Southern Union State CC | Opelika, AL
Opelika, AL 36801
Prerequisites and Admission Requirements
School search faqs
A company sponsored CDL training is offered by a carrier where the student attends a school that the carrier operates. The advantages are that these trucking schools are typically waive tuition or have minimal costs. However, once the student graduates, there will be a contractual obligation to drive for that carrier typically for a period of time and/or a certain number of miles – typically at least a year and 100,000 miles. While this means the security of likely immediate employment, it also means no choice in employer.
A College or Trade School truck driving school offers a much lower cost CDL training program typically as they are often publically funded. The National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools (NAPFTDS) is an organization for the promotion of public education for the trucking industry. Through membership, educators can network with other publicly funded truck driving schools across the country to provide the highest quality, most cost-effective, and up-to-date training available.
Unlike a company sponsored or College/Trade school, an independent or private school offers the same training but will tend to be more expensive however those costs may be reduced with loans or other financial assistance. These schools are for profit schools. There are more private truck driving schools so this may be more advantageous for most students since they can remain in their immediate area while getting their CDL training especially if they are currently employed.
There are often several options. When looking for different options to become a truck driver, listen to the seasoned truck drivers. Whether you have your CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) or are just starting, the proper training will ultimately be the smartest way to go. This is not something you can learn by watching a few videos! Invest some time in talking to truck driving instructors and program organizers to get a feel for what kind of classroom and on-road experience is offered. Take a look at the curriculum, class-size, and career placement options are available to students after they graduate. Also look at how quickly graduates get hired as a truck driver after completing the course. Ensure that you get the advantage of a solid and useful training experience so your truck driving career will be successful.
On average, it takes about two months to get your CDL (commercial driver’s license) when attending a full-time driver training program at an accredited school. The length of time it takes to get your CDL can take as little as three weeks or close to six months. If you are going for any endorsements or certifications, that will take longer. Another obvious factor is whether the truck driving program is full time or part time. You’ll also want to master driving skills behind the wheel of a big rig so you’ll want to find a school that offers ample time behind the wheel. And finally, everyone learns at a slightly different rate and there is a lot to learn.
Yes, several carriers and large trucking companies have their own truck driving schools. Some carriers will even cover the cost of your truck driving school. There are even some carriers that will offer to compensate you during your training. There are pros and cons as you may be committed to a contract with a particular trucking company. You’ll need to assess what works best for your particular situation in getting your CDL (Commercial Drivers License).
Longer CDL license programs may be problematic if you’re not getting the practical experience within a reasonable amount of time, you may forget some skills. Short programs may not necessarily cover all the skills in enough detail. Some schools may offer different length programs. The location and frequency of the truck driving school.
This is an important question depending on whether you plan on working in a heavily populated area or an area that’s sparsely populated. Ideally try to train for your CDL License near your home unless the area doesn’t necessarily reflect where you’d end up working. Most trucking students find the most success with finding a truck driving school near them.
Some truck schools train in a manner in which a large company would gladly hire a new trucker. The process will be less individualistic and focused more on supporting a larger fleet of trucks. Some driving schools will train in the same format as a smaller company would, with a greater focus on one’s personal driving style and lifestyle. While both approaches ultimately get a driving student to understand the basic skills required in a truck driving job, it’s most advantageous for a new truck driver to be open for employment at any company. As part of your search look at an outline for a class(es) when available. Investigate the topics and skills that are going to be covered and whether or not the program offers a more middle of the road approach that could lead to opportunities at either big, medium or small companies. If available, look to see how many drivers have been placed, and where they ended up working.
Costs for trucking school may vary from $3,000 to $10,000. Higher costs don’t necessarily equate to better. If you find that you like a particular school, but they cost more – don’t be afraid to ask why they cost more. Likewise, if you like a company that seems to be very low, ask them why they are so much lower. And remember some carriers will cover some or all of the costs of training. But remember, there is no free ride, so thoroughly consider pros and cons first, with cost being second on the list.
