Getting My CDL Before Choosing A Company. What Can I Expect?

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Chad W.'s Comment
member avatar

I will be getting my CDL through a community college. By the time I finish (8 weeks) I will have a CDL. I know that's just the tip of the iceberg, and I will need to do some company training. I have a family, and am wondering what I can expect as far as pay while training, classes after I get my CDL, etc.

I am overweight and have just finished a sleep study. I do not know the results yet, however, I may have sleep apnea. Will this be a major problem?

One other question I have is about medications. I currently take a 40mg dose of Paxil and the occasional Valium (both prescribed). I have stopped the Valium, as I don't think benzos are allowed in trucking. Should I also be switched off the Paxil? It is for mild but chronic depression. I know there are other approved meds, but I'm not sure which ones are allowed.

I still have some time before I start my classes, but I am trying to make sure that I have the best chance with the least amount of problems when I finish my training. Just to note, I will have to pass a DOT physical by the second week of class.

Thanks in advance for the help!

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Sleep Apnea:

A physical disorder in which you have pauses in your breathing, or take shallow breaths, during sleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Normal breathing will usually resume, sometimes with a loud choking sound or snort.

In obstructive sleep apnea, your airways become blocked or collapse during sleep, causing the pauses and shallow breathing.

It is a chronic condition that will require ongoing management. It affects about 18 million people in the U.S.

DumDriver's Comment
member avatar

This is a sticky subject in trucking. I'm of the opinion that depression is a very real, and very treatable, disease. So if your life (and your family's) is made better thru medication then you should ABSOLUTELY be able to take it. Unfortunately the trucking industry is slow to come around.

You should get a letter from your prescribing dr saying you are absolutely fine driving on the medication. If the MRO asks you about it provide your prescription and letter from your physician.

As far as the Valium ? I dunno. Benzo's have a major effect on me so I absolutely will NOT take them. That's something you have to decide for yourself. I'd never consider them for myself.

Rick S.'s Comment
member avatar

Also consider that many company drugs tests are hair follicle - which will leave you having to explain a positive test, even if you've been off them for awhile.

For better or worse - depression is both real and treatable - but many of the meds used, gave side-effects that could potentially create a lability for a commercial driver.

Meds that are not on the "under no circumstances" can be covered with a doctors letter - but in the case of psych meds, this letter is going to need to be from the treating PSYCHIATRIST, not just your primary physician. This creates issues, because your friendly primary might not be considered "intimate enough" with the potential side effects to write an effective enough letter (in the opinion of the companies medical examiner).

And what one medical examiner may find OK - another one might not.

From another site:

Can I still drive if I take prescription Paxil, Imitrex, and Zonisamide?

These three drugs are going to be a red flag for any examiner. You should bring with you a letter from your prescribing physician, explaining the need for the medications and their possible side effects. All three are listed with side effects of drowsiness, weakness, dizziness, and should not be used while driving or using machinery. You are going to have to explain to the medical examiner why and how much if any of these medications you are taking and the basic circumstances for their needs.

-----

Many people tolerate Paxil and other meds quite well at low doses, with none of the side effects.

This is a tough question, that seems to get tougher and tougher with more and more people seeking treatment for depression (instead of just suffering with it). While some of the stigma of mental illness has gone away - the meds used to treat it still create potential issues in "safety sensitive positions".

Given the choice of having to take a med to control a mental condition - versus taking no meds and suffering with that condition in order to drive a CMV , is a difficult choice.

I know where you're coming from. I suffer from depression here and there also (situational, not imbalance/clinical) - and while it would be easy to get on some meds and feel better, the risk to a potential career move is more than I want to contemplate at this time - so I SUFFER INSTEAD.

Rick

CMV:

Commercial Motor Vehicle

A CMV is a vehicle that is used as part of a business, is involved in interstate commerce, and may fit any of these descriptions:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards
G-Town's Comment
member avatar

First of all, welcome to the Trucking truth forum Chad and thanks for posting.

