My Experiences Starting A New Career In Trucking, Houston Texas

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Newb's Comment
member avatar

So I've been lurking in the shadows of this site for last few months and have decided to start my first post. The site, Brett's book, and the high road training series have been very helpful and useful to me in making my decision so looking to pay it forward to other people looking to start a career in trucking. A big thank you to all who have made this site possible and the wealth of information available with a click of a mouse. I'll be doing my best to give weekly updates of my progress along the way. So to start things off a little about me. I was born and raised in CA and have recently moved to TX. I've ran my own moving and delivery business for the last five years which I recently sold and that has given me the opportunity to start a new life here in TX. I'm single with no kids other then my dog. I have a DUI from 12years ago, a misdemeanor charge, and a speeding ticket for 10mph over the limit from about 4years ago. I requested a report from hireright just to make sure there were no surprises. the report arrived approx 3 weeks later and was blank in terms of anything on my record. I've spent many days researching and studying the ins and outs of trucking and quickly realized there will always be something new to learn about the industry. I've found very little info about the path I have decided to follow so if it helps one person seeking to enter the industry I feel it could be very beneficial. I was really so torn on whether to go thru a company paid training program or private schooling, so in this post I will describe my first experiences as I attempted to do both but ultimately I have enrolled in a six week course at Houston community college which I will refer to as HCC from this point forward.

I've spent the last weeks studying and have obtained my learners permit thru the DPS/DMV office here in Houston. A few thing have recently changed in the process for Texas residents looking to obtain their CDL-P so I will discuss this a bit. As of this posting the only tests needed to obtain your permit are the commercial rules for TX (chapter 14- 20?s) which is the first test required. This is followed by the Combination test (chapter6- 20?s). After these two tests are completed and successfully passed with a score greater then 80%, and you pay an $11 fee, you walk out with your permit in hand. You are given additional paperwork to fill out. Please note no further testing can be completed until this paperwork has been filled out and you obtain your medical card thru a DOT physical exam.

After obtaining my permit I applied to a few company sponsored CDL programs so I will discuss my experiences with this process. My first choice was Prime I applied and was contacted the next day by a recruiter there. I was told I was ineligible since I did not have any tax information on record for the last five years. I ran my small business under the table and have declared nothing. This had me worried quite a bit and honestly caused a lot of anxiety.

After being pretty bummed out I then applied at FFE which is now done thru KLLM. The recruiter was very helpful and there was no issue on her part in terms of employment verification. She googled my former business and asked for a phone number from a past employee of mine. He was called the next day and everything checked out fine. background check was started and I was informed it would be completed in 1 to 2 days. A week went by and I heard nothing back so I called them up. Was informed background check was still being completed and it takes a long time to get any information back from the state of CA. I began doing more research on the company. I heard great things about FFE thru the site but very little info on KLLM. Everything I researched kept showing a lot of info on their lease purchase program, which is something I will be avoiding. I started having 2nd thoughts to be honest but just wanted to wait and see the outcome. Another week went by and I called again, background was still pending. To days later I rec'd a call saying everything was good to go and I can hop on the bus to their next orientation. By this time I had already enrolled in the courses at HCC, but I informed them that I would keep them in mind upon graduating.

During this two week process I had also applied to USA truck which offers a program thru HCC. I was told I would need 3 to 5 notarized letters from people that could verify I had been working the last five years. This was an issue as I am now in TX and it would have taken weeks to get this accomplished from 3 states away. At this point I just decided to enroll in the 6 week program at HCC and pay out of pocket. Upon enrolling I paid the $3500 registration fee and was sent off to do a drug screen and physical. I received my medical certificate and then proceeded to go back to the DMV to take the rest of my written tests. In order they were general knowledge (chap1,2,3,12,13- 50?s), Air brakes (chap5- 25?s), Pre trip (chap11- 30?s). I opted to take this tests one day at a time so I studied hard the night before each one then took each one accordingly. I passed all on first attempts and am restricted from taking the endorsements until I pass the actual driving test. As a side note make sure you read the bus portions of the pre trip test as there were 5 questions out of 30 pertaining to it on the exam.

