Is It Possible To Just Jump Into A Truck And Learn Enough To Get A CDL Without School?

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Vincent S.'s Comment
member avatar

Okay here's a better question:

if, IF I can manage to get a company to hire me without the 160 hours cert. and I get, say 1+ year experience with that company with a lot of miles logged...would not having the 160 hour cert. hurt my job opportunities down the road? Or would they not care, if I had thousands of logged accident free miles already?

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Once you have one year of safe OTR experience your training certificate is no longer needed. At that point you have verifiable experience. Just keep in mind, most companies will require that experience to be OTR.

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.

Big Scott (CFI Driver and's Comment
member avatar

Yes, you can do it at your current job and keep working for them. In NC to legally get your CDL you get your DOT card and pass the permit test. Then you have to wait a minimum of 14 days before you can test for your CDL.

Now most companies who will hire you without experience, fresh out of school, will require that 160 hour certification. CFI will put you through their school for free and train you. Your contract with them is 12 months. Every month you work off 1/12th of your contract. You can pay them any time. I have been out here 17 months with CFI. That first year flew by.

We recommend Paid CDL Training Programs because these companies have more tolerance for beginners mistakes. Many people who start this career have little to no money to lay out for CDL Training and need the paid training. After one year of safe driving out here more jobs open up for you. Also, with experience companies won't care about your training. Paid CDL Training Programs are the least expensive and quickest path to solo driving.

I hope this better answers your questions. Good luck.

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.

Grumpy Old Man's Comment
member avatar

To expand on Big Scott's post, let's say you go your route, with a local company. They have zero dollars invested in you. You have an accident or two, they decide to cut their losses, since they have nothing at stake. Now, you have to find another company, with a couple of accidents on your record.

Now, apply that to a company who paid for your training. They have significant money invested in your education. Yes, if you have a significant issue, they may still decide to cut their losses, $5 to $10K isn't going to break them, but for minor issues, they will give you more training, and give you another shot.

As long as they treat you right, and you are making good money, you would probably stay anyway, right? So why not use their money, and keep yours in the bank? Or use it to buy toys, etc.?

If Wolding had a paid school, no way would I use my own money, and if Wolding hadn't offered me a pre-hire , a paid program is exactly what I would have done. I really wanted to work with Wolding, both for their reputation and the position that suited me for home time. Otherwise, I would have kept my money.

And you can buy out your contract at any time. Not to mention, some of the companies are cheaper than private school. Millis is only a couple of grand ($1,000 if you are a veteran), and another I looked at was around $3500 (Maverick, maybe?). I am almost positive Maverick says you can pay them right after training if you want, and be free and clear. At least a couple of the companies I researched gave that option.

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.

EPU:

Electric Auxiliary Power Units

Electric APUs have started gaining acceptance. These electric APUs use battery packs instead of the diesel engine on traditional APUs as a source of power. The APU's battery pack is charged when the truck is in motion. When the truck is idle, the stored energy in the battery pack is then used to power an air conditioner, heater, and other devices

Old School's Comment
member avatar
Okay here's a better question:

Vincent, here's what I don't get about you...

How is it that you trust us to give you good guidance with your questions when you clearly don't trust our input on how you can accomplish your goals while keeping your hard earned cash in your own pocket?

I don't need a loan for 3,500 dollars. Is there some kind of problem, or even a difference between who pays the bill for CDL school? What if I simply prefer paying my own way? What's the difference? It's literally the exact same school I'd be attending. Again, it's a little bizarre...

Why wouldn't they prefer someone pay their own way? Companies don't do things like that because they're just nice. There's some sort of profit motive behind it... I'm not saying I'm buying into the "free agent" myth. Obviously I still need training...but I don't think I need to spend 3,500/reimburse something "valued at 5000 dollars" and sign a lower paying contract on something I can easily pay for up front, myself. Yes I realize I still need to stay at the first company for a year anyways, I get all that...but I still prefer not to enter any binding contracts, if it all possible.

Okay, I understand you have the means, but your suspicious about the motive of companies paying for your schooling. Their motivation is that they need drivers, and they've discovered that the drivers they commit to oftentimes end up committed to them. Our friends Rainy, Big Scott, and G-Town are excellent examples of this very behavior.

Vincent, I was able to easily pay for my CDL training, and in fact I did exactly that. I attended the Lufkin Truck Driving Academy in Lufkin, TX. Due to some completely unforeseen issues I started getting rejected everywhere I tried. I actually got sent home from three different orientations, and can give you a long list of companies that just flatly rejected me because they "had better candidates." Had I gone through the Paid CDL Training Programs, all those problems would have been dealt with before I even got started on the whole journey. I promote it because even after committing my own funds, I barely got started at all. After some time had passed, one company sent me home on the first day of orientation because they decided my training certificate had gone stale. Too much time had passed from my schooling until I got there for my "on the job training."

