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Raising the Standards of the Trucking Industry

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Problem Trucking Students Fall Prey to CDL School Greed


By: Allen Smith

Many CDL truck driving schools continue to lure prospective students into class through the promises of big money and guaranteed employment.  The fact is, many trucking companies are hiring new CDL school graduates and getting those unemployed from the recession back to work.  That is a good thing.

The problem is that too many of these truck driver training schools are still taking anyone who walks through their door willing to pay the price . . . even when the school knows that their chances of being hired by any motor carrier is next to zero.

CDL students are going into debt for thousands of dollars for the prized Class A Commercial Driver License with the understanding that within a few weeks, they will be fully employed and on the road to earning $50,000 plus per year.  Many are told the more realistic figure of $32,000 annual income, unaware of the dead end that lies ahead.  Accepted by the CDL school, these are the students who have speeding tickets, DUI’s, accidents and even felonies on their records.

I recently received an email from a CDL graduate who has been unable to obtain employment from any trucking company throughout the United States.  Having paid $6,000 for the commercial license, the school had informed him that the two DUI’s and the one felony on his record would be something that they could “work through.” Now, back in reality, his $6,000 CDL is totally useless.

Many of these CDL training schools are receiving governments grants, accepting students that most likely will not be candidates for the trucking industry.  The National Commercial Drivers License Program Improvement Grant awards 25 million dollars to these schools.

Reference : Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient Transportation Equity Act: A Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU) , Public Law 109-59, 119 Stat. 1144, 49 U.S.C 31311 and 31313.

If you are considering becoming a professional truck driver and attending the required CDL truck driver training school, remember one thing before you sign on the dotted line and hand over your money or sign the loan papers . . . the Comprehensive Safety Analysis (CSA) has changed the hiring standards of the U. S. trucking industry.  Too many CDL students are learning the hard way that the CSA has added serious complications in regards to their hiring chances.

Through the implementation of the CSA, motor carriers are practicing a much stricter hiring process, looking for drivers with the best and most flawless driving and history background.  The Pre-Screen Employment Program (PSP) will provide the trucking company with a three year look-back of the driving record, showing any driving violations;  furthermore, it will show a five year look-back of any motor vehicle crashes, relating to those drivers’ with experience.  Independently, there will be a background check performed for other violations such as DWI, felonies or other such criminal convictions.

As a newcomer to the trucking industry, these students have no experience, therefore they will not have a three or five year history, but the company and their insurance carrier will still perform a background check.  Any driving violations, along with any criminal data will be discovered.  CDL schools know this, yet many will still accept these students in their training program.  It is all about the money, regardless that the students will find themselves still unemployed with a worthless commercial driver license.

As motor carriers concern themselves with maintaining the best safety record and safety score possible, they also want to hire those drivers with excellent background checks .  It is all about the CSA and the new age of trucking.  A recent CDL graduate with an excellent MVR record etc., is just what the company is looking for;  this type of new-hire will only add to the motor carrier’s safety rating because the graduate has no “history.”

Another problem many CDL graduates face, which I have discussed many times, is when they complete CDL training and fail to get started in a job immediately.  Once CDL training is completed, there is no time to sit back with a “wait and see” attitude of which trucking company you want to work for.

James McCormack of Trucking Careers of America, a career advisory and job placement company, offers the following advise:  

“When you graduate from a trucking school you have a short window to go into trucking.  If you exceed that window you have to take a 40 hour refresher course . On the other hand,  if you are out of school for 3 years and have never used your CDL,  you will most likely be required to take the course all over again.  If that’s the case,  you have two options:  go back to a school or go with a company sponsored program.   If you choose to go with a company sponsored program there will be a contract involved.”

Major problems I am seeing from recent CDL graduates who are still jobless months after completing training, are (1) they have waited too long after graduating before accepting a job offer;   (2)  they failed to understand the complications and stricter hiring standards due to the CSA and (3)  they have a poor driving record and/or criminal background and fell victim to a CDL training school that took their money anyway, knowing they would be non-hireable.

The U. S. trucking industry has changed.  This is the first thing you must understand.  The days of moving from job to job or buying a CDL from a CDL school mill and hitting the open road in the big rig are over, and they have been over for some time now.  Experienced drivers, along with CDL recent graduates can no longer easily land a truck driving job with violations, accidents and felonies on their records.  Even veteran truck drivers are falling prey to the money-making institution that the trucking industry has become.

