After you earn your commercial driver’s license (CDL), you’re ready to hit the road and start your trucking career. However, you likely aren’t completely finished with training just yet. Many over-the-road (OTR) trucking companies require on-the-job training before you can go solo. It’s helpful to know what to expect during this process so you can be prepared and set yourself up for success.
How Trucking Company Training Works
At most motor carriers, rookie drivers (typically anyone right out of CDL school or with less than six months to a year of experience) get paired with a driver trainer. This is a more experienced trucker who takes new hires on the road to train them.
Some companies also have an orientation process that involves going over similar material to what you learned at trucking school, but with a focus on company-specific policies. If this is the case, you’ll do this prior to hitting the road with your driver trainer.
The exact structure for the on-the-road portion of training varies. In many cases, there will be periods of time where the trainer supervises you while you drive and others where you’ll be team trucking. The latter means that the trainer will be asleep or otherwise off-duty while you drive. However, they will still be available if you run into a situation that requires their immediate assistance.
Each company has a different timeline for this training. Some have a set number of hours with a mentor, whereas others allow driver trainers to determine when their trainees are ready to go solo.
At the conclusion of training, you’ll be assigned your own truck and will hit the road on your own, or with a team if you’ve chosen to pursue team driving.
Common Questions About Motor Carrier Training
1. What should I pack for on-the-road training?
Make sure you have the necessities, but remember that you’re sharing space with another driver in a relatively small space, so pack light. You’ll need to have important documents such as your CDL, as well as clothing and other personal items.
2. What if I don’t get along with my trainer?
Companies will typically allow you to specify some basic preferences for your trainer, notably smoking vs non-smoking or if you prefer a same-gender trainer. Beyond that, you may find that you have an entirely different personality. Try to view this as a learning experience, and remember that it’s only for a limited period of time.
However, if your trainer is abusive or you don’t feel safe with them, this is a different story, and your company should support you in seeking a resolution.
3. What should I expect to learn during company training?
During CDL school, your training focuses on giving you a broad range of knowledge to set you up with a strong foundation for your trucking career. Company training builds on this foundation, but it isn’t as structured as trucking school. You’re actually on the job, and the challenges and learning opportunities you will face can vary.
Different trainers also take different approaches. Some are very focused on teaching and helping give you practical skills, whereas others mostly make sure you are a safe enough driver to be on your own.
Rather than going into training with an expectation of learning anything specific, approach it with curiosity and a willingness to learn and adapt.
Earn Your CDL
Before you hit the road, with a trainer and then eventually solo, you’ll need to earn your CDL. At Phoenix Truck Driving School, we can help you do this in as little as four weeks.