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Starter Companies for CDL Students and Graduates


Students and new drivers that are trying to break into trucking as a career, always have one question that I receive on a daily basis: “What about Swift, Werner, CR England…?”  Instead of constantly answering this question one at a time, I thought it would be easier and more efficient to post about it.

The biggest obstacle for newcomers to the trucking industry is actually getting hired and to begin building that all-important one year of actual driving experience.  It is an even larger obstacle today, due to the economic situation.  Not all trucking companies accept students or recent CDL graduates.  In fact, the companies that do can almost be counted on both hands.  These are the trucking companies that I often refer to as “starter” companies.

“Starter” in this sense, does not mean that they are new companies.  Swift, Werner, CR England and the others have been around for a long time and are very large trucking companies.  “Starter” simply means that they are some of the few trucking companies that will accept students as drivers.  Why do students always ask about these “starter” companies?  Because they are the largest and most well-known trucking companies that offer student acceptance.  I always make it a point to advise students and recent CDL grads that you cannot expect to receive your license and immediately land one of the really good trucking jobs. Nor can you expect to go right out and get hired driving locally.  There may be a very few rare occasions, but for the most part, this simply does not happen.

So, where does this leave the student?  A newcomer to trucking must have between six months to one year of verifiable driving experience before a company will even look at them for the possibility of being hired.  For the most part, one year is the magic number. So how do you receive this one year of experience?  Through attending an accredited CDL school, you will meet the regulatory mandated hours required for the minimum driving “experience” trucking companies need before they can place you behind the wheel.  From there, you will begin building the real time driving experience through the trucking company and continue on with one year of driving, thus building the driving experience that the trucking insurance carriers require.

So who will you most likely be placed with?  Swift, Werner, CR England, USA Truck, PAM, Lisa Motor Lines, FFE and Covenant or the few other known “starter” companies. You have no other choice, because these are the companies that accept and/or will train students.  This is the only way to obtain the one year of verifiable driving experience, period.  To begin a career in  trucking, you are going to have to begin with OTR (over the road), 99% of the time.  So, what is my answer to the question, “What about…?”

No matter who the trucking company is, you will always hear both good and bad things about them.  This is just the nature of the business.  No company can make all 100% of their employees “happy.”  This is just human nature.  The bottom line is this: if you are wanting to make trucking a career, then you are going to have to begin with one of the “starter” companies, again,  99% of the time.  These trucking companies do provide important facets to the trucking industry … (1) they offer training for newcomers to trucking who may not have the up-front money needed for CDL training and (2) they provide the means for students to achieve the actual driving experience required by the insurance carriers.

Nobody can tell you that whoever you decide to go with, that it is all going to work out just as you planned.  This is OTR  trucking that we are talking about. In today’s economic situation, if trucking is what you want to do, then grab on to one of the “starter” companies and get going. You are not ever going to get started in your trucking career if you constantly spend your time asking, “What about…?”   The situation that comes is out of your hands, except for one thing: attitude.

Attitude plays a major role in how your trucking career plays out. You are going to have to accept what comes in trucking.  There are going to be good days, and there are going to be bad days. It’s all about individuality.  Go into trucking with a positive attitude. Work professionally and act like a professional.  Pick up and deliver your loads on time, submit legal, well written paperwork, speak to the dispatcher, load coordinator and everyone else professionally.  Do not worry about the “bad” things that will surely come…this is OTR trucking.  When they happen, deal with it and move on.

Understand, that driver turn-over will continue.  The key, is sticking it out and getting that one year of driving experience under your belt. After that, if the company you are with is not working out, then move on to something better. You now have the experience that the insurance carriers are seeking.  The biggest obstacle standing in your way could, very possibly, be you.  If you begin with a company with the attitude or fear that they are going to treat you badly, then most likely, they will.  These “starter” companies, as I call them, could turn out to be a very good trucking job for you.  Who knows?  A lot of it will be based on your attitude and professionalism.