Mr. McCormack recites another story in regards to a seasoned, experienced trucker:

“Here is an example of the mentality of the trucking industry – I talked to a CDL holder a while back that had 20 years OTR experience.  In that 20 year period he worked for only 3 companies.  He was an instructor at times, never had a ticket, accident, etc.   He was also voted employee of the year on numerous occasions.  It doesn’t get any better.  The problem was it had been 5 years since he drove.  Every company he tried to get hired by said no.  He would have to go through full training again before they would consider him.  As it turned out,  I sent him to a company sponsored program, he fulfilled his contract and afterwards I sent him to (an area company).   He’s now making the income he wanted with good home time.”

If a 20 year OTR trucking veteran has to go through this, then as a newcomer to the industry, imagine what kind of record and background history that the motor carrier will want from you.   When the CDL school tells a student that prior violations will not be a factor in their hiring ability, they are not being honest and are only looking at pocketing the huge CDL training fee.

Stories of CDL school graduates having been victimized by truck driving schools are endless, and it appears to be getting worse;  another recent graduate experienced the pitfall of choosing the wrong truck driving school . . . James McCormack explains:

“I just talked to a recent graduate from a school in New York.  This graduate paid $9,800 for CDL training.  He financed the loan with his mother as a co-signer.  He and his mother were told they guaranteed job placement even though he had a criminal record.  He’s now paying $112 a month for 10 years.   He received his CDL, however there is one big problem!”

“He was charged with felony possession of cocaine in 5/08 and was convicted on 5/5/09.  One year in jail, a drug rehab program and probation.  He just finished his probation.  Of course he can’t get a job, in addition, the school guarantees in writing they will find them a job –  SURE !  This is another example of abuse in this industry.  There is no way this school should have taken this student.  In my opinion, this is financial greed.”

Use common sense.  Trucking companies require professional, safe drivers and with the CSA, that statement has never been more true.  If you have recent  DUI’s, felonies, speeding tickets, accidents and simply a poor driving and safety record,  even within the last several years, do yourself a favor . . .  keep your money and look for another career.

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By: Allen Smith

Allen Smith is a 37 year veteran who started at an early age in a household goods family moving business. He began driving straight trucks in 1977 and moved to the big rigs in 1982. His experience within the industry includes; owner operator, company driver, operations manager, and owner of a long distance HHG moving business, taking many of the long haul moves himself when needed. Allen Smith, a truck driver advocate who is driven by the desire to help others succeed within an industry where injustice, unrewarded sacrifice, and lack of respect and recognition exists. Allen and his wife Donna are hosts of Truth About Trucking ”Live” on Blog Talk Radio. Other websites include AskTheTrucker, TruckingSocialMedia, NorthAmericanTruckingALerts, TruthAboutTrucking, and many Social Media websites. In 2011 Allen and Donna hosted the first Truck Driver Social Media Convention, designed to create unity and solutions for the trucking industry. This is now being extended through the North American Trucking Alerts network as those within the industry join forces for the betterment of the industry. Allen strongly supports other industry advocates who are also stepping up to the plate to help those who share honesty, guidance and direction. He believes that all those involved in trucking need to be accountable for their part within the industry, including drivers, carriers, brokers, shippers, receivers, etc… The list of supporters and likeminded people grow daily, networking together and sharing thoughts and ideas for the betterment of trucking. He has coined the popular phrase "Raising the standards of the trucking industry"

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32 Responses to Problem Trucking Students Fall Prey to CDL School Greed. - Post a Comment

  1. luis m lopez

    i been out here for 4 yrs and 2 are verifiable.
    when i started driving i leased with transam.
    lost my butt and almost my family.
    i released a truck from an o/o and was doing good moneywise after paymens and fuel.
    turned my truck in to o/o in april when i had a minor stroke.
    had 18months left to payit off.
    an now company and i am regretting it.
    am looking for lease or preferably lease to purchase but dont want to go with the big companies.
    been online many times as i am on today still searching with no luck.
    want to lease on with a small company that has a lease program or even find an o/o that wants to lease out a truck to me.
    i am at ends finding one.
    can you recommend some sites or advise where to post my experience? i been on graigslist too.
    yur advise is greatly appreciated.

  2. Franklin Moore

    When I see the claim that “no one will hire me” or “no trucking company will hire me” I have to wonder what jobs were applied for.

    Sure, if you have a felony or DUI you are not going to be hauling television sets or gasoline.

    But if you truly want to work: Consider waste hauling. Fat collection. Asphalt. Dirt. Sewage pumping. Bio-hazard waste. All require a CDL.

    Don’t tell me no one wants you just because YOU don’t want to do THAT KIND OF WORK. The jobs are out there. And there are many employers willing to work with you if you are willing to show up. These businesses are critical to our way of life.

