CDL Truck Driver Training 101

If you’re here, it’s because you’re interested in truck driving or ready to begin your certification. We are excited when new people show an interest in becoming a truck driver. If you’re new to the game, we will outline everything you need to know about becoming a truck driver. Once you join the trucking life family, you’ll be welcomed to a unique breed of people who share a common theme. It’s a community, a way of life, and filled with opportunity and lots of potential for self-growth in skills and career.


Your level of success will come down to how much you desire to work and keep pushing forward, how well you learn and can showcase your driving ability. Trucking can be a very demanding job, but it can have its benefits.

What will I need to Qualify?

  • Possess a current valid driver’s license
  • Have a clean driving record
  • Be at least 18-21 Years of Age
  • Social Security Card
  • Check your individual States Requirements: DMV by State

How do I earn my CDL (Commercial Driver’s License)?

How long will it take to get my CDL?

Average of 4-7 Weeks

There are various factors that affect the time it will take to get CDL certified, depending on what state your training is in, along with rules and which route you take to begin your CDL Training. Here are a few things to consider when calculating an estimated time of completion.:

 

  • Type of CDL you’re obtaining

    • Class A (Tractor Trailers, Flatbed, Tanker, Livestock Carriers)
    • Class B (Delivery Trucks, Straight Trucks, Dump Trucks, City Buses)
  • Endorsements
    • (H) – hazmat
    • (N) – tanker
    • (X) – tanker/hazmat combo
    • (T) – double/triple
  • Training Commitment
    • Full-Time
    • Part-Time / Evenings / etc.
  • Auto vs. Manual Truck (this comes down to your ability to maneuver the vehicle)
  • Personal Ability
  • Training Program Length/Classroom Time/Exam Time (these factors can be different per State)

Where do I get CDL Training?

You can get trained one of two ways:

  • A Traditional CDL Trucking School

At a designated “Trucking School” you will get certified through a series of classroom education and exams, as well as getting behind the wheel to learn, which always starts with a Trainer. Think of this as going to college. This is your university where you will earn a degree in a specific field of study (Trucking). Once you’ve graduated, you are considered a “Recent Grad” and you can begin to search for a new job with companies hiring Recent CDL Grads. This is the beginning of a new way of life if you have what it takes!

  •  A Trucking Company who has a CDL Training Program

Many trucking companies have an internal CDL Training Division. They will hire someone with no experience (considered a student), and often pay you to get trained, and you’ll have the luxury of beginning work immediately with them after certification. Just like a Traditional Trucking School, you’ll get certified through a series of classroom education, as well as getting behind the wheel to learn, which starts with a Driver Trainer. Don’t worry about having to go at it alone. You will be given the appropriate amount of training, so you’ll feel confident with your new skills and expertise you’ve gained through the classroom.

How long will I train in the classroom?

  • 30-80 hours

How long will I train on the road?

  • This varies on your skillset and ability to pass driving tests

List of Schools by State:

What will I learn during CDL Training?

  • How to handle a Big Rig (Lane Changing/Turning/Maneuvering, etc.)
  • GPS Navigation
  • State & Federal Regulations
  • How to Keep Logs
  • Rules & Guidelines of the Road
  • Business Essentials (Routes, Schedules, etc.)

Types of Trucking Driving

Understand the types of job options as a Truck Driver, and decide what category you fit in. You’ll most likely begin as a Company Driver, but it’s good to educate yourself on options if you’re new to the game:

  • Solo Driver / Company Driver

You can go at it solo, and drive alone working for a specific Company

  • Team Driver

Want a buddy by your side? ‘Team’ driver jobs are an option. There are many Husband/Wife Teams that take on the road together and split the driving. If you don’t have a partner, the company you work for will pair you with someone else, so you’ll work as a ‘Team Driver’. This is very common. If you get lonely easily, this could be a great choice.

  • Owner Operator / Independent Contractor

Want to work for yourself and call the shots? If you own a tractor trailer you can then be an Owner Operator, or ‘Independent Contractor’. You will have a much higher earning potential, but you’ll also have more to manage like keeping your trucks running, maintenance, and more.

