Starting Company Sponsored Training - Is Mid To Late December An Ideal Time To Start?

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Eugene K.'s Comment
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Greetings everyone! I hope everyone enjoyed Thanksgiving and the ensuing comatose slumber.

I'm only five days away from my CDL permit test at my local DMV here in Virginia, and plan to jump right on submitting my applications (some companies have been able to keep existing apps on file, most are requiring me to re-submit because they only keep on file for 30 days). IF everything goes according to plan, I'll be lucky enough to accept an offer at company-sponsored training and start on this adventure.

Due to the timing, my original plan was to just ride out the holidays and start training just after the New Year. But aside from excitement to get started, another thought came to mind: it seems like the week or two just before Christmas wouldn't exactly be a popular time to start training. As such, class sizes are likely to be a lot smaller, and therefore I'd get more individualized attention from a trainer, more time backing on the range, less time having to wait my turn to back while others take theirs, etc.

Turtle, your training diary from Prime comes to mind and it seems like you had an ideal situation due to the relatively small class sizes because of when you started. Naturally, I will be thrilled to take whatever training situation I can get, and make the best of it no matter the class size: my success does not depend on this. Just figured it may be an added bonus, if it's the case.

That said, one of my recruiters has told me that although this may well be the case, class sizes have been significantly reduced all year long due to COVID-19, and that I'd likely get more of the individualized attention than most trainees have in years past no matter what the case.

What does everyone think? Are class sizes typically at their smallest just before the holidays?

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.

BMI:

Body mass index (BMI)

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

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

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

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.

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.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Eugene, most of us tend to overthink our entry into this career. One thing people get overly concerned about is "class size." I think it's a concern that's way overrated. Don't even concern yourself with it.

"Class size" has nothing to do with the effectiveness of your training. You're only in "class" for a brief time (maybe a week) and it's devoted to safety videos, company rules and policy, payroll forms, and other administrative functions of your employer. You'll get no more or less from a video if there are hundreds of you or five of you.

Trucking is learned by doing, and that's why you go out with a trainer. At that time it's just you and the truck with your trainer. You're going to have more of that than you can stomach at times. It will be both thrilling and discouraging, epic and frustrating. You'll learn an incredible amount of stuff, and just when they turn you loose from your trainer you'll feel you've forgotten everything you just worked so hard at learning.

You mentioned time on the backing range as a concern. Nobody learns to back a truck in a few days on the backing range. Backing a truck with orange cones as a barrier is an unrealistic experience. It's more an exercise for the instructors to observe your demeanor under stress than it is a serious time of instruction. You'll certainly learn some basics, and that's beneficial, but you'll understand what I'm saying while you're out with your trainer. That first time your trainer has you back into the only spot left at the truck stop late at night after driving 570 miles will be a total game changer for you. That's the "real deal," and it's tough.

Class sizes are smaller everywhere due to the "pandemic." It's not an advantage though. Your trucking skills are going to take a good long time to get developed to the point of being proficient. You'll still be developing effective strategies and talents for the next several years. None of that time is spent with class mates. Your "class size" will always be large - it's the lower 48! Embrace that large class and go conquer this challenge!

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.

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.

Bobcat_Bob's Comment
member avatar
Class size" has nothing to do with the effectiveness of your training

I disagree with this, class definitely affects training/ learning. I would always advocate for smaller classes when ever possible, its more personal and more efficient for the students. Now if you are just watching a bunch of HR videos on company policy it probably won't matter much, however of you are spending time hands on or in the truck then it can substantial difference.

But to answer your question yes around the holidays is generally going to have smaller class sizes, especially with COVID restrictions.

Eugene K.'s Comment
member avatar

Old School, I have a tendency to overthink what I eat for breakfast, so you certainly called a spade a spade. Thank you for confirming what I suspected! It's probably human nature to overthink irrelevant details when embarking on a new adventure of this magnitude.

My attitude and my work ethic will determine my success infinitely more than class size, so thanks for redirecting my focus. Bob, thanks for your feedback as well. I suppose my class will be whatever size it is and I'll make the best of it no matter what!

Truckin Along With Kearse's Comment
member avatar

Eugene mentioned Prime and class size at Prime does not matter at all. Our training on the pad and OTR with the permit is one on one. There is no sharing trucks or instructors. We used to share the SIM with another student but due to covid they are not even doing that anymore. Our pads are 24/7 and at springfield MO we have 12 pads. UT and PA have much smaller pads but it is still one on one.

