CDL School Or Trucking Company Training? What Am I Missing?

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Shane G.'s Comment
member avatar

Hello all and thanks for letting me join!

A brief introduction before my question: I am quitting my sales job of 15 years to become a truck driver. I feel stuck and don't really have any place to go. Mind you, I love what I do and contrary to popular belief, I am getting older so I think this is the perfect time to change. I work for a global distribution company so I am familiar with the trucking industry. It's just me, the wife, one stubborn German Shepherd and a sassy Shih Tzu. I think she prefers the dogs over me anyways!

So now to my question: We have several trucking schools within a 60 mile radius of our home. I have picked one that has really good reviews, has job placement assistance, approved by the state of WA and is competitively priced. I look to start the second week of July. Once I graduate school we are relocating to northern Oklahoma so I will need to find an employer that will work with my new home location. I have researched, called and emailed several trucking companies that hire fresh CDL graduates. I understand the pay won't be as good as a seasoned driver but I wasn't expecting some of the wages I was given. That brings me to Swift. Yes, I know, the "S" word. Their pay structure for graduates is actually pretty decent. $800 / week while OTR training with a mentor and then $.43-$.48 / mile once your solo but they guarantee at least $1K / week during your first 6 months. With that being said, why wouldn't I keep my cash and enroll in their CDL school that is just a few hours from my house? As a new driver with a fresh CDL whoever I sign on with I would stick with them at least a year anyways, so why not do that with Swift and have them pay for the school too?

I've read a lot of articles and forums for the last several months including here on TT but I wanted real world answers from those that have done it. What added benefit am I not seeing if I pay for my own school and then find someone that hires recent graduates. I know most of the canned answers such as "if they pay for the school they'll want a commitment" etc. I get all of that but for some reason I feel like I am missing something. If Swift is offering that kind of package for new graduates then why are some of the other companies new driver pay scales so bad? I have seen anything from $250 a week, $.24-$.28 / mile up to maybe $400 / week on average. I have seen a few that pay around $600 / week but the reviews are horrible and one has numerous bait / switch comments.

Any help or insight is greatly appreciated.

Thanks and have a wonderful weekend!

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.
Nathan S.'s Comment
member avatar

I think the biggest advantage of paying for a private trucking school is the time of the training. Most of the schools I've read about are 4 weeks to 4 months long. That is WAAAAY longer than company-sponsored training programs. I'm currently in a company-sponsored training program and my class is 12 days total of training. Then 21 days with a driving mentor through the company I'm committing to.

Some people say that isn't long enough to be safe. Some feel that is more than enough time to learn to drive a truck as most of what you're going to learn is hands-on, on the road anyway?

I'm not sure which school of thought is most correct. I guess it depends on your personal financial situation and comfortability with driving an 80,000 lb semi. Also, how quickly you want to obtain that CDL? The right answer I believe will lie with your answers to those questions. Either way is a good way to get a CDL IMO.

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.
PJ's Comment
member avatar

Welcome Shane. Online reviews are always a mixed bag. I went through Roehl’s school many years ago. Why pay out of pocket for a private school when you can get it in exchange for a commitment to the company that trained you. For me it was a simple choice. They trained me and gave me a job on graduation.

Private schools may help you get a job, but that is far different than having the job waiting on you to graduate. Company sponsored are generally fast paced, and private ones may be a slower pace.

Not a thing wrong going with Swift. They are large with alot of reach in the industry. We have several drivers here that work there and are very happy. This business will be what you make it for yourself. This is a very diverse industry, something for everyone so to speak.

Read around on the forums and ask questions. The only dumb question is the one not asked. Wishing you well in your journey.

Big Scott (CFI's biggest 's Comment
member avatar

Shane we highly recommend Paid CDL Training Programs. There are many reasons, the main is the company has a vested interest in your success and keeping you.

At CFI the training is free with a one year commitment. Pay while out with your finisher is going up to 32 CPM. On upgrade you would start at 38 CPM. During your first year you will have a few pay raises. My current student at 29 CPM broke $700.00 on each of his first two weeks.

With CFI you would have about 3 weeks of trucking school, then to Joplin for 2 days of orientation, then out with your trainer for 21 days, more if needed, then you upgrade and get a truck.

Our HQ is Joplin, Missouri and we run all of the lower 48 and are growing fairly quickly.

