Career Change For A 50 Year Old Contractor, Committing To It.

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Davy A.'s Comment
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I've always had a fascination with driving a big rig since I was a child. Gen X grew up with a tractor trailer as part of our child hood. We are the generation of Smokey and the Bandit, Convoy, and a lot of us had lunch boxes with BJ and the Bear. It was an honorable, tough occupation. Our child hood heroes, the underdogs of society that didn't fit into the norm but held values of honesty, integrity and the American way of doing things were our models.

Over the years, time gets away from us. We do things more and more because we feel like we have to, and indeed we do. I have had the pleasure of working for myself for most of my adult life. Construction is not an easy way of life, pay is unsteady, there usually are no gold watches so to speak, Its hard work, and on the best of days stressful, the worst of days dangerous and fatal. From time to time, I've had those moments over the years where I was beyond burnt out with my profession. In those times, I would research and research driving schools and trucking companies that offered training. I would frequently go into and talk to recruiters, only to step back into my comfortable yet increasingly unfulfilling life of owning and operating a small construction company.

Fulfilling, you may be thinking that sounds like a millennial trait. But its realistically part of life that adults need. Fear of change is another part of life that we all own too. And that brings me to what kept me from doing this for so long. Fear of change. Indeed, as I have researched, and as many point out, Trucking is a way of life, a lifestyle unto its own. Two things cause us as humans not to change. Fear says: "You dare not do this, you will fail." Ego says: "You don't need to do this, you're better than that." Both statements are lies. I may fail, The lifestyle may not be for me, yet the biggest failure would be failing to try.

I just recently turned the big 50, My construction company that I own with my brother is barely functional, because of a severe lack of motivation to keep doing it. Honestly, Id rather try my hand at truck driving. Self honesty and introspection go a long way in supporting that decision. Yes, I have some nagging feelings of remorse at giving up my previous line of work, but I have even more at not having made the change sooner. So, now you know a bit of why I'm here. Now, on to the nuts and bolts of getting my CDL.

I've been at a toss up between self funded school and between company paid/sponsored. After reading forms and blogs, watching countless videos, I ascertain that the first year after school is really a training year and best spent with one company. That being said, I've secured financing privately for both US Truck driving school, and Sage Academy, both in Denver (where I live), as well as 160 Driving academy. I've spoke with admissions at all of those schools, and applied and been accepted by all. I am in very good health, lean and physically fit, with good vision and hearing (relatively for a drummer anyway.) No blood sugar issues, and have over 10 years without even a drop of alcohol or any other substances. So, I have confidence in passing the dot physical, clearinghouse testing and being hired on post school. I've also talked to the recruiters at most of the major companies. Since I wont be beholden to them for school financing, I have a little bit more range. Swift seems to pay the best, I really liked some of what I saw at Knight, although there are some drawbacks there as well. There are some local and regional companies here that provide finishing training for new grads, one which being Systems Transport that seem to pay very well and have good incentives.

Next on the agenda of choice is to keep my day job so to speak, and do night courses. Again, most likely leaning towards Sage at this point, I like the idea of 1 student to 1 truck during the road portion rather than rotating driving between students as some other schools do. If I am paying for the schooling, I want my moneys worth. Two other things made me choose part time, and also will confirm with Sage tomorrow on their part time classes, if they are available. One, I don't have the money to take 4 to 5 weeks off of work without getting a high interest loan for living costs (paying rent, car payment, food, insurance, etc.) and two...shame to say, I'm a night owl. Absolutely horrible at waking up early. Again, that self honesty part saves much frustration at times.

So all this comes after many years of flirting with this idea, many months of researching and listening, and many weeks of narrowing choices down. I have study material for my CO CDL permit test and will be taking the free permit prep class at school. I begin studying on that tonight. Pending my conversation with Sage tomorrow, I will log into the DMV and set a date for my permit test. I will most likely firm my decision on school tomorrow and begin asap.

I've started this diary to commit to myself as much as to you as well. Posting this here and the feedback will help keep me accountable and moving forward with my choices. Yes, I can overthink things by the way.

If this seems like a novel for a first post...I am an author among other things, working on my first novel and I write political op/ed pieces for a couple of news outlets.

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.

Regional:

Regional Route

Usually refers to a driver hauling freight within one particular region of the country. You might be in the "Southeast Regional Division" or "Midwest Regional". Regional route drivers often get home on the weekends which is one of the main appeals for this type of route.

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.

DOT:

Department Of Transportation

A department of the federal executive branch responsible for the national highways and for railroad and airline safety. It also manages Amtrak, the national railroad system, and the Coast Guard.

State and Federal DOT Officers are responsible for commercial vehicle enforcement. "The truck police" you could call them.

Dm:

Dispatcher, Fleet Manager, Driver Manager

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

DMV:

Department of Motor Vehicles, Bureau of Motor Vehicles

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

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

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.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Davy, welcome to our forum!

I think you will probably do very well at trucking. You've been an independent contractor and that is a great way to develop some of the skills needed in a trucking career. You already know how to make decisions on your own, and you understand if something is going to get done, you have to make it happen. Those are characteristics that truck drivers need in our line of work.