I know that many of you have read and heard the “horror” stories about many  trucking companies.  On the other hand, I know many drivers who have driven for “starter” companies for years and are very happy being there.  Could it be attitude?  Could it be accepting the good with the bad?  I believe it is.  Over the road trucking is a tough vocation. You are never going to find a trucking company where there are no problems.  Problems are a part of trucking.

As a newcomer to trucking, you first have to stop looking for that perfect company.  There are very good trucking companies out there, but many are not “starter” companies.  If they are, they may not be accepting students due to the economy.  Companies such as Roehl Transport and Millis Transfer are excellent companies that offer training.

Do not let the term “starter company” keep you from beginning a truck driving career.  These are big companies that have been in business for many years and they provide a much needed service to students.  Accept this as the way things are.  Many drivers and trucking sites are coming together now more than ever, working to bring change to the trucking industry.  If a company treats you poorly, then report it. Post it in the trucking forums, post it on the blogs…let the world know. Help to bring about change.

If you are having problems getting hired by one of the better known trucking companies, this is to be expected and you need to go with one of the starter companies.  It is the only way you are ever going to begin building the experience that is required. Again, just because they are  known as a “starter” company, does not mean that it will be a “bad” experience. There are thousands of drivers very contented with many of these companies.  Attitude means a lot.

One thing I do know is that you will never begin your trucking career if you never take that first step.

© 2009 – 2015, Allen Smith. All rights reserved.

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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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38 Responses to Starter Companies for CDL Students and Graduates. - Post a Comment

  1. Robert Wickman


    Great post. There’s a lot of truth in what you talk about here. Attitude is the one thing businesses cannot teach, so you had better come to work with a good one or work will always be a struggle. With the right attitude, a new driver could do very well at a starter company.


  2. Allen Smith

    Hey Robert: This is where many of them will have no choice but to start. Attitude does play a big role, but I still contend that first year has a lot with having to “pay your dues.” Thanks for the comment……

  3. Cory Crews

    I attended MTC driving school in Missouri graduated and was placed with Stevens Transport. I was a good trainee and being a former road musician I understand dues paying so I was willing to endure just about anything. I had 3 trainers, 2/12 weeks with 1st, 1wk w/ the 2nd & 3days w/ the 3rd. I have a felony in my past which is 13yrs old so this being the case I want to succeed. The last guy tried to start a fight with me and company policy staed that in the event of problems get off the truck and call dispatch which I did and Stevens left me stranded in Virginia . I called them and they had me waiting at Greyhound bus terminal. so after calling and calling i had to find a way back to Chicago. Since than I have been getting work w/ A O/O but need experience to go on my DAC. I am not going to give up but bills are piling up and I,m in need of work.

  4. Allen Smith

    Hi Cory: I hear more and more about this company, as well as many of the starter companies … they know that without them, students and recent grads do not have a prayer for obtaining the experience needed …. in a sense …. they own “us” … as one guy told me the other day …. some starter companies are better than others … these stories still abound out there and you found yourself as another victim of OTR scams …. we will keep fighting the good fight by telling the real TRUTH ABOUT TRUCKING …… good luck … Allen

  5. Angela

    i am in cdl school now and i have had a suspended driverslicense due to unpaid tickets in the past and i have had some misdemeanors but so far everywhere i have apllied has turned me down. HELP!!! please. if i can’t find a job that is $4,000.00 i just threw away for school

  6. Allen Smith

    Angela: Did the school not tell you that right now in this economy, many students with negatives on their MVR’s, etc., are very unlikely to get hired? Which school is this? I would like to know? – Allen

  7. Allen Atkinson

    As a recruiter who has dealt with many of these starter companies, both placing drivers to them and hiring many of those same drivers away for better jobs later, I can say the driver’s attitude and their recognition of the realities is the difference between success and failure. The biggest problems seem to come when a new driver tries to make it into something it isn’t. For the first year it’s a tough job that barely pays enough to live on and you’re constantly on the road. In this economy almost any background issue will prevent you from being hired and almost every company has cut pay. A new driver has to be realistic about the job and their personal situation – if they don’t match up – do something else – come back to trucking when the job and your situation are more in sync.