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.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

Drivers are often paid by the mile and it's given in cents per mile, or cpm.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Mikey B.'s Comment
member avatar

Hello Shane, the short answer to the question is indeed, why wouldn't you go to their school? Swift has more bad reviews only because they have so many drivers as they are the largest trucking company in America. The wages you have stated are quite good. Swift will chose a training company, either their in house or a private CDL school. Dont believe all the reviews for ANY company as the vast majority of complaints are made by washouts and people bitter because they caused their own failures but refuse to admit they are the problem (too long on mommies teet or too many participation trophies growing up) there are of course a few legitimate complaints but not many. You will pay for the schooling anywhere you go either up front or through payroll for the first year which they compensate you for but it will cost you if you washout or quit driving. At least with company training they put you up in a motel, pay for at least some meals and possibly pay while training then guarantee you a job upon passing with pay while driving with a trainer. Go with company paid training. Again, the pay Swift offered you is really good.

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.

HOS:

Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.

OWI:

Operating While Intoxicated

Chief Brody's Comment
member avatar

Shane,"

This is my take on "what am I missing." I stared with Prime just over a year ago. So, I'll tell you what Prime does, with some of my opinion added.

Just like any industry, trucking involves risk management. And trucking involves some pretty high risk stakes with 1) cost of equipment, 2) cost of a claim, and 3) liability for accidents.

First, as you have read, TT recommends company sponsored training. Why do companies have in-house training? Because they have determined they train better than CDL schools. At Prime, if you come in with your CDL already, you have to do MORE TNT training miles than a non-CDL holder. Why? Because you haven't been trained with a program that Prime knows, you are more risk.

In Prime's PSD phase, you go out with a trainer for 2-4 weeks to learn to pass the CDL test. Most of Prime's drivers are lease operators. My PSD trainer was a lease operator. Why does that matter? Because Prime passes the risk of a CLP holder learning to drive a truck onto the lease operator. I made a rookie mistake that cost $500 to get fixed. The lease operator paid for that. Although this just recently changed, you don't get paid during PSD phase. But you are running loads and generating revenue for both the PSD trainer and Prime. So, Prime get's the benefit of a trucking running loads and generating revenue, but no risk.

Once your pass your CDL test, you become a Prime employee and go out with a TNT trainer. Again, my TNT trainer was a lease operator. So all the risk is on lease operator, including paying my salary and benefits. The guaranteed pay is $700 per week, which is less than what you get paid running solo. So, during TNT phase, Prime has a trucking running twice the miles and loads as a solo driver. Not exactly, but I'm making it simple. Prime get's all that revenue, then pays the lease operator their percentage (72%). The lease operator pays the student's discounted salary. Again, Prime has a productive truck with zero risk.

By the time you go solo, Prime has already made a significant amount of money off you. And, assuming you didn't hit anything during training, you have proven you can do the job. Again, they have managed their risk well because they know how you have performed so far. If you go lease, Prime continues to pass the risk onto you. You hit something, break something, have a flat, etc. you pay for it.

I'm a company driver. So, any repair or incidents, it's Prime's responsibility. As a solo company driver, I make 48 CPM. That's deadhead or loaded. My average take home since going solo is $977 per week. That includes all of my home time.

The other companies that pay lower CPM for CDL students coming from private schools bear an unknown risk on you day one. And just like higher interest payday loans, they have to factor that risk into their pay rate.

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.

Deadhead:

To drive with an empty trailer. After delivering your load you will deadhead to a shipper to pick up your next load.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

Drivers are often paid by the mile and it's given in cents per mile, or cpm.

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.

TWIC:

Transportation Worker Identification Credential

Truck drivers who regularly pick up from or deliver to the shipping ports will often be required to carry a TWIC card.

Your TWIC is a tamper-resistant biometric card which acts as both your identification in secure areas, as well as an indicator of you having passed the necessary security clearance. TWIC cards are valid for five years. The issuance of TWIC cards is overseen by the Transportation Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

PSD:

Prime Student Driver

Prime Inc has a CDL training program and the first phase is referred to as PSD. You'll get your permit and then 10,000 miles of on the road instruction.

The following is from Prime's website:

Prime’s PSD begins with you obtaining your CDL permit. Then you’ll go on the road with a certified CDL instructor for no less than 75 hours of one-on-one behind the wheel training. After training, you’ll return to Prime’s corporate headquarters in Springfield, Missouri, for final CDL state testing and your CDL license.

Obtain CDL Permit / 4 Days

  • Enter program, study and test for Missouri CDL permit.
  • Start driving/training at Prime Training Center in Springfield, Missouri.
  • Work toward 40,000 training dispatched miles (minimum) with food allowance while without CDL (Food allowance is paid back with future earnings).