    Don’t cry if you haven’t TRIED.

    • Allen Smith

      I don’t think you understand the problem here.
      The fact is that after a student graduates from CDL school they must do a certain amount of time with a CDL training company. THese “starter companies” as I call them are OTR trucking companies and they most likely will not hire those with felonies or DUI’s

      The recruiters and schools are not always truthful to the applicants, therefore either collecting the 5K dollars from either the student ot the government

  3. John Truax

    I’ll take this chance to point out another way the CDL schools are ripping off the students. Most schools outsource from hotels since its cheaper. They book X amount of rooms on a monthly bases. Instead of paying weekly rates the student pays by the day. With two sometimes three students per room everyone pays the same amount for the room. When I went to school I drove so that I wouldn’t be at the mercy of waiting on someone else to decide when I could go anywhere. ( my wife had went to school the year before while I was still in the Army so I knew what to exspect ) While checking in I asked for and was denied a single room,even if I paid the difference. Found out that regardless if I had a single room or shared a room with one or two others it was the same price paid by the school. Which was $35.78 a night PER room. Each student was paying $35.78 per night. That’s two people at least in a room paying the school $1,610.10 for 45 nights in the same room.
    Day three of school,after my roommate walked out of school because of what the instructors were teaching the totally new to trucking students. Things like * airbrakes stop the truck quicker than disksbrakes,coming onto the interstate truckers have the right away because of the size, and so on. * I was in my room debating on whether or not I was staying there myself two people walked in, my new roommates. I checked out and paid what I owed for the room and went my way.

  4. Allen Smith

    You totally missed the concept of the entire post! WoW! – Allen

  5. Ken Heslin

    The CDL (Mills) Schools never explain the following.

    Once acceptance of you for a trainable position for a motor carrier. My gripe is due to a newbie being “wet behind the ears”. You may be in the same Orientation Classes with drivers that have 10 plus years experience. Nothing is ever explained about “Service Failures”. Then “the Finishing Program” with a trainer for at least 200 hours including driving, backing, parking, pretrip, mountain driving, ability to understand and follow trainers instruction, etc is never explained. Then you have both a written and driving test h completion of 00 hours. If you pass those tests, you become a “1st Seat Driver” to drive Solo. Once you becom a Solo or 1st Seat Driver and something happens you are blamed for. No one explains what how and why you have committed (a) Service Failure(s) and whether there is a probationery period to redeem yourself.

  6. John Truax

    Nope. I understood the article perfectly. I simply shared another money making scam the cdl schools tack on since they provide housing during school. If two or three students pay the school $35.78 for 1 and the same room per night,but the school only pays the hotel $35.78 for that same room where does the other $35.78 plus go?

  7. Allen Smith

    Hey John: My comment wasn’t directed at you. It was my reply to Franklin. Your comment was well taken and appreciated . . . Allen

  8. John Truax

    Ok,since it showed up under my post I thought you were talking to me. No harm done.

  9. Hanadarko

    I would like to see more awareness for potential students, especially of the CSA interaction now. A few friends of mine have 1 or even 2 DUIs and even though it’s been 10 or 15+ yrs they have no idea why they cannot get hired. Canada has a strict restriction on any CMV operation with 2 prior DUIs. They prohibit that and any carrier (like Roehl for example) that runs into Canada cannot accept these students. It doesn’t matter if the DUI was last year or 20yrs ago. Nice article Allen….

  10. naomi

    Thanks for doing this article. As my husband fell into troubles,
    from CR England student training program. they Sucker you into lease
    programs, you’re gonna make $50,000 YR. Then they don’t give you miles to cover vehicle costs. true scammers day after day.. needless to say husband did 6 months making zero and negative paychecks. put us in debt. There are other scam schools yes but Crengland BE-WARE !!!

  11. Allen Smith

    Thanks. Working on getting the word out. Hearing from a lot of CDL graduates who got suckered in by these CDL schools.

    • emanymton

      How can you report a CDL Training school that is not properly training their students? Or standing over them giving them the answers to the Tests on the computers?

    • Allen Smith

      There is a difference between licensed, accredited and certified. At minimum, they should be licensed by their State Agency such as the Education Commission. You can ask the school who they are licensed by and begin there.

  12. Allen Smith

    Thanks Naomi . . . I first exposed the trucking company lease purchase scam 4 years or so ago, yet, not all have heard!