I'm running out of space My courses at HCC start next week 6/16/16 I will keep a log with that as well as add' insights

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.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

The primary person a driver communicates with at his/her company. A dispatcher can play many roles, depending on the company's structure. Dispatchers may assign freight, file requests for home time, relay messages between the driver and management, inform customer service of any delays, change appointment times, and report information to the load planners.

DMV:

Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

The state agency that handles everything related to your driver's licences, including testing, issuance, transfers, and revocation.

DUI:

Driving Under the Influence

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Welcome to Trucking Truth, New!

Yes, keep up the comments as you learn more stuff.

PS, you're not going to be a "Been" for very long. You ought to change your handle soon.

Newb's Comment
member avatar

Schooling at HCC has been going great. I've completed the first two weeks of in the classroom essentials. I have a great professor that really wants all of us to succeed and advance in the paths we have chosen to follow. He is very thorough and has been very insightful in helping everyone try to obtain their permits. He was an OTR driver for more then 20 years as well as a trainer, and I am finding his advice and everyday insights very informative. My particular class consists of 9 students from all walks of life. there's a former trucker driver that hasn't been on the road for a few years, an engineer, former felons looking for a fresh start, and quite a few who have been laid off from the oil industry here in Texas. Classes are essentially Mon thru Thurs from 7am to 530pm, with Friday either being optional to come to the lab and study or to study from home for a total of 6 weeks. They also offer weekend classes as well as night classes. The course I'm taking is PTDI certified which has been beneficial, since a few of the companies I've applied for require it. I've sent my application out to about 20 companies that meet the criteria I am looking for EX: longer training time, no team driving after, pet friendly, etc. I've received a few notices of rejection due to being self employed and not being able to proof my work history with tax forms. I've also received about 5 pre hire letters from companies willing to take other forms of verification. A few companies also have my app going thru their safety departments so hoping to hear back from them after the holiday. I will be doing a bit more research and hope to get at least a few more applications out there in the next week.

WEEK 1: The first two weeks are geared towards getting everyone prepared to successfully pass their permits tests. There was a brief getting to know each other time. We watched a few videos on life as a trucker, safety and general information. Each day we read thru our DPS handbooks and took sample tests than went over them at length as a class and discussed our answers. There is really so much to learn and retain and I'm sure it will eventually get easier with constant practice and time. We learned the general parts of the truck and went out side to look and learn how the air brakes work, since this is hard to grasp without actually seeing it in person. We spent quite a bit of time in the computer lab going thru our course book and taking tests at the end of each section. A couple different recruiters stopped by this week which is very beneficial in my eyes as I wasn't expecting it.

WEEK2: More permit preparation and much of the same as discussed in week 1. We also discussed vehicular weights, balancing your load, sliding the tandems , hazmat , tankers, triples and doubles , pre-trip, en-route, post inspection. We spent a good couple days learning to read a road atlas, computing trip miles, as well as trip planning. By the last day of the week you are expected to have your permit as this is the first day we actually get behind the wheel. Thursday morning more trip planning then the last half of the day most of us got behind the wheel for the first time. We learned "in person" our pre trip before getting behind the wheel and coupling up with a trailer. we were split into 2 groups 3-4 people and spent the last few hours taking turns practicing straight line back and moving forward in first gear between 2 lines. Two different recruiters stopped by the school this week as well.

I'm honestly a little intimidated by the sheer size of these tractors but hopefully overcome this soon. I've driven a manual 4 wheeler most of my life and my instinct is constantly telling me to push the clutch all the way down when stopping. I hope to overcome this habit very soon and with more practice. I've had an excellent first experience at HCC so far and would highly recommend it for anyone looking for an affordable CDL course in the Houston area. This is a longer course then a lot of them out there, but I personally would rather get more practice then less before getting out on the road. I hold a high regard for my life as well as others out there on the road.

I'm sure I am forgetting a few items we covered but if anyone has questions feel free to ask. We will spend the next four weeks out on the range and I will keep you all posted as to how things are going. Not really sure if taking the time to write this is really of benefit to anyone due to little response but hopefully it will help someone down the line. Take care all will check in soon with a progress update.