On-the-Road Instruction / 10,000 Miles

  • Train with experienced certified CDL instructor for 3-4 weeks in a real world environment.
  • Get 75 hours of behind-the-wheel time with one-on-one student/instructor ratio.
  • Earn 10,000 miles toward total 40,000 miles needed.

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.

CLP:

Commercial Learner's Permit

Before getting their CDL, commercial drivers will receive their commercial learner's permit (CLP) upon passing the written portion of the CDL exam. They will not have to retake the written exam to get their CDL.

Shane G.'s Comment
member avatar

Nathan, thanks for your reply. Paying for the school isn't really a concern, nor is driving a truck really. I have to go through the same company classes and DOT certifications as our CDL drivers, I just don't have a CDL. I have a company car and every now and then I drive a 24' box truck to help out my customers. We also full time in a 36' fifth wheel and I tow that around a few times a year.

The school I chose is 4 weeks and would cost $4800. I am trying to come up with the "pros and cons" of paying for the schooling and then finding a job.

To me there really doesn't seem to be any cons other than the commitment to drive for a company that pays for the school.

Thanks again and best of luck!

I think the biggest advantage of paying for a private trucking school is the time of the training. Most of the schools I've read about are 4 weeks to 4 months long. That is WAAAAY longer than company-sponsored training programs. I'm currently in a company-sponsored training program and my class is 12 days total of training. Then 21 days with a driving mentor through the company I'm committing to.

Some people say that isn't long enough to be safe. Some feel that is more than enough time to learn to drive a truck as most of what you're going to learn is hands-on, on the road anyway?

I'm not sure which school of thought is most correct. I guess it depends on your personal financial situation and comfortability with driving an 80,000 lb semi. Also, how quickly you want to obtain that CDL? The right answer I believe will lie with your answers to those questions. Either way is a good way to get a CDL IMO.

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.

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.
Shane G.'s Comment
member avatar

Thanks PJ!

I take online reviews with a grain of salt. I will usually ask friends, neighbors or colleagues if I have a question about something, place or person. I've been doing so much research since September of last year I'm seeing YouTube videos in my sleep.

I still have about 60 days till I end my current employment so I have a little time to choose what is right for me.

Thanks again for the input, it is greatly appreciated!

Welcome Shane. Online reviews are always a mixed bag. I went through Roehl’s school many years ago. Why pay out of pocket for a private school when you can get it in exchange for a commitment to the company that trained you. For me it was a simple choice. They trained me and gave me a job on graduation.

Private schools may help you get a job, but that is far different than having the job waiting on you to graduate. Company sponsored are generally fast paced, and private ones may be a slower pace.

Not a thing wrong going with Swift. They are large with alot of reach in the industry. We have several drivers here that work there and are very happy. This business will be what you make it for yourself. This is a very diverse industry, something for everyone so to speak.

Read around on the forums and ask questions. The only dumb question is the one not asked. Wishing you well in your journey.

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.

Errol V.'s Comment
member avatar

Shane here's my take, mostly about Swift. I signed up for Swift's Academy, then drove for them. As a veteran, their Vets deal was school is tuition free, just drive for a year. (I asked: even if I went inside for Swift in that first year, I'd have to pay the full amount.)

My info is dated to 2016, but your recruiter can update you. Swift actually paid you back while you drive for them. Meaning, at the time, you spent $1060 total bottom line on school. If you continued for another year, they still paid you and your CDL school became "free".

Worried about "commitment"? Commitment A: when you buy a car, you are committed to paying that loan and you get free unlimited use of the car. Commitment B: Swift, or any company that finances school, is committed to your learning and betting you'll make it through to drive for them.

Speaking about Commitment B, you are all but hired when your company invites you to school. Most of the background checks are done, the hoops jumped through, and so all you need to do is get that CDL. Deal?

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.
Davy A.'s Comment
member avatar

The purpose of CDL school is simply to teach you to get a CDL. It doesn't teach you to be a truck driver. The next phase which is training or finishing begins to teach you how to be a driver and then you continue to learn as you go Solo.

As was said, when you go company provided, they have skin in the game and the resources to keep you on if you make a mistake.

Most of the companies have the same concepts, just slightly different details. Knight, which effectively owns swift, is similar but no contract. You are hired before you start school. Starting pay is .44 cpm once Solo, training pay is 800 a week. Pay in school is 480 a week but you pay for your food and hotel. It all works out about the same.

All the schools are 160 hours. With the exception of certain states that con go 120 I think.

If you read the CDL diaries section here I think you may find some compelling reasons to go company paid.

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.

CPM:

Cents Per Mile

Drivers are often paid by the mile and it's given in cents per mile, or cpm.

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