I work for Knight Transportation, and have over a half a million miles in with them. If anyone had an interest in my promotional efforts it would be them. If you are suspicious of my efforts, try and find where I have been outspoken in promoting their company - you'll waste your time and effort. I am not paid by anyone, including Trucking Truth to advocate Company Sponsored Training. I completely volunteer my time in here to help others like you. My experience at paying my own way into this career did not go well. I made it in eventually, and have done well, but brother I could have given up a thousand times.

My reasons for advocating the Paid CDL Training Programs are purely based on my personal experiences. I would have saved myself a lot of money, and a lot of grief, had I known then what I know now. You have no reason to be suspicious of my advice. It's pure and simple, based on my personal journey into this very rewarding career.

Your comment about signing a lower paying contract is comical to me. Nobody is going to pay a rookie driver with nothing to offer but a shiny new license in their possession any sort of really amazing wages. In fact I would challenge you to find yourself an entry level trucking job that would pay you more than Prime would agree to pay you after completing the training that they will not only pay for, but also pay you a 700 dollar minimum weekly amount while you're in the TNT portion of their training.

It's a win win combination for new drivers. That's the reason you'll hear me promote it.

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.

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.

TNT:

Trainer-N-Trainee

Prime Inc has their own CDL training program and it's divided into two phases - PSD and TNT.

The PSD (Prime Student Driver) phase is where you'll get your permit and then go on the road for 10,000 miles with a trainer. When you come back you'll get your CDL license and enter the TNT phase.

The TNT phase is the second phase of training where you'll go on the road with an experienced driver for 30,000 miles of team driving. You'll receive 14¢ per mile ($700 per week guaranteed) during this phase. Once you're finished with TNT training you will be assigned a truck to run solo.

Grumpy Old Man's Comment
member avatar

Yes, I have the means to pay for my own as well, and I am just a regular member here, just like you. No one is paying me a penny. I have zero interest in steering you in the company paid programs, other than it makes sense from a financial and job security standpoint.

Ask any rich person, and they will tell you to use other people's money if possible. My wife wanted to use savings to pay cash for our last truck. I said why would we do that, when they are offering zero percent interest AND the rebates? Keep our money in the bank and earning interest, and use their money.

If you still insist on using your money, go for it, it doesn't matter to me, but without a compelling reason, I would advise against it. For that matter, don't take our word for it. Ask a financial planner, banker, etc. Just be sure to mention that you would probably stay the required period anyway, as long as they treat you right, and you have the option to pay it off and leave at any time, for any reason, and on a prorated basis, even. I'm surprised they don't make you pay the full amount if you leave. But luckily, they don't.

Rob T.'s Comment
member avatar

Vincent im in a different position than most members here. I attended a private school (160 driving academy in Moline Illinois) rather that what the other sites refer to as "CDL Mills". My employer footed the bill but even after i spent 4 weeks in school and passed my cdl i still didnt know squat about real world driving or backing. I cant recall if it was you or another poster that recently told us even obtaining cdl before going to a company they were still forcing a contract of 1 year otherwise pay a penalty. The school i attended was roughly $4,000 however some companies like US XPRESS would force you to pay back i believe it was $11,000 if you didn't fulfill your contract. These companies are willing to train because they have such a demand for top drivers and theyre hoping they can get lucky and get some this way. Many people also begin this career with very little money to spare. I think you said the school was Roadmaster, in that case double check the cost. I checked the school in tampa few years ago and the cost was different depending on self pay, financed, or company sponsoring it. If you do pay your way many companies offer reimbursement for schooling.

If you're trying to avoid schooling there are local companies such as pepsi, sysco, holland that will hire you with only a permit but thats a real rough route to take. Alot of city driving, close quarter maneuvering and tight backs often beyond the skill level of a rookie. I started in local food service straight of school but also went through 12 weeks of training with my trainer in the seat next to me. Even with that training i still had some close calls. Atleast in my area, most companies dont put you through as much training as i received.

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.

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.
G-Town's Comment
member avatar

Vincent please do not interchange the word aggressive for enthusiastic. Paid CDL Training Programs are the path of least resistance and provide you with a cushion so to speak, offering greater forgiveness in the event of committing a rookie mistake.

I am not paid by Trucking Truth or Swift to encourage newbies to seriously consider Company Paid Training. None of us are... Frankly makes no difference to me what company trains you, as long as you graduate with the 160 hours certificate. However short-cutting the learning process is highly discouraged, do it right, and do it right the first time.