  • Leasing

Be sure not to confuse the different terms and options for ‘Leasing’ as a Truck Driver:

  • Lease Purchase Driver

What is Lease Purchase? Think “Lease” to “Purchase”. This is when you make payments on a truck through the company you work for. You will usually make a big down payment first, then continue to make payments on the truck until you pay it off, then YOU own it! It’s a similar concept of a lease-to-own home.

  • Lease Operator

This when you simply “Lease” a truck from your carrier, but you must return it when your contract or ‘lease’ is up. Think of this as renting an apartment. This may not be an ideal long-term choice, but it may work for the right individual for a set time.

  • Lease Owner Operator

As an independent contractor wanting to lease, you will lease from a third party, not a trucking company. This can give you the ability to customize specific options for you truck.

When Leasing, make sure to do your due diligence and research. Make sure you understand all the fine print. Leasing can be both great but have drawbacks. On one hand, you’ll have new shiny equipment and extra benefits. On the other, less freedom, possible inflated pricing, and overpaying in the end. You’ll have to decide what’s best for your situation.

How much will I earn as a New CDL Driver?

A Student CDL Driver Will Average:

  • Hourly: $18.29
  • Salary: $57,600 per Year

What kind of benefits will I receive?

Benefits will vary per company, but as a CDL driver you can expect great benefits like:

  • Paid Training
  • Health/Dental Insurance
  • 401k
  • Paid Time Off
  • Prescription Drug Insurance

How do I find my first Truck Driver Job?

What Companies hire CDL STUDENTS?

These companies have their own Training Programs so you can get trained and move into a position:

Schneider

Need CDL training? Explore our company-paid CDL training programs or call us at 800-447-7433, and we can talk you through it. Schneider has the widest variety of driving jobs: Hiring All experience levels.

  • Company-paid CDL training available
  • Credit for Military Experience and Military Apprenticeship programs, plus more military benefits
  • Take your dog or cat on the road with our Team Pet Policy

Boyd Transportation

Boyd Bros. Transportation Inc. is a flatbed truckload carrier that operates throughout the eastern two-thirds of the United States, hauling primarily steel products and building materials.

  • Strong freight network
  • 95% of our drivers & contractors are home each weekend
  • Rider program

TMC Transportation

TMC is the largest employee owned flatbed trucking company in the United States. We will train any driver who has no flatbed experience if you want to drive for us and we do hire recent truck driving school graduates.

  • Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP)
  • Flexible Spending Account
  • Rider program for immediate family (minimum age: 10 years old)

USA Truck

Looking for a positive driver experience to start your new career off right? Come to USA Truck, where we’re 100% focused on rewards drivers want: great home time, plenty of miles and SIMPLIFIED PAY for CDL-A grads.

  • Flexible home time options
  • Up to $5,000 in tuition reimbursement
  • Loyalty and referral bonuses

National Carriers

Have a CDL but need training? Ask about our excellent student program – $65,000 first year pay! *Based on drivers availability and performance

  • Welcoming workplace
  • Dependable home time
  • Rider and pet policy

What Companies hire RECENT CDL GRADS?  

If you decided to go to a trucking school directly, they usually have programs to help find you a job upon completion. However, here is a list of companies that are currently hiring Recent CDL Grads:

TransAm

TransAm Trucking is searching for recently graduated CDL truck driving school students who are interested in long-haul truck driving opportunities. We offer tuition reimbursement and cutting-edge equipment to start your career off right.

  • Transition pay
  • Monthly Retention Bonus after completion of transition pay
  • Up to $6,000 in tuition reimbursement

Melton Truck Lines

Based out of Tulsa, OK, Melton Truck Lines is known for treating its drivers like family. Melton has been running more than 68 years with a reputation of excellence and stability in the trucking industry. Whether you are an experienced driver, recent grad, or transitioning military veteran, we have a place for you!

  • Free on-site health clinics and dental exams
  • Pet Program – 90 lbs or less dog or cat
  • On-site gym, workout facilities, and personal trainer

Western Express

No Experience Necessary! At Western Express, you’ll start out making more and ultimately receive experienced driver pay in only 90 days! If you are a recent CDL-A Grad, you can choose from flatbed, van, OTR, regional or dedicated. Don’t wait any longer, call now and start earning TOP PAY!

