Manual Transmission Restrictions on your CDL
What to Consider When Starting CDL Training
When considering where to get your Class A CDL training, make sure the school or training program you choose uses manual transmissions.
CDL restrictions severely limit your career potential
Per the FMCSA, if you test on an automatic-equipped vehicle, you get a restriction on your license that prohibits you from driving a truck with a manual transmission:
(c) Manual transmission. (1) If an applicant performs the skills test in a vehicle equipped with an automatic transmission, the State must indicate on the CDL, if issued, that the person is restricted from operating a CMV equipped with a manual transmission. (2) For the purposes of the skills test and the restriction, an automatic transmission includes any transmission other than a manual transmission as defined in 383.5.
Manual Transmission CDL Training
A one-day CDL training program cannot teach you how to drive a manual transmission in a large truck in just an afternoon. The most common transmission in use for large commercial vehicles today is the Eaton Fuller 10 speed manual. These transmissions have no synchronizers in them to allow the switching from gear to gear without first regulating your road speed with engine speed. Downshifting particularly can be difficult to learn as it requires bringing up engine rpm’s while switching to a lower gear all at the same time.
The hand-eye coordination required to shift smoothly requires a lot of practice under the supervision of an expert CDL training instructor. Proper, smooth and safe shifting is probably one of the most difficult skills to learn in a large Class A rated vehicle.
Secondly, in order to safely drive these vehicles, you must always maintain control over them. That requires always being in gear while in motion. If you coast in neutral or with the clutch in, you are considered out of control of your vehicle and you will fail your test.
Make your training course decisions carefully. Sometimes the cheapest and quickest actually ends up being the most expensive and can limit your career growth due to CDL restrictions.