  13. Santiago

    I have read all your comments as well as the mentioned topics. I have a slightly different situation. I was laid-off by a non-trucking job. Decided I wanted to get my CDL. I took classes with a local non-accredited school. I studied & practice for 2 months. Passed my road test & recieved my CDL A. Only problem is I practiced & used a automatic tractor for my road test. Full training on double shifting wasnt even involved. I am 31 clean license, NO DUI’s, NO Convictions & No accidents.
    What should I do in this situation??

  14. Santiago

    Hey Mr.Smith. I have a scenario for you. I was laid-off from a company I had been with for 10 yrs. With the time off I decided to study for my CDL. I studied & practice for a month or so and passed my road test. The problem is that the neighborhood/local non-accredited school didnt have a 9 or 10 gear trans it was an automatic tractor pulling a 53′ trailer. Now Im 31. I have a CDL A w/Hazmat endorsement & can’t pass a companies road test to start because they all have standard trucks. My license is clean with NO accidents, NO DUI’s & NO violations. I also have NO convictions.

    What do you recommend I should do?

  15. Hanadarko

    Naomi…1st rule……NEVER lease from the hand that feeds you. If a person is convinced that leasing (vs buying used) is the right approach – lease from someone that doesn’t give you miles. Allen has a great site (lonemountain truck leasing) that is one of the fairest out there. However, I have never seen where leasing makes ANY pay and pay and pay and…wait, thats an argument for a different column…

  16. Allen Smith

    There are companies that operate auto trucks . . . US Express is one, I believe. Check around, there are a few more . . . the longer you wait, you will have to go through another type of training course.

  17. John Truax

    @ Santiago,companies that use auto shift trucks are; US Express,Interstate,CalArk. Plus a few others that escape me at this time. USX is slowly returning to standard, using 10 and 13 speeds. I haven’t seen it personally but I’ve been told that at a few terminals there are a few trainers that are doing refresher training for co-workers that haven’t drove a stick in awhile and they might also be training some that have never drove a stick. My wife works for USX,mother works for IDC, and I have a cousin that works for CalArk,all are happy were they are.

  18. Franklin Moore

    I didn’t miss the point of the post. I work for one of those crappy CDL schools. And I am fully aware of the games that are played trying to recruit students. If you shop around…you don’t pay 6, 8, 9 thousand dollars. Our school is a “leader” in California and we get between $2500 to $5000 a head. It’s up to the student. And WE DON’T take every warm body that walks in the door. There is full disclosure about the reality of having DUI’s and felonies. But the fact is, I have personally seen guys with MULTIPLE DUI’s and felonies get hired by trucking companies desperate for people willing to do unpleasant work. No, not Werner, or CRST or any of those. Try Spanky’s Pumping service. Darling (the fat collectors) or just about any ashpalt hauler.
    As usual…truck driver lightweights crying about how things are not perfect for them. I stand on the conviction that IF YOU WANT TO WORK, there are trucking companies that WILL hire you.

  19. Franklin Moore

    Waaa waa waa…cry me a river! Who would go to a school with no physical offices or yard to practice in? Who would go to a school with old, broken down or non-industry standard tractors and trailers?
    Let the buyer beware!
    Nobody twists your arm to go to a CDL school.
    It’s a fact of life that you JUST CAN’T JUMP IN THE CAB AND THINK YOU CAN DRIVE. The California DMV agrees. That’s why it’s the hardest state in the union to get a CDL in.
    I teach guys all the time who start out thinking that driving a truck is the simplest, easiest job in the world. And it CAN be. But first you have to learn to do a log at least. And be able to locate a simple answer in the FMCSR. And be able to do a six-point brake test. And a complete vehicle pre-trip inspection. And be able to BACK UP STRAIGHT. No to mention alley dock and parallel park. THEN we’ll talk about learning to shift a ten-speed transmission. And doing a low-range shift when you turn a corner. And using common sense and displaying some ROAD COURTESY.
    If you have not learned any of this, BEFORE you plunk down your hard earned money, well whose fault is it?
    I have taken homeless vets fresh out of recovery still shaking and taught them how to get off the streets. And also lots with plenty of cash who just wanted to be big time truckers.

    If you don’t research the industry and shop around, don’t blame the schools. The one I work for doesn’t even advertise. New students seek us out because they are often at the end of their rope, 99 weekers running out of unemployment, or guys who are just tired of the REAL dead end jobs.
    And a truck driving job offers hope.
    It’s ALWAYS better than working at the 7-11, or being on welfare.

    • Allen Smith

      Sounds like you believe it’s okay for the schools to advertise anything they want and it’s up to the student ( paying customer) to research and make sure what they state is true.