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.

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

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.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Doubles:

Refers to pulling two trailers at the same time, otherwise known as "pups" or "pup trailers" because they're only about 28 feet long. However there are some states that allow doubles that are each 48 feet in length.

Pre Hire:

What Exactly Is A Pre-Hire Letter?

Pre-hire letters are acceptance letters from trucking companies to students, or even potential students, to verify placement. The trucking companies are saying in writing that the student, or potential student, appears to meet the company's minimum hiring requirements and is welcome to attend their orientation at the company’s expense once he or she graduates from truck driving school and has their CDL in hand.

We have an excellent article that will help you Understand The Pre-Hire Process.

A Pre-Hire Letter Is Not A Guarantee Of Employment

The people that receive a pre-hire letter are people who meet the company's minimum hiring requirements, but it is not an employment contract. It is an invitation to orientation, and the orientation itself is a prerequisite to employment.

During the orientation you will get a physical, drug screen, and background check done. These and other qualifications must be met before someone in orientation is officially hired.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar
I'm honestly a little intimidated by the sheer size of these tractors but hopefully overcome this soon.

Yes, you probably will be. You ride higher than in a car, and your truck will fill in the space between the lines on the road. Fill It In!

But quickly you'll get used to it. Narrow lanes in construction zones won't freak you out, it'll just be a lane narrower than usual. Just a few days and you'll be OK.

Not really sure if taking the time to write this is really of benefit to anyone due to little response but hopefully it will help someone down the line.

What does a radio DJ do? They are talking all day long at a collection of electronics at their desk. They can't tell if anyone is listening. But they are. Reading does not leave fingerprints, either. So, keep going. Your experience will be useful to someone in the future.

Stewart A.'s Comment
member avatar

I agree with Errol. There many people who will read what you have to share and never respond. Your experience however will provide much needed information for them in making decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. Mixed with the posts from others it will help some to choose the right company or class to attend. It will help them better prepare for what is ahead and have a greater chance at success. It will help others to stick with it and see it through to their goal and dream and still others it will help to keep from making a big mistake.

It will also help you, because you will receive good sound advice from people like Errol to help you with questions and hard times as you progress. So keep your posts coming whether you hear back from people or not.

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.

440DoubleBuck's Comment
member avatar

I find your story very interesting as I am looking for the same thing e.g. no teams after training and being able to take my dog as a solo. Keep up the good work!!!

Mike's Comment
member avatar

I find ur story interesting also. FYI- Monday starts my 2nd week at CDL school and its been grand so far. I have put out a couple feelers so far and actually had a recruiter from Stevens call me this morning. Keep on posting plz !!

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.
Danielle's Comment
member avatar

This is very helpful to me. I am hoping to get in the cdl trucking program at HCC. I have applied for the PELL grant to pay the $3500 tuition fee but was told there will be a 3-6 month waiting list. Which is no problem to me seeing that my lease will end in about 4 months which is perfect. Hopefully you see this post and update us on the status of finishing the program and where you are now in your trucking career. Thank you.

Schooling at HCC has been going great. I've completed the first two weeks of in the classroom essentials. I have a great professor that really wants all of us to succeed and advance in the paths we have chosen to follow. He is very thorough and has been very insightful in helping everyone try to obtain their permits. He was an OTR driver for more then 20 years as well as a trainer, and I am finding his advice and everyday insights very informative. My particular class consists of 9 students from all walks of life. there's a former trucker driver that hasn't been on the road for a few years, an engineer, former felons looking for a fresh start, and quite a few who have been laid off from the oil industry here in Texas. Classes are essentially Mon thru Thurs from 7am to 530pm, with Friday either being optional to come to the lab and study or to study from home for a total of 6 weeks. They also offer weekend classes as well as night classes. The course I'm taking is PTDI certified which has been beneficial, since a few of the companies I've applied for require it. I've sent my application out to about 20 companies that meet the criteria I am looking for EX: longer training time, no team driving after, pet friendly, etc. I've received a few notices of rejection due to being self employed and not being able to proof my work history with tax forms. I've also received about 5 pre hire letters from companies willing to take other forms of verification. A few companies also have my app going thru their safety departments so hoping to hear back from them after the holiday. I will be doing a bit more research and hope to get at least a few more applications out there in the next week.

