Newb Questions About CDL Training And Qualifications

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sd1978's Comment
member avatar

Hey everyone,

I’ve been lurking for a while and have finally made the decision to make the jump into trucking. I’m currently researching schools and companies.

I’m hoping to get some help with a few initial questions:

1). I’m strongly favoring the private school route (SAGE) over company sponsored training. Reasons: it’s closer to home, I have the money to do it, hoping for a better quality training program, don’t want to be locked into a single company.

I get the feeling that many here prefer the company-sponsored route. Are there other things I should be considering?

2). What’s a reasonable estimate about the time between finishing CDL school and getting hired into an OTR job with one of the big companies?

3). What are some of the things that prevent new drivers from finding/landing work once out of CDL school?

4). I am working on getting documentation together for my DOT medical (sleep apnea, bipolar meds). Both conditions are stable with existing treatment.

So far, my doctors have been supportive with writing medical opinion release letters.

I gather that some (many?) companies have their own medical standards that go beyond the DOT medical. How much should I worry about this being a barrier to entry into this career?

Thanks in advance for any 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.

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.

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.

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.

Bruce K.'s Comment
member avatar

I went to a private school for many of the reasons you gave. And the company I was already leaning towards doesn’t have a CDL program any more, so I got my CDL and then I was offered a job with Schneider a week after I passed my road test in Wisconsin And yes the company’s medical and health requirements went beyond what I needed to get my Fed Med card

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.
Big T's Comment
member avatar

Why spend your money if someone else is willing to spend theirs?

If you're smart you're going to stay with your first company for at least a year so the contract isn't really an issue.

Remember the point of school is to get you your cdl nothing more. The company sponsored route is going to put you in the position of having a job once done. So that takes care of the how long question also.

It also creates a scenario where they are vested in you and your success.

Hey everyone,

I’ve been lurking for a while and have finally made the decision to make the jump into trucking. I’m currently researching schools and companies.

I’m hoping to get some help with a few initial questions:

1). I’m strongly favoring the private school route (SAGE) over company sponsored training. Reasons: it’s closer to home, I have the money to do it, hoping for a better quality training program, don’t want to be locked into a single company.

I get the feeling that many here prefer the company-sponsored route. Are there other things I should be considering?

2). What’s a reasonable estimate about the time between finishing CDL school and getting hired into an OTR job with one of the big companies?

3). What are some of the things that prevent new drivers from finding/landing work once out of CDL school?

4). I am working on getting documentation together for my DOT medical (sleep apnea, bipolar meds). Both conditions are stable with existing treatment.

So far, my doctors have been supportive with writing medical opinion release letters.

I gather that some (many?) companies have their own medical standards that go beyond the DOT medical. How much should I worry about this being a barrier to entry into this career?

Thanks in advance for any 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.

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.

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.

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.

Steve L.'s Comment
member avatar

I went private school and reported to Schneider Orientation three weeks after completing school because it was Christmas. I had plenty of pre-hires before graduation, but Schneider was where I wanted to go.

Big companies will usually (as Schneider did) do tuition reimbursement. So, even though I laid out the money up front, I got it back.

Some will say the company has no skin in the game if you go to private school, but (my opinion) they have no reason to bring you to Orientation just to spit you out either.

Why pay if someone else will? Schneider didn’t offer school when I went through and that was THE company I wanted.

I hope this helps.

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.

Bruce K.'s Comment
member avatar

Like Steve L, I’m receiving tuition reimbursement from Schneider. It’s paid out slowly but steadily to make sure you don’t jump ship. Same with the sign up bonus.

Truckin Along With Kearse's Comment
member avatar

Im bumping this for the other mods. I cant answet right now..

Bobcat_Bob's Comment
member avatar

1. I went private school route as well my opinion differs from what the site generally recommends, so all I will say about this is I agree with Steve L.

2. If you do it right you can be in training the day after you get your CDL.

When I was in school Swift said if I pass my test Friday, I pickup my actual license Monday as you have to wait a day in Illinois, I could have been in orientation Tuesday.

3. Anyone of a million reasons. Generally it is drug test or back ground related or as in another thread driving record related.

Also your attitude with the recruiter and orientation staff is important.

4. Unfortunately, this is a hard one to answer as each company has different medications that it will not allow, just because you get a DOT card doesnt mean a company has to accept it.

I would make sure to check with any recruiter to be sure. Make sure to get a email with it in writing to be certain there is no missunderstandings.

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.

