Trying To Break Into OTR With No Experience?

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Mike's Comment
member avatar

Well, as the title says, I'd like to get into OTR , but lack experience. Here is a little background on me. I'm 33, got my CDL back in '98 as soon as I turned 18. I have driven off and on throughout the years, oilfield, ready mix, and other local stuff. My family owned a small dump truck company, so I never went to a "truck driving school." (They retired and sold out while I was in the military). So far I've had zero luck even getting a company to look at me since I have no OTR experience and no school. What can I do? I have a clean driving record, and can handle a big truck without any issue. I do not know the paperwork side of OTR though.

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.

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.

Steve C.'s Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

The way I see it you have three options, but maybe others can think of more. 1.) get a refresher course at a school, this will count for most companies as being a "recent CDL graduate" so even though you've had your license for a long time they will treat you as new. 2.) Go to a company that has company sponsored CDL training, this way you don't have to pay for the refresher course, but you will be in a training program with a lot of people who have never driven a truck. 3.) Find a small company that will take a chance on you and get your OTR experience. Then try to get a job with a bigger company (unless you like the small company, in which case stick around). This will be the hardest option to find.

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.

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.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

Welcome aboard Mike!

Steve nailed it. Those are basically your choices. I'll expand on it a little.

If you start applying for jobs with Trucking Companies That Hire Inexperienced Drivers they'll tell you what they would require of you to qualify. Some will say you need a refresher course, others may say you need a full course. This is called applying for "pre-hires". We have an excellent article on Understanding Pre-Hires which explains how it all works.

We also have a great listing of Truck Driving Jobs and you'll see an option for applying to all companies with one application. If you do that it will send your application to any companies that hire inexperienced drivers. Then call them back maybe every other day or so to make sure they're working on your application.

Now another choice Steve mentioned was going through a Company-Sponsored Training Program. Those are trucking companies that offer their own CDL training. They'll give you whatever training you need and put you to work once the training is complete.

The last option is to check places like Craigslist for mom-n-pop companies or owner operators that are willing to give you a shot without any schooling. But I'll say this - there aren't too many legitimate companies that will do this. The ones that will are clearly more desperate for drivers. And that's not to say you can't handle a rig. It's just that you haven't had the "proper training" by recent standards and most companies require that you have either legitimate truck driving school or over the road experience. So you'll want to be very careful if you pursue this option. I would recommend either getting pre-hires and going through a refresher course or going through a company-sponsored program.

Finally, I'll say this...think long term when making a decision. A lot of people get hung up on trivial details and make poor decisions. They pick a company because its training period is a week shorter or they'll pick a Truck Driving School because their recruiter called them back quickly. Don't get hung up on trivial details. Make a decision that makes sense for your career in the long term.

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.

Over The Road:

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.

Owner Operator:

An owner-operator is a driver who either owns or leases the truck they are driving. A self-employed driver.

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.

Pre-hires:

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.

Company-sponsored Training:

A Company-Sponsored Training Program is a school that is owned and operated by a trucking company.

The schooling often requires little or no money up front. Instead of paying up-front tuition you will sign an agreement to work for the company for a specified amount of time after graduation, usually around a year, at a slightly lower rate of pay in order to pay for the training.

If you choose to quit working for the company before your year is up, they will normally require you to pay back a prorated amount of money for the schooling. The amount you pay back will be comparable to what you would have paid if you went to an independently owned school.

Company-sponsored training can be an excellent way to get your career underway if you can't afford the tuition up front for private schooling.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Scott L.'s Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

Well, as the title says, I'd like to get into OTR , but lack experience. Here is a little background on me. I'm 33, got my CDL back in '98 as soon as I turned 18. I have driven off and on throughout the years, oilfield, ready mix, and other local stuff. My family owned a small dump truck company, so I never went to a "truck driving school." (They retired and sold out while I was in the military). So far I've had zero luck even getting a company to look at me since I have no OTR experience and no school. What can I do? I have a clean driving record, and can handle a big truck without any issue. I do not know the paperwork side of OTR though.

Mike - As a Veteran you have a couple of additional options, Do you have any Post 9/11 or MGI Bill left? If so, particularly with Post 9/11 find a carrier that has an approved apprenticeship program (http://inquiry.vba.va.gov/weamspub/buildSearchInstitutionCriteria.do)which you can get some monthly income in addition to your company earnings. Or you can try Voc-Rehab.

Scott

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.

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.

Steve C.'s Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

The way I see it you have three options, but maybe others can think of more. 1.) get a refresher course at a school, this will count for most companies as being a "recent CDL graduate" so even though you've had your license for a long time they will treat you as new. 2.) Go to a company that has company sponsored CDL training, this way you don't have to pay for the refresher course, but you will be in a training program with a lot of people who have never driven a truck. 3.) Find a small company that will take a chance on you and get your OTR experience. Then try to get a job with a bigger company (unless you like the small company, in which case stick around). This will be the hardest option to find.

