I’m not Red. I’m just his “expert dry van” driver. I have a couple decades of experience driving.
Many trucking companies have Tuition Reimbursement that will help you repay a student loan if someone needs one for CDL school. Roehl, pronounced RAIL, pays people going to their CDL school $500 per week. That is not an advance on future earnings that you will repay. Also many/most states have a program through their Unemployment office called WOIA or WIA that will fully pay for CDL A school for people unemployed or seeking better employment. There is a message on this board discussing Indiana’s program.
Red is a big advocate in paying for your own school. I’m less of an advocate. The companies that provide “free” CDL training require you to work for them 1 year after school. In my opinion you should only consider companies you are ABSOLUTELY going to stay with for a year. Less than that is not a good sign, although it’s not seen as bad as in the past. Too many potential drivers see CDL school as a time when they will make up their mind about companies and then make a decision. I strongly suggest you don’t start CDL school until you have picked a company or narrowed your choices to 1-3. Many CDL schools are fast & busy. You may not have enough time in 3 weeks to learn everything & pick a company. Your school will invite particular companies to present at school & many students take that as an endorsement from school. It’s not a recommendation, necessarily.
In my opinion unless you find someone with a semi-truck & trailer you are not going to rent one to practice on. The truck rental places rent to established businesses that operate trucks, not individuals with just a credit card.
CDL schools & community colleges are good ways to learn, but they are just teaching you to get a license. The real learning comes from your first company.
“Is the money worth it?” Only you can judge that. School costs anywhere from $3500 to $8500. Average 1st year pay for Over-The-Road driver is probably $45k. Red posted videos about his pay and he worked hard and made $65k, IIRC. Your pay & working conditions are largely determined by which company you work for, what type of trucking you do, and how hard you work/how long you stay away from home. Don’t believe ANYONE claiming all vpaies are alike and then trusting you are guaranteed average miles, average pay, and average home-time. There is a big variation across the industry & within companies.
Yes, it’s common for states to have a minimum period between getting a permit and testing for the CDL. You can start studying now. All of the rest questions & answers are available. Red links to sites that have all of the questions. I have used Trucker Country.com. IMO study for the written portion like you are memorizing answers for a multiple choice test. There are mo essays, just A,BC,or D. Read the question then read the correct answer and nothing else. On test day the familiar answer is the correct answer. The written test is not a seminar, it’s not a discussion about best practices, and not sufficient to measure your practical working knowledge of topics in the industry.