Hi everyone, longtime lurker who has finally had everything in his life line up to where getting my CDL fits and is my best option forward. There isn't really any information about Suncoast Trucking Academy in Punta Gorda, FL on here so I figured I would make a thread documenting the process for anyone in the future who might search for it.
For this thread I'm pretty much just going to keep it informational about the school and process. When I begin applying to companies and hire on with one I'll talk more about my background and why I'm going into trucking etc.
Initially I was planning on going through training for my CDL with whatever company I started with in January 2022. My current apartment was sold to new landlords and when the lease ends at the end of the year they are more than doubling my rent (SWFL is pretty jacked up right now in the real estate market) so I was going to wait until then to start with a company. I plan to stay with my first company for at least a year, but I hate contracts to begin with so if the option to not be locked in is available I'll always take it. That is what prompted me to check out local training options.
Pre-School Activities: I was near a CareerSource building in Naples, FL while running errands and had seen a few posts about WIOA grants and thought maybe I could get a little bit of the cost for schooling covered and if it was affordable I'd do that, otherwise I'd stick with the plan of just getting training from a carrier in January 2022. I walked into the office and didn't have an appointment so they had me sit in the waiting room for a few minutes until they could check with the girl who handles the grants. Ironically, she was with someone else looking to do the same exact thing and then going to lunch so it would be a few hours so I left my contact info. She called me back a few hours later and she wanted to know what trucking academy I was enrolled in etc. I explained I'm literally at step 0 and just wanted to see if there were even any programs to help me. She asked if I was affected by COVID-19 in any way and I let her know I was laid off immediately at the start of the pandemic. She said that I would qualify for a WIOA grant which would completely cover the cost of CDL training. I was NOT expecting that!
She explained the process I would need to go through which was to first enroll in a trucking academy and then I would schedule an appointment with her to complete the full application and then they would work with the trucking academy to do the rest. In Southwest Florida there are a few CDL schools, but CareerSource only works with Suncoast Trucking Academy so she gave me their contact info so I could start the process with them. The only catch for the grant is that I have to complete to course, no problem.
I immediately called the trucking academy and a friendly lady picked up and I explained the situation and she explained the rest of the process to me. In order to enroll I needed to get my DOT medical card, get my CDL permit, then fill out their enrollment application etc. and then go back to CareerSource to wrap up the grant. She took my contact information and emailed me the enrollment form and the FL CDL Handbook and told me which sections I needed to study to pass the permit test. She also recommended downloading an app called DMV Genie to study before taking the permit test.
As soon as I got off the phone with Suncoast Trucking Academy I looked up local DOT physical places and according to Google a DOT physical ranges from $70-$200+. I found a local place that was only $75 and called, the Doctor picked up right a way and I told him I was looking to schedule a DOT physical. He told me he could fit me in tomorrow afternoon, I needed my driver's license, list of any medications or OTC medicine I was taking, and $75 cash. Cool.
So at this point, I'm about 3 hours into my journey and I already have a school to train at, it's probably going to be free, and I am getting a DOT medical card within the next 24 hours. WOW! I like to roll fast, baby!
The next day I had to go get the cash for the doctor's appointment and on my way to the bank I saw that they had re-opened our local tax collector's office now that we are back in season again. In Florida all of our DMV related things are handled by our county tax collectors, so when you do anything with titling, registration, driver's license etc. it's all done at the tax collector. I live right near the beach and our population is highly seasonal so this year our tax collector closed during off-season and must have just re-opened over the last week. I swung by to find out about this CDL permit and what I needed to do. I asked the receptionist what the deal was and she let me know that only certain offices handle the knowledge tests and I would have to go to another one. She also let me know that appointments were required and I needed to book it online. I asked if there was a fee, she gave me a pamphlet with the fee schedule but neither of us could really tell what the cost would be since only a regular learner's permit was listed on the fee schedule and only the CDL license was listed, not a CDL learner's permit. So I'll figure that out.
I get to the Doctor and it's a chiropractic office. He was with a patient, but came out to greet me and give me the forms I needed to fill out while I waited. When it was my turn he had me pee in a cup to check for diabetes and then started the test. I do my best to stay away from sick factories (hospitals/clinics) and the third leading cause of death in the US (Doctors) so this was my first time getting a physical in about 15 years. This test was much more thorough than any physical I've ever had and on par with the one I got prior to boot camp. I was completely surprised by that as I just expected a basic mobility/vision/hearing test. I'm fit, active, and eat extremely healthy so, as expected, I passed with flying colors. He was easily the coolest doctor I have ever met, absolutely hilarious, and I would recommend him to anyone. Not sure if I can post a link to his site on here, but he's Dr. Siefman in Naples, FL. I got a 2 year card and was on my way.
When I got home I pulled up the tax collector's website to schedule my permit test. Darn, first appointment isn't until 10 days out and the closest location is about 30 mins away. That's fine I guess, don't have a choice. I scheduled it and moved on to other things. I will be taking the test this upcoming Friday.
After scheduling the permit test I skimmed the sections Suncoast Trucking Academy told me to just to get a feel for what I'd be learning. They told me to learn General Knowledge (sections 1,2,3), Air Brakes (Section 4), and Combination (Section 5) and to not worry about anything else.
Yesterday, I finally had some time I could set aside to start studying and I went through the General Knowledge portion. Just from growing up in a big trucking area, working at a truckstop as one of my first jobs, having friends/family etc. all involved in trucking, and being a wannabe for many years some of the info I already knew. There was a bit that was knew to me. I can't wait to see all the knew info I'm going to learn at the academy, and then all of the REAL info that I'll learn when I actually get out on the road LOL.
Wow, this was pretty long, but hopefully, in the future, someone will find this thread very helpful. Today I'm going to finish the last two sections, start using DMV Genie, and then brush up on anything I'm missing. I take my permit test this Friday and I'm starting a new job tomorrow so I won't be posting an update until Friday/Saturday. The plan is to get my permit Friday, submit the enrollment packet to Suncoast Trucking Academy right afterwards, and then schedule an appointment with CareerSource as soon as I can after that. I'm hoping to be able to start the school within the next 2-3 weeks, but we'll see how long the bureaucracy BS takes. Thanks for reading.
CDL Training Journal - Suncoast Trucking Academy
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