      It’s one thing to go and investigate the grounds and training area to ensure they are adequate. This is a smart thing to do.
      It’s another thing to find out that the answers to the questions you asked them were non truths.

    • Allen Smith

      Have to add also, that your comment tells me a lot about your school and is the epitome of most CDL schools that I come acoss.

  20. b

    Hey I’m looking in going to cdl school but I’m on probation for assault on a female…problem is I took a deffered plea. Which means my case comes up as pending for 2 yrs whilee on probation but when I gt off it gets erased..also have 2 accidents but that’s all…do u think I still can get into a cdl school or even get a job….please respond and let me know

    • Allen Smith

      Your chances are probably next to zero, which it should be.

  21. JoeM


    I have a question for you. I have zero experience driving a truck. My wife works as a trucking dispatcher and does one hell of a job. She turned me on to the business. And the fact that I am somewhat of an introvert, liking the solitude, I am shown interest in trying my hand at OTR.

    So, I have seen companies online like Pam Transportation offering CDL as long as you sign up with them to work. Obviously, I have zero driving experience. And my background is as clean as that of a saint. No history at all.

    So what do you think my driving future looks like?


    • Allen Smith

      I suggest you go to a vo-tech school for training and definitely stay away from company CDL training where any contracts are concerned.

  22. Ron

    I have a story to tell. I live in Delaware and I recently attended a trucking school here. I told the owner of the school about my one felony and asked him what my chances were of being hired with ‘any’ company, be it OTR or dump truck or whatever. I said I didn’t believe I had a very good chance at all. He asked me how long ago my felony was and I told him, 2002. He said, “Oh, well, that was awhile ago. I’d say you’d be ok. We work with over 73 trucking companies in Delaware alone.”

    Ok, that got my hopes up. Now what about my ticket? I have only one and it comes off very soon (5/14/13). “Oh, no problem! That’s nearly off and will be a non-issue,” he said. Ok, great! Where do I sign? My school was paid for by Vocational Rehabilitation- ie, John Q. Taxpayer! I have a conscience and therefore wanted to know before-hand if I’m wasting the taxpayer’s money before I commit myself.

    I thought I had everything covered. Now here’s my reality; I did very well in school. I carried a 97% average and passed my road test on the first shot. I was even complimented by the DMV evaluator on my shifting ability. I signed up for “job placement.” Their idea of job placement was submitting two applications for me. I could have done that myself. When I pressed them to do more, as they advertised, I was told that “Getting a job is your responsibility.” Wow, really?

    I ended up graduated 2.3 weeks early because I passed the test early. I asked if I was going to finish my 2 weeks for the extra practice. The answer was no. They said, “You passed, you have your CDL. What good would it do you to keep going?” Umm…practice!

    So now I am 34 days outside of graduation and still have not gotten a job. Here are some responses recruiters have given me. ‘We don’t hire out of Delaware’ (6 major companies). ‘We need at least 3, 6, 12, or 24 months experience and school doesn’t count’ (15 major companies). ‘Your felony isn’t old enough’ (3 major companies, they started the count at the end of probation, not when I was convicted). ‘Your ticket has to be 3 years old’ (I was 3 weeks away from the ticket expiring, and their own application said they accepted no more than two tickets in 3 years, 2 major companies).

    Supposedly those companies are calling me back in 3 weeks. They just might, but I’m not holding my breath. I began looking into dump truck (class B) jobs because my school said they would be easier to get. They were worse than the big rig jobs. They required 2-5 years experience. To add insult to injury, those jobs don’t count towards class A experience so you are just spinning your wheels (no pun intended). They also tend to be too seasonal too count on for job security. So that’s been my experience.

    Now I feel obligated to repay John Q. Taxpayer because I feel as though I stole their money. These schools will tell you whatever you want to hear to get you to sign on. I have applied for a TWIC and hazmat to increase my worth to a company. Two less things they have to worry about. My felony isn’t a disqualifier, so says the government’s website. I don’t really know if it will make a difference or not. It can’t hurt. Many apps ask if you are bondable. How the hell would I know, I’ve never been before. I know the Feds have a bonding program but its only good for 6 months.

    I don’t see how that is worth anything at all. What happens after 6 months? I’m still applying for jobs but I feel my CDL is only good for a coaster at this point. I truly think state and/or federal governments should regulate these trucking schools and make them tell the truth on a person’s likelihood of getting a job. They regulate every other damn thing!

  23. Eldridge

    Wondering how long of a window do I have to obtain a job with my CDL Class A before a refresher course is mandatory….???

    • Allen Smith

      Depends on the company….6 months to a year.

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