What I think would cause a delay and we have seen this on the forum in the past at various companies, is waiting for a trainer. Many go home for the holidays so due to less being available there is sometimes a wait. IF there is a delay at Prime, Prime would still get you trained one on one on the pad and local roads and test you out. Worst case scenario they would have you go back home after you tested and get your CDL from your DMV then have a TNT team trainer pick you up there. This happened when one of my students came in just before Memorial Day and another over July 4th.

I seem to remember one of our members here quitting Roehl because he was placed in a hotel for 2 weeks waiting and felt disrespected by them because of it. Prime is paying trainers and solo drivers $800 to stay out Dec 7 to Jan 6th. TNT trainees get $400 in addition to our normal Christmas bonus. That incentive is higher this year than usual so it seems more drivers are staying out. So a delay may not occur.

Yes Turtle tested out right around Christmas, the day before or after I dont remember. I think CK here tested around the same tine of year in Salt Lake and it was snowing badly (for a student) lol. Turtle had some weather issues too I believe. Was it him that had to reschedule cause testing was halted?

Anyway, I believe Will Trans/Jim Palmer trains as Prime does also. So be sure to ask recruiters. Class size will only matter if the company doesnt do one on one schooling.

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.

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.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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.

Stevo Reno's Comment
member avatar

PLUS you will get your 1st winter driving in the bag lol I went out driving last winter. And I've always hated SNOW !! lol Looks better from afar on the mountain tops around me.

J.D.'s Comment
member avatar

Yet another interesting and hopefully helpful discussion, thanx guys... Also another I can happen to speak to as a rookie with no actual OTR miles, unlike the veterans here, but very recent and "hard experience" with the topic being dug into. (Seems to me this is a useful niche for some of us newbies here, since the seasoned drivers can't necessarily speak to SOME of these issues as effectively, though have important complementary perspectives to add, as those who have them as their most recent, fresh and formative, having just learned a lot from them. And done it during the COVID crap. BTW, to anyone who's tiring of me and my opinionated verbosity, I say hey, no worries---I'll be in intensive orientation & training and then right on to that long and winding road in just a couple more weeks now, no doubt far too busy to weigh in much--but'll probably have some seemingly urgent and hopefully good questions now and then!--)

About class size issues, even though the "disagree" word was used, seems to me that both Old School and Bobcat are basically right. (Great to be reading your current stuff again and knowing you're irrepressibly on the mend, OS... Sure appreciated your recent comments and the new article; you've educated my "attitude" (crucial for this career, due to the inevitable ignorance out there, unless you're "already there", which I sort of wasn't)...as much as anyone has, except for Brett's book, posts and podcast, example, etc., of course.) It's good to hear, no doubt true and also scary, that pre-OTR training pales in importance SO much in comparison to what remains to be learned. And definitely the videos, etc. are what they are regardless.

On the other hand, for me the bigger-than-it-should've-been class size in private CDL school was the single biggest impediment to my learning curve accelerating and shooting me to the next level. The process of my "body memory" and memory of all the "tips" getting "hard-wired" was crippled. (Granted, as I noted when I was struggling in school with double-clutching, individual learning curves vary a lot and mine tends to start out relatively slow before it really takes off and catches up, which is a definite DISadvantage out in a crowded range-yard.) I ended up with, the school director told me, just over 1/3 of the driving hours I was supposed to get, even though I'd exceeded my 160 school total by my 2nd test. Part of it was cuz I wasn't as aggressive and "rude" about climbing behind the wheel as others who did get enough time were, and that's a problem that's not ideal for anyone. It seemed clear to me that the fastest learners, as O.S. sounds like he probably was, were the ones his insight here especially applies to, though that wasn't his general point. Cuz there were some who picked the skillset up fast and some of them got thus rewarded with even MORE time behind the wheel...which of course should not be the case, but was an unofficial reality I observed. And was frustrating for me...

I was chomping at the bit for more time, but there were just too many others doing the same thing and only so many hours. Would've been a very different story if our actual behind-the-wheel hours were counted and the inevitable waiting hours didn't count toward my 160, cuz easily at least HALF of the yard hours were wasted with the waiting, and I BARELY got good enough at the shifting to pass. Schooling as a result was in a way the toughest and most stressful challenge I've ever "succeeded" at, by far. Yeah I know that's as it should be in a way, but I and many others would be more prepared for the even bigger next leap if we'd had more direct experience. Tried to make it up with hours of YouTube vids, and hanging out here learning, but as we all know, that ain't nearly a substitute for behind-the-wheel range and road time. If my road training wasn't going to be auto-trans. next month, I doubt I'd be able to do it with half the confidence I have now, and I've little to spare.

