Wanted to say thanks to all for your comments and let you know they weren't wasted time. I completed Week 1 of RDTC and am looking forward to starting Week 2 tomorrow.
For the browsers who look, here's how the first week's schedule went for my class:
Monday: Check into the school, drug test, introductions, simulator to get practice shifting, go over pre-trip inspection of tractor.
Tuesday: Spent a few hours practicing pre-trip inspections to start getting the jargon down. Went on the range making left turns (easier to learn) with a tractor-trailer and to get lots of practice upshifting and downshifting.
Wednesday: Did pre-trip and then spent the rest of the day in the classroom going over map reading, reviewing the book we were issued and doing our weekly open book test. This is different from the normal schedule because of the extreme cold. I presume that maintenance was so busy with vehicles under loads that they couldn't risk having to work on our equipment if something went wrong. Also, hard day to learn backing with instructors being out a lot in -50 windchills.
Thursday: Pre-trips, right hand turns with tractor-trailer, practiced straight-ling backing a few times before the class ahead of us. The straight line backing may have been on Tuesday.
Friday: Went around the range a few times to make sure we could find the gears (you get rusty until it becomes an instinct). Rode with the instructor around Marshfield as a guide to see how far ahead we should be looking when driving and get a peek into the mindset of an experienced driver while on the road. Then we went on a NASCAR loop 2x each (all left turns) in a less populated area of Marshfield and then did two loops with right turns and a roundabout.
Saturday: Classroom day. Went over signs, the Motor Carriers Atlas, route planning, and calculating how long it would take to complete trips within the HOS regulations. Homework took a few hours afterwards.
Sunday: Off day to get ready for the week, laundry, and other stuff (such as finishing the book reading and questions).
Review of the training so far: Got lucky because there are 3 of us and 2 instructors (a few late cancellations) and the class ahead of us only has 2 students. The new class (one starts every Monday) is coming tomorrow. 1st week start time was 0645, week 2 is 0630 , and week 3 is 0615.
Only item I'd say is that you have to be disciplined enough to work without the instructors on your butt all of the time. We do pre-trips on our own b/c that's time they use for any mandatory meetings and other work. They teach you how to do a pre-trip by the book to get your CDL but you won't be ready for the test if you don't practice it even when no one is looking. You also have to work to break bad habits that weren't a problem in a car but don't work well or get you past the BTW test for your CDL. Moving a small car around a turn is a bittt different then steering a 70' combo around.
CDL test is scheduled for 1 week from Wednesday. This week we start with the pre-trip and simulator time, then will spend a lot of time on backing.