WEEK 1: The first two weeks are geared towards getting everyone prepared to successfully pass their permits tests. There was a brief getting to know each other time. We watched a few videos on life as a trucker, safety and general information. Each day we read thru our DPS handbooks and took sample tests than went over them at length as a class and discussed our answers. There is really so much to learn and retain and I'm sure it will eventually get easier with constant practice and time. We learned the general parts of the truck and went out side to look and learn how the air brakes work, since this is hard to grasp without actually seeing it in person. We spent quite a bit of time in the computer lab going thru our course book and taking tests at the end of each section. A couple different recruiters stopped by this week which is very beneficial in my eyes as I wasn't expecting it.

WEEK2: More permit preparation and much of the same as discussed in week 1. We also discussed vehicular weights, balancing your load, sliding the tandems , hazmat , tankers, triples and doubles , pre-trip, en-route, post inspection. We spent a good couple days learning to read a road atlas, computing trip miles, as well as trip planning. By the last day of the week you are expected to have your permit as this is the first day we actually get behind the wheel. Thursday morning more trip planning then the last half of the day most of us got behind the wheel for the first time. We learned "in person" our pre trip before getting behind the wheel and coupling up with a trailer. we were split into 2 groups 3-4 people and spent the last few hours taking turns practicing straight line back and moving forward in first gear between 2 lines. Two different recruiters stopped by the school this week as well.

I'm honestly a little intimidated by the sheer size of these tractors but hopefully overcome this soon. I've driven a manual 4 wheeler most of my life and my instinct is constantly telling me to push the clutch all the way down when stopping. I hope to overcome this habit very soon and with more practice. I've had an excellent first experience at HCC so far and would highly recommend it for anyone looking for an affordable CDL course in the Houston area. This is a longer course then a lot of them out there, but I personally would rather get more practice then less before getting out on the road. I hold a high regard for my life as well as others out there on the road.

I'm sure I am forgetting a few items we covered but if anyone has questions feel free to ask. We will spend the next four weeks out on the range and I will keep you all posted as to how things are going. Not really sure if taking the time to write this is really of benefit to anyone due to little response but hopefully it will help someone down the line. Take care all will check in soon with a progress update.

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.

HAZMAT:

Hazardous Materials

Explosive, flammable, poisonous or otherwise potentially dangerous cargo. Large amounts of especially hazardous cargo are required to be placarded under HAZMAT regulations

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.

Tandems:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Tandem:

Tandem Axles

A set of axles spaced close together, legally defined as more than 40 and less than 96 inches apart by the USDOT. Drivers tend to refer to the tandem axles on their trailer as just "tandems". You might hear a driver say, "I'm 400 pounds overweight on my tandems", referring to his trailer tandems, not his tractor tandems. Tractor tandems are generally just referred to as "drives" which is short for "drive axles".

Doubles:

Refers to pulling two trailers at the same time, otherwise known as "pups" or "pup trailers" because they're only about 28 feet long. However there are some states that allow doubles that are each 48 feet in length.

Pre Hire:

What Exactly Is A Pre-Hire Letter?

Pre-hire letters are acceptance letters from trucking companies to students, or even potential students, to verify placement. The trucking companies are saying in writing that the student, or potential student, appears to meet the company's minimum hiring requirements and is welcome to attend their orientation at the company’s expense once he or she graduates from truck driving school and has their CDL in hand.

We have an excellent article that will help you Understand The Pre-Hire Process.

A Pre-Hire Letter Is Not A Guarantee Of Employment

The people that receive a pre-hire letter are people who meet the company's minimum hiring requirements, but it is not an employment contract. It is an invitation to orientation, and the orientation itself is a prerequisite to employment.

During the orientation you will get a physical, drug screen, and background check done. These and other qualifications must be met before someone in orientation is officially hired.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
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