So now I'm trying to work with the school to schedule and pay for a few refresher hours on that same range for one of the next 2 Saturdays before I start with Schneider. (For various reasons, it's gonna be 3 months since I'd last driven 18 wheels.) What Old School wrote does make me less concerned about it if they can't accommodate the request or not as much as I want. But I KNOW it'll freshen and harden that brain wiring enough to let me hit the ground running closer to the speed of my fellow post-CDL trainees, which matters cuz that's even more accelerated and high-stakes learning, and even more of a "competitive" situation in which they don't hesitate as much to send you home if you're not keeping up with the rest of the field. And the smaller that field, the more time my learning curve'll get to catch up the way I know it will, and the readier I'll be when I then get ONLY a week to ten days on the road with a trainer (which is the Schneider method).

As for it being during Christmas time, well I sure hope that'll keep the field a bit smaller for orientation and training too, along with the COVID factor, of course (the latter of which guarantees a solo hotel room, which should help some too).

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Eugene K.'s Comment
member avatar

Great feedback! Kearsey that’s especially good to know, since Wilson and Prime are my top two choices. I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with them since day 1, and truthfully, if I were lucky enough to be offered a position at both, I’d have a difficult time deciding.

The one factor that gives Wilson a slight edge in my book would be the opportunity to train in Missoula in the winter. As mentioned above I imagine I’d probably get more Mountain passes on my runs, in harsher winter weather conditions, than if I trained out of Springfield. Better to get that experience under my belt under the watchful eye of a trainer than it experience it for the first time on my own as a rookie solo driver!

GrayBeardinPA's Comment
member avatar

My tentative start date is December 9th in Richmond with Swift. I’ve been waiting a year to get the wheels turning.

If an opportunity develops to go, I’m going and I am.

Ive thought about the holidays etc. i live 4.5 hrs away from Richmond. Swift has off Xmas day. Since school is mon-fri. Thats a three weekend. I plan to be with family then. Come back sun afternoon to swift.

Btw swift houses their students at Candlewood Suites airpot.

Truckin Along With Kearse's Comment
member avatar

Great feedback! Kearsey that’s especially good to know, since Wilson and Prime are my top two choices. I’ve had nothing but positive interactions with them since day 1, and truthfully, if I were lucky enough to be offered a position at both, I’d have a difficult time deciding.

The one factor that gives Wilson a slight edge in my book would be the opportunity to train in Missoula in the winter. As mentioned above I imagine I’d probably get more Mountain passes on my runs, in harsher winter weather conditions, than if I trained out of Springfield. Better to get that experience under my belt under the watchful eye of a trainer than it experience it for the first time on my own as a rookie solo driver!

Well.... That isn't necessarily true either. Many lease ops despite the company may try to stay out of the bad weather and mountains. But company drivers like myself do go there. I get paid by the mile and dont really care where that 2700 mile load takes me lol. In the schooling portion, we pick up and deliver loads with the permit. Some states do not allow that so you will be routed to states that do. But the schooling portion lasts a few days of orientation and SIMS and then a week or two OTR making deliveries, a couple days of pad backing. So the "schooling" portion isnt as important as the "training" portion. The school is just to get your CDL.

Now, some CDL instructors may teach a whole lot more OTR and others may concentrate on just getting you to pass. You could learn fueling, routing, the atlas and more during the school portion like I did.

My current trainee has already driven Donner Pass once, cabbage pass 3 times, and Wyoming several times. When she got on my truck she already had her CDL. I am dispatched out of Springfield but live in NJ. I make it a point to have my students do most of the "scary" mountains 😂 but I dont chain hahhaha

We are in the team training phase. You would need to do 50k miles at Prime before you can go solo. Or there is an option to do 30k miles and then agree to team for 120 days with another company driver. You would get full team pay at that point. Once the 120 days is up you can go solo. It is your choice. That is prime specific though. Not Will or JP.

If you want the mountain training ask your trainer. My team trainer owned her truck and despite me coming in the winter ... I only drove in snow a couple times because she avoided the mountains and bad weather.

Believe it or not, we have some 7% and 6% downgrades back east. My CDL instructor had me going back and forth across Monteagle TN and that 7% in West Virginia. They arent high enough to chain, but the driving concept is the same. Learn one downgrade and how to control the rig and the altitude only matters due to snow depth and ice. Which if it is that bad you should be parked anyway

Remember, the schooling portion is just the beginning. The real training begins in the second phase.

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.

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.

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