When attending a private CDL training program you may be eligible for certain types of grants or loans. Given the current shortage of truck drivers, we anticipate these programs will grow. The programs include: Pell Grants which are available to students with limited resources and do not need to be repaid. Military and Veteran Financial Assistance are available to former military personnel and in some cases also don’t need to be repaid. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act which has funding available for job retraining of some workers. There are often scholarships available for veterans, first responders, low-income workers, and other groups. Most trucking schools can help with this process.
As of July 2021, there is a waiver available from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) -- Military Skills Test Waiver Program. The program allows drivers who have two years experience safely operating heavy military vehicles to obtain a commercial drivers license (CDL) without having to take the driving test. While CDL licensing varies from state to state, this program is available in all states. Military personnel can use the skills test waiver provided they are currently licensed and are or were employed within the12 months in a military position requiring the operation of a military motor vehicle equivalent to that of a commercial motor vehicle.
There are two professional truck driving school certification organizations that reflect the interests of the trucking industry. These organizations represent the owners, and the entire transportation industry including drivers. Both organizations provide certification for truck driving training programs across the board. However, the federal government will be overseeing the certification of trucking schools effective February 7, 2022.
The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI), a non-profit organization founded in 1986 makes safety and high professional working standards a priority in the industry.Phone: 703-647-7015 https://www.ptdi.org/
The Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) promotes high standards in training, safety in the industry and driver professionalism. The Commercial Vehicle Training Association (CVTA) is the largest association of commercial truck driving schools. Working with Carrier and Associate members on critical industry issues, CVTA is promoting highway safety through quality training. CVTA Phone: 703-642-9444 https://cvta.org/
The National Association of Publicly Funded Truck Driving Schools (NAPFTDS) is an organization for the promotion of public education for the trucking and transportation industry. Through membership, educators can network with other truck driving schools across the country to provide the highest quality, most cost-effective, and up-to-date training available. NAPFTDS Phone: (316) 425-3297 https://napftds.org/
You will learn how to be a safe over the road (OTR) driver. There will be ample time spent behind the wheel, learning to drive and maneuver the big rig. You’ll also perform maintenance and safety checks ensuring you can get to your destination. A good school will teach you how to maneuver in real world conditions. You will be prepared to take and pass a commercial driver’s license (CDL) test. Once you graduate, a good school will assist you in your search for a job as a professional truck driver.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is set to implement the Entry-Level Truck Driver Training (ELDT) rule effective February 7, 2022. That regulation, for the first time, will set high standards that all U.S. Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) programs will have to meet. The ELDT rule requires all training providers to register and affirm that they meet the stringent standards outlined in ELDT. More information can be found on the FMCSA website at: https://tpr.fmcsa.dot.gov/
Beginning February 7, 2022, drivers applying to obtain a Class A or Class B CDL for the first time will be subject to the requirements in the Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) regulations. These regulations establish a federal standard for training. CDL applicants must successfully complete this training before they will be permitted to take the CDL skills test. Drivers will search for a training provider using the upcoming Training Provider Registry. For more information, visit https://tpr.fmcsa.dot.gov
With so many states having altered guidelines and changed deadlines, it’s best to refer to your state’s Department of Transportation to get the specifics as to what may have changed recently. Here’s a directory by state: https://www.dot.ny.gov/main/alpha-list-state-dots Getting a CDL license and truck driving regulations continue to evolve.
2020 and 2021 have been years unlike any across all industries, and trucking is no different. This is a case where the data is still catching up with the realities. Depending on the state and type of job, compensation can vary from $31,000 per year to over $100,000 per year. Source: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes533032.htm Annual earnings are based on many factors including they type of driving performed and the cargo being hauled. Depending on your compensation arrangement, you may also earn overtime pay and bonuses. Keep in mind that driving a truck is not just a job, it is a lifestyle. Top earning drivers spend much of the year on the road, and this can be hard on families and relationships. Consider if the truck driver’s lifestyle is one that fits what you want in terms of a “work-life balance.”
Different carriers or companies operating trucks use different methods of calculating wages. The basis by which you will be paid is known as a “Pay Structure.” Various structures exist, including payment based on hours worked, miles driven, specific routes driven, or a combination of the three. Typically, full-time truck drivers do not earn a straight annual salary. This is especially the case with OTR drivers.