I will be getting my CDL through a community college. By the time I finish (8 weeks) I will have a CDL. I know that's just the tip of the iceberg, and I will need to do some company training. I have a family, and am wondering what I can expect as far as pay while training, classes after I get my CDL, etc.

Depending on the company, their training pay policies and miles driven, between $400-$600 for a 7 day week. Some will pay you for a long layover as well. Here is more information about companies accepting entry level drivers, trainees:

I am overweight and have just finished a sleep study. I do not know the results yet, however, I may have sleep apnea. Will this be a major problem?

Not usually a problem. The company you end up driving for will typically equip your truck with an inverter that is capable of running a CPAP machine. Numerous drivers manage sleep apnea , very common. Click this link for additional information on sleep apnea:

One other question I have is about medications. I currently take a 40mg dose of Paxil and the occasional Valium (both prescribed). I have stopped the Valium, as I don't think benzos are allowed in trucking. Should I also be switched off the Paxil? It is for mild but chronic depression. I know there are other approved meds, but I'm not sure which ones are allowed.

Heck yeah, stay clear of the valium. Rick's reply is spot-on, real world, and as he mentioned, if your future employer uses a hair follicle test, trace amounts of the drug will show positive for weeks, perhaps months. Check if the school you are attending will perform a drug test as well and if they use hair follicle testing. If you have taken valium within the pervious 4 months, wait it out until it clears your system. As far as the Paxil, I totally agree with both DumDriver and Rick get the note from your doctor. In fact I would strongly suggest you discuss all of this with your Doctor before going too much further. Click on this link for additional information on this topic:

Since you are new to the forum here is additional information to assist you in this process:

Good luck and let us know how else we can assist you.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Sleep Apnea:

A physical disorder in which you have pauses in your breathing, or take shallow breaths, during sleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Normal breathing will usually resume, sometimes with a loud choking sound or snort.

In obstructive sleep apnea, your airways become blocked or collapse during sleep, causing the pauses and shallow breathing.

It is a chronic condition that will require ongoing management. It affects about 18 million people in the U.S.

BMI:

Body mass index (BMI)

BMI is a formula that uses weight and height to estimate body fat. For most people, BMI provides a reasonable estimate of body fat. The BMI's biggest weakness is that it doesn't consider individual factors such as bone or muscle mass. BMI may:

  • Underestimate body fat for older adults or other people with low muscle mass
  • Overestimate body fat for people who are very muscular and physically fit

It's quite common, especially for men, to fall into the "overweight" category if you happen to be stronger than average. If you're pretty strong but in good shape then pay no attention.

CPAP:

Constant Positive Airway Pressure

CPAP is a breathing assist device which is worn over the mouth or nose. It provides nighttime relief for individuals who suffer from Sleep Apnea.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

Douglas K.'s Comment
member avatar

Paxil is ok. You will need to prove you are using your sleep appnea machine if you have it. That is holding me up at the time. Good luck.

I will be getting my CDL through a community college. By the time I finish (8 weeks) I will have a CDL. I know that's just the tip of the iceberg, and I will need to do some company training. I have a family, and am wondering what I can expect as far as pay while training, classes after I get my CDL, etc.

I am overweight and have just finished a sleep study. I do not know the results yet, however, I may have sleep apnea. Will this be a major problem?

One other question I have is about medications. I currently take a 40mg dose of Paxil and the occasional Valium (both prescribed). I have stopped the Valium, as I don't think benzos are allowed in trucking. Should I also be switched off the Paxil? It is for mild but chronic depression. I know there are other approved meds, but I'm not sure which ones are allowed.

I still have some time before I start my classes, but I am trying to make sure that I have the best chance with the least amount of problems when I finish my training. Just to note, I will have to pass a DOT physical by the second week of class.

Thanks in advance for the help!

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Sleep Apnea:

A physical disorder in which you have pauses in your breathing, or take shallow breaths, during sleep. These pauses can last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Normal breathing will usually resume, sometimes with a loud choking sound or snort.