  8. Allen Smith

    I’m glad you posted this, Allen A. – I continue to explain to new students and newcomers to the industry, that right now, in this economy especially, problems on your MVR, etc., is greatly going to cause you much hardship in getting hired …. if at all. I know many times that what I say is not what many want to hear….but it’s all about honesty and truth here ….. I will point out the good and the “stuff” that may not want to be heard …. but I would rather tell them what they are up against ( in reality ) than have them lose thousands of dollars in training when they stand no chance of being hired ( for now ). Thanks for your post ……

  9. albert wilkie

    ya hi id like to know if cr england is a good plase to go for traning

  10. Allen Smith

    Did you read the above post?

  11. Don

    Theres one other thing that wasent addressed .Blelive it or not theres a age problem if your 50 or over theres a problem being hired its hard to prove and they play on that .And it doesent matter how much expereiance yoy have.

  12. mark

    As far as starter companies go,I was hired by stevens transport ten years ago did my year and have been local in southern california since,like it was said in the article it is hard that first year,but my reccomendation for a company to go with would be werner,because of the paperless log system they have,I have never worked for them but doing logs for me and most drivers is a real pain so to have it computerized would be nice and if I were to go over the road again,werner would be on my list just for that reason alone,paper logs suck and with all these new hours of service laws keeping track of hours is very important to keeping your job and staying out of trouble with the law,just my thoughts on this subject,hope it helps someone,keep on truckin, mark

  13. alex

    I have a class a cdl but have not driven since 2006, would i be better off just getting a regular drivers license and starting all over again by going through a truck driving school? I have 14 years experience from 1992-2006 but that doesnt seem to count for anything in the trucking industry. By the way, those were all accident free years trucking, and i never received any traffic violations.

  14. Allen Smith

    Hey Alex:

    You should be OK by going through a refresher course, which runs around $1500 instead of paying for an entire CDL training course. I would recommend contacting Trucking Careers of America which will help lead you in the best direction:

  15. Phyllis

    Hey Allen,
    I am with Central Alabama Community College and we offer two truck driver training courses; a six-week course for $1,200.00 for beginners and a refresher three-week course for $600.00. You must be at least 21 years of age, have a current/valid Alabama Driver License, pass a DOT physical and DOT drug screen test to enroll.Go to our website to find out more information. THese classes have been around since March of 2003. We have a successful track record with placing our graduates that meet the pre-employment standards of companies like passing a background check and having a good driving record and employment history.

    Thank you.

    • Allen Smith

      Thanks Phyllis: Always on the lookout for respectful CDL schools. I always recommend Vo-Tech courses as one of the best ways to go for obtaining the Class A CDL license.

      Thanks for sharing your info:


  16. Bob

    I recently graduated from a good trucking school and obtained my class A last week.I have read all of the post and still undecided which company to get started with.I for 1 am not as concerned about the big bucks, for me it is being home as much as i can with my family.I know they all tell you they will get you home often but who can you believe?Also, after searching these companies on and watching videos on youtube about alot of these companies, im actually scared to death to go to work for any of them.Sorry for all the rambling but i just have alot of questions and concerns.thanks for any info.




  18. Joshua

    Hey guys I have read thur all the post & I am worried that with me attending Kaskaskia CDL program( community collage) that I’m not going to be able to find a job/ have to attend more schooling after if get my CDL class A thur them. Do any of you know if I’ll have to train with another school or attend a companies training program to get started or to be hired? Thanks for any info you all can give.

    • Allen Smith

      Community Colleges are a good way to obtain your CDL. Upon graduating from the school, you will need to be hired from a company who hires new CDL grads and you will then complete a company training program before anyone will hire you.

  19. Danielle

    <3 your post. How is US Express… To be honest the only thing I don't like is the mandatory driving with another student for 6-8 weeks. Are all Starter companies requiring this??