Per Hour: Hourly compensation is uncommon in the trucking industry. For those company that do pay hourly wages, as of 2019, the average wage is $24.00 per hour. Most often hourly wages apply to local drivers. An advantage of hourly pay is that, provided you work your assigned weekly hours, you can count on a steady income that you can plan for. Hourly drivers are also eligible for overtime, something not provided to most types of drivers. Under this sort of arrangement, you are likely to be home most nights. On the negative side of hourly pay structures, you won’t be paid for “sleeper time,” “layover time,” or “inconvenience time” as are OTR drivers.
Per Mile: Most truck drivers are paid on the basis of miles driven. The mileage and total payment may vary week-to-week, but drivers paid by the mile will find when comparing their wages to other pay structures, they typically earn more per hour or if their pay is salary based. A driver paid per mile normally drives up to 3,000 miles a week, the estimated maximum based on the “Hours of Service” regulations. When converting to an hourly wage, mileage-based pay may equal up to $50.00 per hour. According the to the U.S. Department of Labor, most mileage-based drivers earn 28-40 cents per mile driven. Some companies will pay slightly more for drivers with extensive experience or who specialize in hauling a dangerous, high-value, or otherwise out-of-the-ordinary types of freight. In terms of disadvantages, any inconvenience (weather, breakdown, urban driving) that decreases the number of miles driven during a given period will have a negative impact on your paycheck.
Route-based: Like hourly pay structures, few companies pay on a route-basis. In most cases, a truck driver with a normal delivery route is more likely to be paid an hourly wage or salary than a lump sum dependent on a delivery route. Routes are usually fairly short, meaning overnight driving is not always required. On the other hand, if paid a specific amount to complete a given route, drivers who experience delays during the day may find themselves working long hours (but in no case more than the FMCSA regulations allow). Route-based drivers should study the FMCSA regulations that provide exceptions to the Hours-of-Service regulations for drivers operating with a limited radius of their terminal. FMCSA has considered excluding drivers from regulations if they do not drive more than a certain number of miles from a base location (i.e., within a 150-mile radius).
When you think about a “typical” workday, you probably want to compare a truck driver’s job to a standard job meaning roughly 8 hours a day Monday through Friday working in a single location with weekends and holidays off. For most jobs, the typical workday doesn’t really exist. And you can be sure that “working 9 to 5” is a schedule a truck driver never works. Every day is different. A driver runs into different challenges every day that cause hours to vary and distances driven to exceed or fall short of expectations. That’s why flexibility is an important trait of a truck driver. Yes, truck driving jobs do exist that allow drivers to be home every night, but OTR driving is seldom one of those jobs. As you explore different trucking schools, everyone will have a different perspective on trucking as a career. While it may not be for everyone, most truck drivers love what they do, and embrace the sense of community.
Back in 2018, the U.S. Department of Labor estimated the number of truck drivers needed would increase 5% by 2028. That’s almost 100,000 new jobs. As of September 2021, that number still increased. It’s now projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics https://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/delivery-truck-drivers-and-driver-sales-workers.htm that by 2030 it will continue to grow by 12% fast than the average of most professions. Keep in mind that these are “forecasted” numbers and assume few changes in supply-demand or major developments making truck drivers and OTR transportation necessary. These factors can change daily. Keep an eye on quarterly statistics is the best method of tracking job opportunities.
Upon finishing truck driving school, almost anyone can be a truck driver, provided they meet the physical and mental requirements to earn a CDL and safely operate a truck. In order to cross state lines a truck driver must be 21 years old however at 18 years old a student can get a CDL (varies by state) and can drive within the state. The best truck drivers have personal qualities helping them to make a career behind the wheel. If you are just beginning to consider truck driving as a profession — especially students — you probably want to know about training, experience, qualifications, and anything that may prohibit you from driving a truck. The following are a few requirements anyone wanting to drive a truck must consider: FMCSA and state requirements to obtain a CDL; Passing CDL written and skills tests; Passing a medical exam conducted by a FMCSA-approved physician with a focus on FMCSA guidelines for physical and mental health; Stick to any treatments or regiments prescribed by a medical examiner so you may pass periodic testing in the future; Abstain from using any illegal substances, even in your private life as many remain in your system for extended periods and may still impair driving long after they are used; Submit to and pass periodic illegal substance testing whether FMCSA-required or as required by an employer; Have a suitable driving record, especially when behind the wheel of a truck. These are just some basic requirements of any truck driver. They don’t vary by gender, age, region of the country, or demographics. Anyone who can follow the guidelines above can be a truck driver.