In obstructive sleep apnea, your airways become blocked or collapse during sleep, causing the pauses and shallow breathing.

It is a chronic condition that will require ongoing management. It affects about 18 million people in the U.S.

Jarod(Red)'s Comment
member avatar

Congrats on getting you're CDL! I wish I would've went the way you did instead of Company CDL training. Doing it the way you did it leaves you're options open to choose who you go through and you aren't stuck in a contract. Company OTR training is your next step, usually averages about 30 days. You're experience will be based on your trainer that you get. There are good ones and bad ones. My first trainer was horrible! Had road rage issues, moving cars out of the way, ended up getting fired for getting into fight with shipper , plus he didn't bother teaching me anything. My second trainer was awesome, cared about me and my training, veteran driver that cared about the business, he even would take his 34 hour resets at my home so I could see my kids. So get to know you're trainer before you go out with the. Training pay will be based on your division, usually averages $375 a week I think, try not to take out any advances. And use up as much as your clock as you can each day you drive to finish training faster as most companies want you to do so many hours with a trainer, like Swift wants you to be with a trainer 200 hours. Just be safe and and learn all you can.

CDL:

Commercial Driver's License (CDL)

A CDL is required to drive any of the following vehicles:

  • Any combination of vehicles with a gross combined weight rating (GCWR) of 26,001 or more pounds, providing the gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of the vehicle being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing another not in excess of 10,000 pounds.
  • Any vehicle, regardless of size, designed to transport 16 or more persons, including the driver.
  • Any vehicle required by federal regulations to be placarded while transporting hazardous materials.

Shipper:

The customer who is shipping the freight. This is where the driver will pick up a load and then deliver it to the receiver or consignee.

OTR:

Over The Road

OTR driving normally means you'll be hauling freight to various customers throughout your company's hauling region. It often entails being gone from home for two to three weeks at a time.

OOS:

When a violation by either a driver or company is confirmed, an out-of-service order removes either the driver or the vehicle from the roadway until the violation is corrected.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Jarod wrote:

And use up as much as your clock as you can each day you drive to finish training faster as most companies want you to do so many hours with a trainer, like Swift wants you to be with a trainer 200 hours. Just be safe and and learn all you can.

Just to be clear, that's 200 hours of driving while with a Swift mentor. Drive as long as you can and preserve your clock to maximize driving time; limiting "on-duty not driving" to what is mandatory.

Jarod(Red)'s Comment
member avatar

Thank you G-Town, I should've clarified that. Its 200 hours btw.

Jarod wrote:

double-quotes-start.png

And use up as much as your clock as you can each day you drive to finish training faster as most companies want you to do so many hours with a trainer, like Swift wants you to be with a trainer 200 hours. Just be safe and and learn all you can.

double-quotes-end.png

Just to be clear, that's 200 hours of driving while with a Swift mentor. Drive as long as you can and preserve your clock to maximize driving time; limiting "on-duty not driving" to what is mandatory.

G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Douglas K wrote:

Paxil is ok.

Yes... However it still needs to be fully disclosed and explained with a note from your Doctor specifying that it will not impair your ability to safely operate a CMV.

CMV:

Commercial Motor Vehicle

A CMV is a vehicle that is used as part of a business, is involved in interstate commerce, and may fit any of these descriptions:

  • Weighs 10,001 pounds or more
  • Has a gross vehicle weight rating or gross combination weight rating of 10,001 pounds or more
  • Is designed or used to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) not for compensation
  • Is designed or used to transport 9 or more passengers (including the driver) for compensation
  • Is transporting hazardous materials in a quantity requiring placards
JakeBreak's Comment
member avatar

I believe the op doesn't have to wait for the valium to clear for the drug test either. He just has to have a letter stating that it was prescribed and when the last dose was taken and show that to the drug testing company. Now that your going to be a trucker you can't take it again until you retire or they change the rules tho.

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