I just finished my 1st week and started my 2nd week of their Get Your CDL program at the Grand Prairie, TX terminal. There are also training terminals in Wisconsin, Indiana, and Atlanta. There are some differences amongst the locations such as class size and fleets that you can join. I think Grand Prairie is only for Texas residents.
Here’s some details on the program:
-It takes about a month or more to go from application to start date. (I’ve heard there’s a waiting list to get in the program as well)
-Roehl does an extensive pre-hire background check
-It’s a 4 week program (go to one of several different DL offices mid to late 4th week).
-Classes are 3 students per class, starting every other week (my class started on the 3rd, the next class will start on the 17th).
-The Grand Prairie terminal only trains for the dry van division, if you want flatbed (which also does curtainside and specialized) or reefer, that’s a change that can be made some time after training.
-Roehl will set up and pay for your DOT physical, to include a urine and hair follicle test. Make sure you have the original bottles for any prescription meds you are taking and records and/or note from the doctor if you have taken any narcotics as doing so will speed up the process.
-Once you get your DOT physical complete, you can go to the DL office and get your permit (you’ll pay for it out of pocket, which is about $25 for the application fee and required tests here in TX). You are required to have your permit in hand before they will set you up with a training date (they may give you a tentative date beforehand).
-Depending on your situation, they may or may not provide you with transportation to Grand Prairie. They prefer that you bring your own vehicle, as you will be using it or carpooling to get to and from the terminal every day. You’ll arrive at the hotel the Sunday prior to the start of your training.
-While in Grand Prairie, they’ll put you up in a hotel which will provide breakfast every day (holidays the hotel puts the breakfast out after you leave, so you’ll have to do something else for breakfast or miss it entirely if you’re in training on a holiday). They’ll also provide lunch for you during the week (sandwich, hamburger, or salad of your choice from a local restaurant…it will also include chips or fries and a drink). Dinner during the week and all meals on the weekends except breakfast are on you.
-They pay you $500 per week starting on the first day with the 1st payment reaching your account on or about the 3rd Thursday of training depending on your financial institution.
-First day you’ll take a qualification physical. They will get a resting heart rate and blood pressure, then take you to do several tasks (ducking under a trailer, climbing in a trailer, lifting a weighted crate to eye level, squats, a push test, and a pull test). After each test they will check your heart rate to ensure it hasn’t exceeded your maximum safe heart rate. The rest of the first day is paperwork, orientation, and classwork.
-You’ll start driving some on day 2, which will mostly be shifting practice in a nearby empty warehouse parking lot (the terminal is pretty small). By the end of week 1, I’ve driven the truck on the freeway, access roads, 2 lane roads, and performed straight line and offset backs. I’ve also backed between trailers. A thorough pre and post trip inspection will be done on the truck (I’m training in a 2014 Freightliner) every day.
-The trainers here will work with you and they use positive reinforcement techniques…no berating beyond some playful razzing.
-Once you have your CDL and the 4th Thursday of class has passed, you will go home for anywhere from a few days to a week to wait for instructions on when, where, and how you will meet up with your trainer.
-You will be with a trainer for about 19 days (depending on your performance and when the trainer can get you back to a terminal to test out) at $90 per full day.
-Once you have tested out and received your truck, you will be assigned to a training fleet manager and make $0.33 per mile. There is a raise at 3 months solo to $0.34 per mile (if I recall correctly), then a raise to $0.36 per mile at 6 months solo. You may receive quarterly raises, which depend on a number of factors.
-You can sign up for benefits after 30 days (basically once you’ve complete your CDL school), which will become active after 60 days. Some benefits do require longer to kick in.
-If you drive for Roehl for 120,000 miles, the training is no additional cost to you. Otherwise it’s $5,000.
Some additional notes:
-Roehl has a strict no alcohol/no pornography policy. A previous student was terminated during their 1st week because they had alcohol in their hotel room.
-The hotel room they put you in has a minifridge, but no microwave. There is a microwave in the breakfast area. It’s a 4 story business class hotel, so make your own call on what type of food to keep in your room.
-The training trucks are basically older fleet trucks (like mentioned previously, the one I’m in is a 2014. It has about 354,000 miles on it and is in pretty good condition) with the curtains and mattress removed and 2 seats w/ seatbelts mounted in its place. They have 10 speed manual transmissions.
I’ve talked to several Roehl drivers while here and they all seem to like the company and say it’s a good place to start.
You’ll hear (or read) many people saying the $0.33 per mile is low for starting pay. If you look at mileage pay alone, it is. However, you need to look at the whole picture including starting mileage pay, upfront costs, training pay (both CDL if applicable and OTR), what (if anything) you have to pay back, how long you have to be in training, etc… I calculated all that and at 2500 average miles per week, Roehl came out to $1k more pay in your first 6 months (including training time, based on training at the San Antonio terminal) than Swift. Also, when comparing pay, compare companies that haul the type of freight you want to haul (dry van, reefer, flatbed, etc…).