CDL knowledge (general knowledge, combination vehicles, air brakes) – 20 hours; Vehicle Inspections & Driving Range Maneuvers – 10 hours; “Mirrors & Backing" and “Shifting” in the simulator – 10 hours. Obtain TIP.
  • Week 2: “Risk”, SMS, & FMCSA Commercial Vehicle Regulations – 15 hours; Vehicle Inspection & Driving Range Maneuvers – 20 hours; “Turns”, “Roll-over Prevention”, “Fuel Efficient Driving Skills”, & “Merging” in the simulator – 5 hours.
  • Week 3: FMCSA Hours of Service Regulations – 20 hours; Driving Range Maneuvers; Local Street & Highway Driving – 20 hours.
  • Week 4: Trip Planning – 20 hours; Driving Range Maneuvers; Urban & Freeway Driving; final prep for Skills Test – 20 hours.

We begin teaching Pre-trip Vehicle Inspections on Day 1 and continue to practice inspections throughout the remainder of the course.  You will learn how to conduct a pre-trip inspection to be sure the vehicle is safe to drive and you will learn “what to say” during the inspection portion of the CDL Skills Test.  Do not underestimate the difficulty of this part of the test; you must pass this part before moving on to the Basic Vehicle Control Skills Test.


One of the most difficult parts of the CDL test is the Basic Vehicle Control Skills Test in which you must demonstrate three required backing maneuvers on the driving range.  We begin teaching these maneuvers on the simulator.  First, you will develop the ability to use the mirrors to back a tractor-trailer rig in a straight line.  Next comes practicing the off-set backing maneuver.  Once you have mastered these on the simulator, you will begin practicing the actual CDL test maneuvers in a truck – the same maneuvers and the same set-up that you will encounter on the test.  By the end of the course, you will have the experience to “nail” each maneuver when you take the test.

Before you head out onto the streets and highways in a big rig, you will learn how to shift gears and make turns on the simulator.  Proper clutch depression, the rhythm of double-clutching, up-shifting, and down-shifting can be learned on the simulator more quickly and with less stress than in a truck.  Then, once in the truck, shifting will be smoother and you can focus on driving safely. Making turns in a tractor-trailer rig is another difficult skill to master.  Turn too wide or too short and the odds are that there will be an insurance claim of some sort and a driver’s job will be in jeopardy.  In our course, you will learn to make both left and right turns on the simulator before attempting turns on the streets.  Wrinkled fenders and crushed street signs are easy to fix on the simulator.

Beyond the knowledge and skills required to pass the CDL test, we also teach skills that will make you a more valuable, and more employable, professional truck driver.  Hours of service, maintaining logbooks, map-reading, trip planning, and customer service are some of the skills carriers expect their drivers to have.

You will learn all of these and more in your Pinnacle Truck Driver Training course!