  20. Edith Norman

    recent grad of a class B CDL. Its very hard getting a chance to drive. Does anyone know where you might get a job in this class.

    • Allen Smith

      A lot of local delivery companies such as auto part stores, Lowes, Home Depot, medical supplies, etc., offer Class B positions for starters. Good Luck.

  21. Randy

    Great post. Very practical. I got my CDL about 10 years ago but never really drove big rigs. I am planning on doing a refresher course so I can get hired with one of the “starter” companies.
    I have worked as a delivery driver before (class B and C). I found some of the companies I worked for would push us so hard we would sometimes need to work so fast and have trucks overloaded it was dangerous. I know speeding to stay on time was acceptable (just not talked about but acceptable). I hated this and spoke up againts breaking the law or allowing my truck to be overload. I was put on their sh/* list for it.

    Has anyone had experience with “starter” companies pushing their drivers so hard they have to skirt the law? They know if one of their drivers is approaching the magic 1 year mark they may lose that driver. They can push the driver hard and won’t care if he/she can’t get another job because of tickets/accidents. Another CDL grad is waiting for that position. I will not break laws or drive dangerous just to keep my job.

  22. Girlfriend of a Beginner Truck Driver

    I am so thankful for your post!
    I have a question. Have you ever heard of a truck driver being stranded in a city for 5 days due to a broke down truck? This “starter” company has left my boyfriend with this load and the company that is supposed to fix the truck keeps saying they will get to it but days have passed. Is this normal? Thanks!

    • Allen Smith

      No, it is not “normal. Is he calling in everyday to check or is he waiting for them to contact him? He should be calling in everyday, his cell phone will create a record of this. Who is the company?
      Keep us posted.

  23. Wow!! To me, something like this is NOT usual. if the company has a decent standing with repair shops, and paying their bills on time (or in a respectable amount of time) then the truck should already have been IN the shop and repaired, unless that particular shop has such a heavy backlog of trucks needing repairs. (there Are shops out there like that) Best thing the driver or the company should do, is to find another shop close by that can get the truck in much faster. As the driver sits, he is in many cases, Not being paid for sitting, unless the company he’s working for has a program for paying the driver layover time, which HE needs to keep track of.

    • Allen Smith

      What I’ve heard in the past is the company will turn around and say he abandoned the truck. That’s why I said to keep calling in everyday.

  24. Sonnybru

    I am more concerned with low pay and lack of miles.go to truck stops to chat with drivers. They will give best info. By them coffee or breakfast and get all the info needed.

  25. dianna

    wow…I am stunned…I am a 51 year old single mom of a 9 year old son…got my class a feb 10…found one job driving city bus…didn’t pass pre employment…hot for pot…I haven’t smoked in almost a month…cant go otr because of my son…and anything local wants experience…it’s beginning to look like all this was a big fat waste of my time and money !! very depressing thread for me 🙁 if anyone has any advise…please help

    • Allen Smith

      Don’t smoke pot. It’s illegal.

  26. Mauricio

    Is it better to pay you own cdl or to just go with the startup companies training offers?

    • Allen Smith

      We recommend Community Colleges or Votech schools as a first choice. If you go with company training you are obligated to abide by the rules and agreements of that contract ( including CPM). If you do not, you could end up paying thousands more.

  27. FamilyMan

    I’m one of the many looking for local work due to me wanting to be home with my family. So I responded to a ad stating owner looking for a operator,local runs 200 miles daily off weekends and make 795-900 weekly working 60 hours a week with opportunity to pick up a Saturday shift if desired. After meeting with the owner he starts saying since I’m a new grad the pay would be 450-500 weekly est. that for every $1000 I make the company I would get 30% but after doing the math $450-500 ÷ 60 here is 7.50-8.33 an hour. Let me add I have CLEAN DMV record. I plan to meet with him and discuss the numbers game and how I responded to the ad for the $795 weekly which only averages $13.25 which is still low but doable in the Central Valley of CA where I reside. I read your post above and I know attitude is everything I’m a humble person but I’m a loner and CANT see myself riding a cramped space with another man, let alone a stranger. I know I need to gain that one year experience but I don’t want to do it OTR. What’s your thoughts I’m thankful for him willing to take the chance but I feel as though I’m worth more than the low number he threw at me to see if I’d bite. I will be doing a test drive for him tomorrow and after displaying my skills I will then talk to him about the numbers. What’s your thoughts on my situation?