Brett Aquila's Comment
member avatar
hoping for a better quality training program

Take a look at this comparison and see what you think:

Private schools:

  • Are very small businesses who are strapped for cash
  • Will require you to pay the tuition up front and you'll have to fund your own way through full time schooling without pay
  • Are almost always using old, junky, outdated equipment that doesn't resemble what you will be driving after graduation
  • Is training you purely for profit, meaning the cheaper they can train you the more money they'll make
  • Will be sending you on your way after graduation and will have no skin in the game regarding the rest of your career
  • Require you to find a job after graduation

Paid CDL Training Programs on the other hand:

  • Are large corporations with tons of money behind
  • Will pay for your schooling up front and either pay you during the training or give you funding to support your household during training
  • Train you on beautiful new equipment identical to what you'll be driving after training
  • Are investing their money up front in your training in hopes you'll go on to become a successful driver for the company
  • Will lose a ton of money if you don't turn out to be successful for them, meaning they have tons of skin in the game
  • Will give you a job upon completion of the training
  • Will support you throughout your initial rookie phase which is when most rookies make mistakes and can easily find themselves without a job or good prospects if they get fired from a company who hired you after graduating from a private school

I'm not sure how private schooling could possibly match up to paid training programs, and if you look at the stats over the past 10 years the number of private schools has dropped significantly while paid training programs offered by major carriers are growing in numbers and expanding at existing companies.

don’t want to be locked into a single company.

This is an utterly absurd perspective for a brand new drivers to have and I blame it on the fact that you're always hearing "Truck drivers are in demand." It gives people this idea that because they have a CDL they're highly valuable. This is completely untrue.

What it should say is, "Experienced, safe, reliable, highly productive truck drivers are in high demand," not some newbie off the street who doesn't know what he's doing yet.

Having a CDL will give you an opportunity to prove you can become a top tier driver but you're certainly not some highly valued free agent who is going to have people begging for their services. In fact, people often spend a ton of time researching companies because they think they'll get their pick. This is rarely the case. Most companies have huge stacks of student applications and only accept a small percentage of them. I get emails daily from people exasperated by the fact that their top 3 or 5 companies all turned them down. They thought they were in demand and had their pick of the litter. It doesn't work that way.

If you think you're going to jump from job to job as a new driver like some superstar athlete and get ahead of the game you don't understand how any of this works. Read this article from Old School:

Busting The Free Agent Myth In Trucking

You should be focused on sticking with your first company for one full year:

Why Stick With Your First Company One Full Year?

Also, have a look at this for more information about private vs paid training:

Why I Prefer Paid CDL Training Over Private CDL Training

Go through those materials and let us know what you think and what questions you may have.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Truckin Along With Kearse's Comment
member avatar
I am working on getting documentation together for my DOT medical (sleep apnea, bipolar meds). Both conditions are stable with existing treatment

THIS is my concern. Just because your doctors state you are stable does not mean the companies will accept your meds. It is common practice for a company to send someone home for certain meds, and you dont know the meds until you get to the company doctor. Then they want you to return 30 days after a new med and stable. With company sponsored training , you will be told by the company you are not hireable BEFORE forking out thousands of dollars for school. And no, recruiters cannot answer medical questions, and companies fear discrimination lawsuits so they bring people in for exams with the doctors.

Local schools accept anyone who can pay. Trucking companies, on the other hand, are selective. If someone has medical or background issues, it could prevent them from getting hired. We see it here all the time. If it takes months for you to get hired because of issues, your 160 hour training certificate loses its potency. Meaning if you can't get hired for months, your schooling becomes wasted time and money. Some companies may want you to go through schooling again.

Reasons: it’s closer to home, I have the money to do it, hoping for a better quality training program, don’t want to be locked into a single company.

With company sponsored training you are hired as soon as you pass your CDL exam and get the CDL. Most of these are a matters of weeks of daily intensive training without work or family distractions. Your entire focus is on training.

Prime, WilTrans/Jim Palmer and a few others put students one on one with trainers OTR making deliveries before they take the exam. They drive in all sorts of conditions including time of day and work traffic downgrades and all sorts of weather. This might take a couple weeks of up to 11 hours per day. So what makes you think a local school sharing a truck with a few other students and driving a total of a couple hours over weeks could be better than this style of company sponsored schooling?

What are your goals after school? Do you realize you should stay with your first company for a full year? A year goes by quickly. Training companies are way more forgiving when it comes to accidents and fender benders, so trying to go to smaller or local companies could be an issue.

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.

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.

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.

Bruce K.'s Comment
member avatar

Rainy, I hadn’t heard of the 160 day training certificates . What exactly is it?

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