  • Great Pay for Entry Level; Earn Experienced Driver Pay in as Little as 90 Days!
  • Priority Hometime
  • Tuition Reimbursement

Epes Transport System

Trainees must be recent grad from approved CDL school and/or have minimum 3 months’ comparable experience

  • Choose your schedule! Thursday-Monday, or Friday – Tuesday
  • 24 hr. support
  • Paid vacations and holidays

Tyson Foods

If you’ve recently graduated from an accredited CDL school, or have less than 9 months recent experience, apply now to student and trainee truck driver jobs at Tyson Foods! Begin your career with six weeks of PAID one-on-one training with a certified instructor.

  • $600 orientation pay
  • $600 per week training pay
  • Starting pay after completion of training – .45 -.50 per mile (depending on job and location)

Sysco

Sysco has immediate job openings for dependable local CDL A Delivery Truck Drivers to safely and efficiently operate a tractor-trailer and manually unload/deliver various products (meats, produce, frozen foods, groceries, dry goods, supplies, etc.) to customer locations on an assigned route schedule.

  • Recent driving school graduates welcome
  • Excellent pay, including productivity incentives.
  • Most CDL A Delivery Truck Drivers have daily routes and are home nightly.

Paul Transportation

We Love Our Drivers Paul Transportation is a family-owned company and one of the best flatbed carriers in the transportation industry. We pride ourselves on our ability to get drivers home weekly with customers and freight in regions that allow us to do that.

  • Orientation Pay – $400 (Received Once Seated on Truck)
  • Students Welcome! Tuition Reimbursement up to $6000
  • Day 1 Rider Policy

The balance of Being a Truck Driver

Is Truck Driving for me? With any new career there are challenges and it can be a tricky decision to move forward with getting your CDL Certification. Obviously think about the lifestyle change for you or your family. It should be safe to say you must enjoy driving! Do you mind being away from home, and do you enjoy traveling to new places? You’ll be in touch with dispatch, and have radio communication to talk with other drivers on the road. For the newbie, here are a few general pros and cons of Truck Driving to help you decide if trucking is right for you:

Pros

  • Job Security

The biggest pro for a truck driver is Job Security. Transporting and delivering goods to America is essential to keep our economy going, and this affects all industries, so having a stable career is a guarantee. You’ll also have plenty of opportunity to grow your salary, but it will require dedication.

  • Travel America

You can look at perks of trucking like traveling and seeing America instead of being at a desk job. Check some things off your bucket list, like seeing the Grand Canyon or Seeing the Northern Lights.

  • Endless Opportunity

You’ll be king of the road and be seen as a crucial necessity. From something as simple as delivering water bottles, to delivering literal building blocks and lumber, the freight options are endless. You are needed.

  • Flexibility

Depending on the number of miles you choose to drive, you can have as much flexibility or home-time as you want. Companies will work with you to put you on a schedule that is best for you.

Cons

  • Long Hours

You must also look at some dis-advantages like long hours on the road and being away from home often (if you drive Regionally or Over-the-Road). This will depend on how many miles you choose to drive, and your hauling distance.

  • Physically Demanding

Depending on the position you take, some truck drivers are required to do some physically tough jobs, not just sitting. You may be required to offload goods, or use a forklift. If you’re a flatbed driver, some forms of flatbed trailers require tarping, strapping and securing loads. You’ll also be required to keep your semi truck in tip top shape to pass all inspections. It is possible to find a job with “no-touch freight” where you aren’t responsible for unloading. There are so many variables and types of driving jobs available, but all are going to require some level of basic physical fitness. This may not be a con for everyone.

  • Lack of Exercise

You will be doing a lot of sitting, so staying active will be harder. It can be harder to keep a healthy diet while on the road with quick Fast-food options unless you are diligent to commit to preparing healthier meals.

  • Stress

We all know that driving can be, at times, stressful. For Truck Drivers who see and experience so much on the road, in this culture, that can add a high level of stress. Drivers must have patience, if they are going to be behind the wheel of a Big Rig, with all its power.

There is a way to balance the negatives. It’s all about your perspective and mindset because all careers have their pros and cons.