That Truckin' Orientation - What I Went Through

by Farmer Bob

Well, I finished my CDL school and received my diploma! Hot darn! I am somebody!

Out of the three companies that sent me pre-hire letters I have chosen a company to work for. I agree with Trucker Mike when he said he wasn't going to mention the company name. I won't either. It wouldn't be fair for you or me. What I experience will most likely apply to you in a general way, but I don't want you to choose a company based on what I have or have not gone through.

I reported to orientation on Monday, March 3rd. The recruiter said that orientation was two days and on the third day we would be assigned our trainer. I already knew that over the road training was based on 300 hours of logged driving time, and that this takes six to eight weeks. There is an option to go home for a week during the training time (more on this in a later blog). Based on my previous advice I should have taken this with a grain of salt! My orientation is in Fontana, California, about 50 miles east of Los Angeles. Due to the convergence of freeways and railroads there are many companies that have terminals here. I live about 60 miles away so I was told I could stay at home during orientation and just be ready for my trainer on Wednesday morning. The first day was at least 12 hours long. We had tons of paperwork - some of it a repeat of previous paperwork I completed - and of course the dreaded DOT (Department of Transportation) physical and drug screen. Tuesday was a little shorter. We were done with school about 3 PM. No luck staying home Tuesday evening. I was told to stay at the hotel Tuesday night. I assumed it was because we would have our trainer assignments early Wednesday.

I stayed at the motel for six more days!! Each time a new person would come into the hotel we would question them and try to get any little scrap of information we could. Are you a student, and if so are you a new student? If you're training, what is it like? Where are you in the hours process? Do you like it? ...etc. Poor people. We must have sounded pretty funny and desperate. The company paid for school in addition to our daily training pay. We are supposed to be two to a room, but because my wife came down for a few nights I paid the difference for a private room.

Finally, on Sunday evening my trainer called me. He said he had just dropped off his trainee and was going to have some work done on his truck. He would call me Monday and let me know when to meet him. I ended up taking the hotel shuttle to the terminal at 7 PM Monday. I spent the night in the truck and we left Tuesday morning to pick up our first load.

What have I learned from all this? Just these nuggets of wisdom:

  • 1) No matter how prepared you are, you aren't really prepared. You have no idea what you are getting into, so how can you prepare? Each company and each person is different, so it's hard to give concrete suggestions.
  • 2) If you are not patient, you need to learn patience now! It really is hurry up and wait. At least I found out that my company isn't much different about keeping their drivers in the dark, either.
  • 3) Roll with whatever training throws your way. It will pass, it's not forever. Come back and I'll tell you about my first couple of weeks on the road and what I've found out that can help you.


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.


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.

Over The Road:

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.


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.


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.


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.


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.

by Brett Aquila

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