Good luck.

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.
ChefsJK's Comment
member avatar

With Schneider you don't have to complete your 160 hours, I only drove maybe 50 hours the one week I was out with a trainer right after I obtained my license from private schooling, and then I was given my truck to go solo. Also in my area UPS Freight as well as ABF hire right out of school, both union positions where I live.

double-quotes-start.png

Okay here's a better question:

double-quotes-end.png

Vincent, here's what I don't get about you...

How is it that you trust us to give you good guidance with your questions when you clearly don't trust our input on how you can accomplish your goals while keeping your hard earned cash in your own pocket?

double-quotes-start.png

I don't need a loan for 3,500 dollars. Is there some kind of problem, or even a difference between who pays the bill for CDL school? What if I simply prefer paying my own way? What's the difference? It's literally the exact same school I'd be attending. Again, it's a little bizarre...

Why wouldn't they prefer someone pay their own way? Companies don't do things like that because they're just nice. There's some sort of profit motive behind it... I'm not saying I'm buying into the "free agent" myth. Obviously I still need training...but I don't think I need to spend 3,500/reimburse something "valued at 5000 dollars" and sign a lower paying contract on something I can easily pay for up front, myself. Yes I realize I still need to stay at the first company for a year anyways, I get all that...but I still prefer not to enter any binding contracts, if it all possible.

double-quotes-end.png

Okay, I understand you have the means, but your suspicious about the motive of companies paying for your schooling. Their motivation is that they need drivers, and they've discovered that the drivers they commit to oftentimes end up committed to them. Our friends Rainy, Big Scott, and G-Town are excellent examples of this very behavior.

Vincent, I was able to easily pay for my CDL training, and in fact I did exactly that. I attended the Lufkin Truck Driving Academy in Lufkin, TX. Due to some completely unforeseen issues I started getting rejected everywhere I tried. I actually got sent home from three different orientations, and can give you a long list of companies that just flatly rejected me because they "had better candidates." Had I gone through the Paid CDL Training Programs, all those problems would have been dealt with before I even got started on the whole journey. I promote it because even after committing my own funds, I barely got started at all. After some time had passed, one company sent me home on the first day of orientation because they decided my training certificate had gone stale. Too much time had passed from my schooling until I got there for my "on the job training."

I work for Knight Transportation, and have over a half a million miles in with them. If anyone had an interest in my promotional efforts it would be them. If you are suspicious of my efforts, try and find where I have been outspoken in promoting their company - you'll waste your time and effort. I am not paid by anyone, including Trucking Truth to advocate Company Sponsored Training. I completely volunteer my time in here to help others like you. My experience at paying my own way into this career did not go well. I made it in eventually, and have done well, but brother I could have given up a thousand times.

My reasons for advocating the Paid CDL Training Programs are purely based on my personal experiences. I would have saved myself a lot of money, and a lot of grief, had I known then what I know now. You have no reason to be suspicious of my advice. It's pure and simple, based on my personal journey into this very rewarding career.

Your comment about signing a lower paying contract is comical to me. Nobody is going to pay a rookie driver with nothing to offer but a shiny new license in their possession any sort of really amazing wages. In fact I would challenge you to find yourself an entry level trucking job that would pay you more than Prime would agree to pay you after completing the training that they will not only pay for, but also pay you a 700 dollar minimum weekly amount while you're in the TNT portion of their training.

It's a win win combination for new drivers. That's the reason you'll hear me promote it.

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.

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.

TNT:

Trainer-N-Trainee

Prime Inc has their own CDL training program and it's divided into two phases - PSD and TNT.

The PSD (Prime Student Driver) phase is where you'll get your permit and then go on the road for 10,000 miles with a trainer. When you come back you'll get your CDL license and enter the TNT phase.

The TNT phase is the second phase of training where you'll go on the road with an experienced driver for 30,000 miles of team driving. You'll receive 14¢ per mile ($700 per week guaranteed) during this phase. Once you're finished with TNT training you will be assigned a truck to run solo.

Old School's Comment
member avatar
I only drove maybe 50 hours the one week I was out with a trainer right after I obtained my license from private schooling

How many weeks was your private schooling?

That's where the 160 hours applies. It's not 160 hours of driving. It is a cumulative number for classroom time, observation time, and driving time. As of now there are no real standards set. It is just sort of a random selection of something that has proven to be efficiently effective. Most private schools last four weeks, thus they consider 40 hours each week totals 160 hours.

Schneider has a much shorter training period than most other companies, but that's not what we are referencing when we refer to the training certificate.

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