    • Allen Smith

      There’s a couple of things to take into account here. First, you don’t want to go OTR. Second, there is a “training”process the first year for CDL graduates where they “pay their dues”. Third, insurance companies usually require at least 1 year experience, many times 2. When we had our House Hold Goods company, our insurance required 2 years experience, and we sold that in 2005.
      So the fact that he is willing to hire you at all is a little surprising.

      Next is your questions of “I’m worth more than the low number he threw at me”
      The answer is, yes and no.
      Yes because the job should pay more that $500.00/wk NOTE however, there are veteran drivers being offered jobs at this rate and taking them.
      No, because you do not have experience.

      Now let’s do some more math so you can compareyour first year OTR with the salary that is being offered.
      A friend of ours recently wrote he met a new driver on the road the other day that was hired out of CDL school and driving OTR for a Large training company. The new grad was being paid 20CPM ( cents per mile) which is how drivers are paid.
      Based on 2000 miles per week that is $400.00/wk, and you are out for 2-3 weeks ( maybe more) at a time.
      I also heard from another friend that the 1st year grads at his company are being paid 30 CPM ( which is considered high to some) THat comes to $600.00/wk

      So the answer is ( in my opinion) the job you are being offered is worth it
      1) You don’t want to go OTR
      2) You are getting experience
      3) SOunds like there is room to advance
      4) You will be making about the same as a new driver OTR without the headache of OTR ( especially 1st year students which have a HIGH failure rate)

      Tonight we will be having a radio show with Pat Hockaday of He will be talking about CDL wages and how they affect your health. He will also be touching on the fact that wages for drivers have not gone up in over 20 years and what we must do to address this problem.

      Here is Pats website to read more about his crusade on Driver Wages
      Also, when you get to the website, click on JoJo’s paper where he discusses driver wages in more detail.

      Hope this helps, and keep in touch
      Listen to the show tonight at 6PM ET also. I think it will help you.

      The call in number to talk to Pat is 347-826-9170
      After you call, press 1 on your keypad to let us know you want to ask a question or make a comment

  28. Mark B.

    I have seen way too much of this, even in my own class A CDL school. People want a top pay job with no experience, and still be home every night. There are some ways you can do this, but it would be 100% unloaded by you. Nope, they don’t want that either. They want 100% drop and hook. Good luck.

    I am married with 4 children. I was fired from my last job on May 26th. Some companies simply won’t hire me because of that. But I have pre-hires from 4 other companies. All I need is my CDL. Yes, all of them are OTR, except one which is a dedicated route and 100% touch freight. Unlike most people, I want that. Driving is great, but I like interaction with people too. You also get paid more for unloading, and even more for multiple stops.

    Nobody with no experience will get everything they want. I have already spoken to the recruiter for the company I want to work for, and he told me to apply after I have 8 months experience.

    You have to apply to everyone, then do some homework. If they aren’t a company you’re sure you will be happy with, make a plan for where you want to end up. I would love to be home every day, but more money and better benefits are more important for my family.

    If someone can get everything they want off the get go, great, I’m happy for them. But most will not be able to do this. You have to be willing to give up some time at home to make it to where you want to be.

  29. Ron

    It still take some common sense in doing your research to find the company that best fits you personally and have a pretty good idea that you will be able to deal with. Swift is NOT one I would EVER recommend, nor would I recommend Knight as they now Own Swift and have taken on a major attitude and are too big for their own britches, anymore! I have first hand experience.

  30. Tom

    MOST major mega carriers are absolutely worthless and a waste of time for any serious person looking to get into trucking! DO YOUR RESEARCH, dig DEEP !!

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