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.

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.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
Great Answer!

Welcome aboard Mike!

Steve nailed it. Those are basically your choices. I'll expand on it a little.

If you start applying for jobs with Trucking Companies That Hire Inexperienced Drivers they'll tell you what they would require of you to qualify. Some will say you need a refresher course, others may say you need a full course. This is called applying for "pre-hires". We have an excellent article on Understanding Pre-Hires which explains how it all works.

We also have a great listing of Truck Driving Jobs and you'll see an option for applying to all companies with one application. If you do that it will send your application to any companies that hire inexperienced drivers. Then call them back maybe every other day or so to make sure they're working on your application.

Now another choice Steve mentioned was going through a Company-Sponsored Training Program. Those are trucking companies that offer their own CDL training. They'll give you whatever training you need and put you to work once the training is complete.

The last option is to check places like Craigslist for mom-n-pop companies or owner operators that are willing to give you a shot without any schooling. But I'll say this - there aren't too many legitimate companies that will do this. The ones that will are clearly more desperate for drivers. And that's not to say you can't handle a rig. It's just that you haven't had the "proper training" by recent standards and most companies require that you have either legitimate truck driving school or over the road experience. So you'll want to be very careful if you pursue this option. I would recommend either getting pre-hires and going through a refresher course or going through a company-sponsored program.

Finally, I'll say this...think long term when making a decision. A lot of people get hung up on trivial details and make poor decisions. They pick a company because its training period is a week shorter or they'll pick a Truck Driving School because their recruiter called them back quickly. Don't get hung up on trivial details. Make a decision that makes sense for your career in the long term.

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.

Over The Road:

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.

Owner Operator:

An owner-operator is a driver who either owns or leases the truck they are driving. A self-employed driver.

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.

Pre-hires:

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.

Company-sponsored Training:

A Company-Sponsored Training Program is a school that is owned and operated by a trucking company.

The schooling often requires little or no money up front. Instead of paying up-front tuition you will sign an agreement to work for the company for a specified amount of time after graduation, usually around a year, at a slightly lower rate of pay in order to pay for the training.

If you choose to quit working for the company before your year is up, they will normally require you to pay back a prorated amount of money for the schooling. The amount you pay back will be comparable to what you would have paid if you went to an independently owned school.

Company-sponsored training can be an excellent way to get your career underway if you can't afford the tuition up front for private schooling.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Mike's Comment
member avatar

Well, looks like I'm gonna just bite the bullet and go to school. After talking to a couple places, as it stands, my CDL that I've had for 15 years is useless since i never drove OTR. Hopefully the school doesn't take too long. I'm out of work and need a job ASAP.

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.

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.

SAP:

Substance Abuse Professional

The Substance Abuse Professional (SAP) is a person who evaluates employees who have violated a DOT drug and alcohol program regulation and makes recommendations concerning education, treatment, follow-up testing, and aftercare.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar

Are you going to one of the Company-Sponsored Programs or are you going to take a refresher course at a local school to get hired on somewhere?

It's very odd that the OTR companies only consider OTR driving as "driving experience". It's always been that way and I could never make any sense out of it. I've driven about every type of truck there is and there are a lot more difficult and dangerous jobs than driving OTR, especially a tri-axle dump truck or a local food grade tanker job. Heck, if you can handle a 72,000 pound tri-axle dump truck with that high center of gravity in heavy traffic and off-road conditions through the quarries, you can do anything. But OTR companies only consider OTR in 18 wheelers as driving experience.

Oh well.

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.

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.

Mike's Comment
member avatar

I agree. I've had bulk trailers and especially ready mix trucks in places I wouldn't take a 4x4 pickup, but I guess that doesn't qualify me to keep a rig between the lines. Oh well, it's their game and if I wanna play, gotta play by their rules. I'll prob be going to a local school. Don't want to tie myself into any one company just to "pay back" the training. It's not too pricey, and gives me the freedom to check multiple companies out.

Starcar's Comment
member avatar

Mike, check into the VA programs that may help you with getting thru a school...

And thank you for your service..

Now go out there and start your adventure !!!!

Mike's Comment
member avatar

So I was planning on going tomorrow and signing up for a school. Does the school really matter as long as you get 160hrs? It's at the local college here. My only concern is after graduating a company not wanting to accept my cert.

Starcar's Comment
member avatar

If your college is accredited, and they give you a certificate...but the best way to know is ask them if they offer any job placement services...If they don't, it will probably mean that no company will touch their graduates, because of certification trouble....

Steven B.'s Comment
member avatar

One thing I don't quite understand about this situation is that some of the big companies have orientations for recent grads to practice driving their trucks. It would seem that they would extend the offer to anyone else with a valid CDL , and sometimes they require minimum driving experience on top of that. So, why have an orientation and require recent experience upfront... wouldn't the purpose of the orientation be to give the driver recent experience?

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.
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