It's great that you are starting a diary. It will help you, and it will help those who read it.

Can I just interject some thoughts as you start this journey? I'm not sure how you conducted all the research you keep referring to, but you came up with a lot of solutions that we might not normally think are best. I'm not saying they are wrong, each of us has our own path that we need to take. If you still have an open mind, I'd like to make just a few suggestions. I've only seen a few people go through the weekend classes and be satisfied with their experience. There is a lot of information that you will be processing to get through your CDL training. Most people I've watched over the years regretted that weekend choice because they simply couldn't keep all the information clear due to the 5 day work period in between classes. They tended to forget what they had been exposed to five days ago. They lost the momentum of the learning curve due to the long breaks in between classes. I would encourage you to save what you need to go through a school, don't borrow the money. If that is too big an obstacle, then let someone else pay for it.

There are plenty of companies that will pay you decent money to come to their facilities for training. It is all win win. They pay for your lodging, your meals, and your training. They do all that and also guarantee you a job upon successful completion of their training program. What is the catch? It's simple - you work for them for one year. You were planning on doing that anyway! Some of them are paying six or seven hundred dollars per week. I started this career as a second career at age 53. Like you, I had been a contractor for thirty years (sign business). I was an ideal candidate for trucking, or at least I thought I was. I paid my way through a very good private school. I graduated top of my class. I had it all. Perfectly clean records, and very stable employment for my whole life. I had my tax records to prove everything. I couldn't get anyone to hire me! That is when I realized the great value of Paid CDL Training Programs.

When trucking companies are hiring inexperienced newbies like you and me, they have nothing to indicate whether that person will develop into a professional driver or not. They make their choices based on speculation. Schools don't make truck drivers. So they can't base it on the school you went to. Genders don't precipitate any inclination to be good at this. So they can't base it on that either. They have nothing to go by. I graduated as the top student in my class. I had a 97 average. The worst student in the class got a job offer right away from Roehl. He could barely shift gears in a rig, and he was very scary to ride with. Guess what Roehl and a lot of other companies said to me? "Sorry sir, we had a lot better candidates to choose from." You see, when you go through a paid training program they check you out at the very beginning. They decide then whether they want to take a chance on you or not. When they invite you to train with them, they are inviting you for a job. They are investing in you right from the beginning. They don't want to lose on their investment. They are going to take special care to make sure you make it. They are also going to be a little more forgiving when you make a rookie mistake. We have seen this many times over. Just recently we had a driver in here who paid for their own schooling, had a little accident, and got fired for it. Now no one wants to touch them or offer them a second chance. I just think you should reconsider your schooling options.

I don't get any kickbacks or payments for trying to get people to practice "best methods." I do teach "best methods" all the time. I've learned a few things since I first began this career, and one of those is that these paid training programs are superior. You don't really need to waste your money on a private school. It gives you zero advantages. Here's a little article I wrote once on this subject. Take the time to read it and see what you think about the premise of it.

Busting The Free Agent Myth In Trucking

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.

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.

Davy A.'s Comment
member avatar

Interesting and very valuable knowledge. At US truck driving school, the part time courses are at night from 5:30 to 10:30 pm Mon through Friday with an additional Sat for 6 weeks. Notwithstanding I've come to the same conclusion about the paid training today. Time to make some more tough decisions. I didnt sign with either of the schools yet for reasons that you listed above. I have contracts waiting for me in construction, and I can barely find them palatable to think about accepting them, not that they are bad contracts, I just simply do not to go that direction again.

My goal for the week then, select one of the paid cdl programs. Stevens Transport is a 40 minute commute from my home and although their repayment program is basically 3 years, they are reputed to have excellent training. Knight and Swift have facilities close. Roehl, which was my first choice isn't hiring from CO currently according to their site.

I'm open minded, or at least like to consider myself to be. It gives me hope seeing that you have successfully made the switch after 50. Thank you for the input, and any thoughts on Stevens? I'm not too concerned about just doing one year with them and having essentially an interest free loan rather than going the full 3 to have them pay for it, not much in life is truly free. My time management skills suck. Just bluntly being honest, obviously that is something that I'm going to be working on round the clock, no pun intended. It seems like that is somewhat more of an issue in frozen and refer freight?

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.

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

PackRat's Comment
member avatar

Great school in Keenesburg, CO at Careers World Wide; that's where I went. I would not recommend signing with Steven's to attend, though. I know more than 15 former drivers of theirs.

There are plenty of company sponsored training companies to choose from.

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.

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.

Davy A.'s Comment
member avatar

I've read of a lot of dissatisfaction with Stevens, although, I always consider that there is a certain type of individual that would complain no matter what.

I've sent applications out to Swift, Knight and Stevens today. Knight is automatic only both in training and employment, while it sounds nice in traffic, It seems to be limiting my options later down the road but I'm not sure on that nor how much of a concern it should be.

PackRat's Comment
member avatar

Okay. Good luck.