If you job shadow or interview a truck driver, ask questions! You’ll probably learn that while the basic requirement will qualify you as a driver, different carriers/companies have additional requirements of the drivers they hire. These are often included in job advertisements as well as in the KSAs for the job description. As you evaluate different truck driving schools, you’ll want to make sure that the curriculum covers a wide array of these requirements.
Any person operating a Commercial Motor Vehicle (CMV) in the United States (unless training) must have a valid Commercial Driver’s License (CDL). The type of CDL a driver needs depends on the type of Commercial Motor Vehicle being operated. The type of vehicle is normally defined as the combination of the truck and trailer. While the Federal Highway Administration developed standards for CDL licenses, the testing and issuing of CDLs is done at the state level. A truck drive may possess only one CDL from their “home” state.
CDLs are issued in one of three “Classes” — A, B, and C. The class of CLD license needed is dependent on the type of truck operated and the trailer and type of cargo. Class A CDLs are the most common versatile type of CDL drivers can carry. Class A CDLs allow drivers to operate almost any Class A, Class B, or Class C Commercial Motor Vehicle. Class A CDLs are required if a driver is operating, per the FMCSA as of September 2021, “any combination of vehicles with a GVWR/GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating/Gross Vehicle Weight) of 26,001 or more pounds provided the GVWR/GVW of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 pounds. Class A holders are also permitted to operate any commercial motor vehicle included in Classes B and C.” In simple terms, if you want to drive trucks often referred to as “18-wheelers,” you need a Class A CDL. Examples of trucks you can drive with a Class A CDL include: Tractor-trailers, Truck and trailer combinations, Tank vehicles, Livestock carriers, Flatbeds, Reefers and Logging vehicles.
A Class B CDL allows a driver to operate a vehicle with a “GVWR and GVW of 26,001 or more pounds, or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR and GVW. Class B holders are also permitted to operate any commercial motor vehicle included in Class C.” Examples of Commercial Motor Vehicles you can drive with a Class B CDL include: Buses, Tow trucks, Cement trucks, Dump trucks, other trucks used in the construction industry, Garbage and recycling trucks, Straight trucks, Box trucks, Armored vehicles, Package delivery vehicles, Utility vehicles. Class B CDL holders often drive “cash-in-transit vehicles,” defined as those with GVWRs between 8,000 and 12,000 pounds that securely transport freight in urban areas. With certain endorsements, a Class B CDL allows a driver to operate other vehicles as well.
A Class C CDL allows a driver to operate a single vehicle or combination of vehicles not meeting the definitions of Class A or Class B, but designed to transport 16 or more passengers (including the driver) or to transport material designated as hazardous but not carried in a vehicle requiring a Class A or Class B CDL. Examples of vehicles you can drive with a Class C CDL include: Small HazMat vehicles, Passenger vans or small buses, Vehicles requiring a CDL to operate but not covered in Class A or Class B definitions.
A CDL, or Commercial Driver’s License, is a type of motor vehicle operator’s license issued by a state after you have proven you hold the knowledge and ability to drive a Commercial Motor Vehicle of the appropriate classification. To obtain a CDL, you must pass a written test, a skills test, and obtain medical clearance.
A CLP, or Commercial Learner’s Permit, is a state-issued permit authorizing you to operate a Commercial Motor Vehicle for training purposes under the supervision of a valid CDL holder for the vehicle you are operating. Obtaining a CLP is often considered the first step taken toward earning a CDL. For anyone holding CLP, there are only three endorsements available as of September 2021 per the DOT and with restrictions: Passenger (P) - cannot carry passengers other than trainers or testers, School Bus (S) - cannot carry passengers other than trainers or testers, Tank Endorsement (T) - may only operate an empty tanker.