What You Need To Know Before Beginning CDL Training

by Rainy
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Time and time again, potential drivers come to the forum with questions of how to fix their circumstances. Something they thought would not be an issue turns out to be a career ending mistake or decision. Before they even get a start in trucking, medical or background issues slam on the brakes and derail their dream. Other times it could be a slight bump in the road that they never considered, but either situation creates undue anxiety in an already stressful environment.

The following information can help prepare you before you head off to school. And do not be fooled, obtaining a CDL at a local CDL school will not result in automatic hiring at a company. It will not alleviate any of the following issues, but it could put you in debt without a company willing to hire you.

You can alleviate some of the concern of not finding a job after getting your CDL by attending a paid CDL training program, which we recommend here at Trucking Truth.

But It was Only...

I love this statement. But it was only one DUI, one speeding ticket of 20mph over the limit, one failed drug test. What's the big deal? Anyone who seriously does not comprehend the responsibility and consequences of handling a 75 foot long 80,000 pound vehicle should never get behind the wheel.

All of the examples above demonstrate poor judgment and a lack of respect for others. Furthermore, no company is going to want to risk the high insurance rates or lawsuit liabilities resulting from those poor decisions. When you stack several of these together, it is the kiss of death for your career.

The following are essential for getting your CDL or landing a truck driving job:

  • A reasonably clean driving record
  • A reasonably clean criminal record
  • A clean drug/alcohol history
  • A healthy medical record
  • A recent and verifiable work history

Your Driving History

Most companies are going to want a clean three year motor vehicle record. That means no speeding tickets, careless driving, accidents, or suspensions. Yes, it matters if you have a speeding ticket for 15 mph over the speed limit because it is considered reckless driving. Yes, it matters that you allowed your license to be suspended, even if it is for tickets, lack of insurance, or not registering your vehicle. The reflection upon you is that you do not care about your driving privileges.

You could have 20 years of clean driving then have two tickets in the last year for moving violations and it could hinder your chances of getting hired. Do not lie on your application, and you must even inform any employers about expunged convictions. They will be found and you will appear dishonest, so be upfront.

Also, do not be surprised if a carrier wants you to reapply at a future date if you have a serious infraction in your past. Some companies will be more lenient than others.

Your Criminal & Drug/Alcohol Background

Felonies matter. They reflect your character, and although people claim some felonies are more acceptable than others, a company may take pause with your application. Burglary or theft on your record could convey you cannot be trusted with company equipment or freight. Violent crimes such as assaults might signify behavior on the road that could jeopardize the company's image.

Would you want someone working for you who is going to argue with customers or other truckers, or even worse, assault them? Drug convictions give evidence of a problem with a potential to cost lives and lawsuit losses.

DUI's and drug histories demonstrate you could injure or kill others without caring about the consequences. Rates will be astronomical to insure such a driver, and companies will limit how many lifetime DUI's or felonies they are willing to accept, if any. If you failed a drug test, many companies will expect you to attend a Substance Abuse Program before being eligible for employment.

Your Medical Record

You are required to reveal all medications and treatments you have received in the past or are currently taking. You should expect to produce medical records for any and all conditions. In addition, most companies are going to want at least 30 days stability regarding conditions such as blood pressure or sleep apnea.

Also understand that what the DOT allows and what a company may allow can be two different things. Companies can set their own standards for physicals, and one of the most common issues to arise pertains to psychotropic medications. Do not assume that your anti-anxiety or antidepressant will be accepted by a company.

Often a company will have a list of medications on their "banned list" and may allow you to go home and switch to another medication and return after 30 days of stability. If your medication is not accepted, it is nothing personal.

Your Employment History

An employment history indicates what kind of commitment you will make to your new career and employer. Bouncing from company to company or resigning without prior notification demonstrates you are unreliable. Does an unpredictable employee sound attractive when you are in the business of delivering products to customers at specific appointment times?

If you are lacking in any of the above areas, you may need to wait for a year or two and work on any issues you have. Improve your health, stay employed at one company, keep your driving and criminal record clean, and save your money on CDL school until all is improved. If you were already denied by any companies, don't lose hope. Time will prove to the companies that you have learned to make better decisions and are determined to get the job done.

My History Is Great, Now What?

You will most likely need the following documents:

  • A state certified birth certificate with a raised seal (not a hospital certificate)
  • A Social Security Card
  • A marriage certificate/divorce certificate for married/divorced female drivers
  • Your current driver's license
  • A voided check or bank branch deposit form for direct deposit payments
  • A list of any and all medications you take or have taken in recent years
  • A 30 day record of any sleep apnea treatment you may have received
  • Your last three W2's, and at least three recent pay stubs

Do I have responsibilities at home that might be a problem?

Not only is it imperative the driver has the support of his/her significant other, but the driver needs to consider the family as a whole. Providing for your family is noble, but certain circumstances may require you to be home. For example, if you have a special needs child at home, you may want to reconsider. The stress placed on the child or your spouse by having you absent may be detrimental for all.

I have a friend who lost a son two years ago, and he responded by going over the road. He used it as a means to retreat from his wife and deny his sorrow. This week his wife served him with divorce papers because she felt abandoned. Trucking is great, but it isn't worth wrecking your family over.

What Is The Trucking Lifestyle Really Like?

Once all of the above are in check, it is necessary the potential driver understands what he/she is attempting to get into when it comes to trucking. Most people have no idea what the trucking lifestyle is all about. Read the many trucking articles and CDL training diaries on this forum to familiarize yourself with trucking in general.

Also, consider going to a truck dealership to see what the inside of a truck looks like. I'll never forget one of our forum members who insisted she was going to bring camping equipment, cooking supplies, and other various items onto her trainer's truck. We finally convinced her to go to a dealership and take a look. Her response was, "It's rather small inside" and she commented she couldn't imagine two people living on the truck during training.

One friend of mine suffered from claustrophobia. After going through CDL training in a day cab, he could not handle sleeping in a truck and decided to quit.

Finally, ask us any and all questions as early as possible. So many forum members come to us too late, and by that time they are already at their second or third company and ruining their earning potential.

Good luck and be safe!

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