Old School's Comment
member avatar

Davy, I'm all about making a commitment to this career. I teach that all the time. I wouldn't suggest making a three year commitment when the market standard is a one year commitment. In three years a lot can change. Also I wouldn't worry about the auto-shift transmissions. They are nothing like a car transmission. Almost every fleet I know of is using them. It will be easy for you to get that restriction removed if you want to later. I doubt you will ever really need to.

Also there is no reason for you to limit yourself to companies close by where you live. I have never lived near the terminal I'm dispatched from. I seldom ever even go to my home terminal. I live in Texas. My terminal is in Gulfport, Mississippi. My dispatcher works from his home in Northwest Arkansas. Everything we do is communicated electronically. This is not like having a job where you have to report to a certain facility. You are going to drive that truck all over the country. There just isn't a reason to worry about your company's location. All you need to know is if they are hiring from your area. That's how it works. If they are hiring from your area, you are good to go. That just means they handle freight in your area. That's how they get you home when you want to take a little time at home. If they handle freight in your area they can get you home by dispatching you a load near your home town.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

Dispatcher:

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.
Davy A.'s Comment
member avatar

Again, thank you for the information. I've lurked here for quite a while before signing up and post. I'm guessing a lot of us have. I think that wanting training and a terminal close by is perhaps just another reservation. I let that go a bit too today, your post reaffirmed that for me.

I had a really positive motivational discussion with my brothers who are my business partners today, and they are in full support of my choice to go into trucking. Of course fear still rears its ugly head but I keep marching forward. I'm guessing too that a good many of us have gone through that process of preparing for change.

I've applied at a few other companies today, all of which I have read reviews on here first and foremost, as well as other sites. I applied to Will Trans, Prime and played phone tag with the recruiter at Knight today. I looked at both Werner and CRST, but think that neither one was a fit based on Werner having upfront tuition costs and CRST seems to concentrate on Teams. In the meantime, still studying the manual and doing practice tests on general info online, reading forms, especially here, watching videos. Hoping to have a company selected this week or rather them having selected me as well.

For what its worth, although its comical to read posts of people that seemingly had unrealistic expectations and then have a bone to pick with schools, training and mega carriers, I'm not one of those, nor do I plan to be one. I expect my first year to be one of training and learning, gaining experience. I have no expectation of this being easy nor profitable without considerable effort, thought and persistence. The words "Easy" and "money" don't belong in the same sentence.

So, not much action today, but a lot more commitment, focused decisions and learning. Hopefully, if there are others that have been riding the fence, they stumble across this and it gives them some motivation.

Terminal:

A facility where trucking companies operate out of, or their "home base" if you will. A lot of major companies have multiple terminals around the country which usually consist of the main office building, a drop lot for trailers, and sometimes a repair shop and wash facilities.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

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

Phone tag with Wilson Logistics today, Approved based on the quick app from the web. Thinking Im going to go with them. Pay seems to be higher after training for first year noobs. I really liked what I saw for pay and training on their emails they sent me. The Mrs. is good with me being gone most of the time for a year. Feb has three important dates for me (meaning her), Our anniversary, Valentines day, and her birthday, which we (she) already has us away on a trip for....Debating on how much wrath ill incur from her for sacrificing those dates in favor of going now. Ive pulled a few stunts like that before and it definitely strained the relationship for a while. I really want to go to the school and get started as soon as possible.

If not, will be after Feb 22.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.
Old School's Comment
member avatar
Feb has three important dates for me (meaning her), Our anniversary, Valentines day, and her birthday, which we (she) already has us away on a trip for....Debating on how much wrath ill incur from her for sacrificing those dates in favor of going now. Ive pulled a few stunts like that before and it definitely strained the relationship for a while. I really want to go to the school and get started as soon as possible. If not, will be after Feb 22.
Davy, I know you weren't asking for advice, but... I've been married for 38 years - that gives me a very slight understanding about this mysterious relationship between man and woman. Tell Wilson Logistics you have some prior commitments and you can't start until after February 22nd. Put your wife first in all your considerations. It will mean a lot to her, and it will eventually become normal for you. She can be the biggest help to your success, but it is VERY IMPORTANT how you treat her. Now, as a trucker I want to tell you that it won't matter one bit to Wilson Logistics. They will be ready for you whenever you can commit. The other part of this conundrum is that you don't want to start this career without your wife's support. That is critical. You leaving home with her being unhappy about the timing of it, when you could have clearly made a choice that would please her, will be a huge mistake on your part. There is nothing more miserable than being on the road knowing your spouse is ticked off at you and unhappy about the whole arrangement. This is a huge commitment for both of you. She will be stuck at home with all the responsibilities that you would normally take care of, and you will be away with a whole new range of responsibilities and problems to deal with. It is a recipe for stress! Trucking has been responsible for quite a few divorces. Take this new leap into this career seriously. Do what you can to make the transition easy on both yourself and your spouse. February 22nd isn't that far away. It will barely give you time to work your way through our High Road CDL Training Program. Okay, forgive me for acting like I'm your marriage counselor, but you have the ability to make this go a lot better than it will if you make the wrong choices. Believe it or not trucking is a lot about making the right choices. Here's your chance to practice that skill. Best of Luck to ya! Wilson runs a great operation! That's a great place to make a start at this.

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

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