How earning a CDL-A through FastForward helped Jeff drive his career into full gear

While Jeff Wayne had worked as a truck driver in the early part of his career, he didn’t anticipate heading back on the road later in life. He had moved on to installing commercial carpets and enjoyed the work. But following a life-altering event, he needed a fresh start and wanted to get back behind the wheel. There was one problem. He needed a new CDL to be eligible for hire.

After doing a basic internet search, FastForward’s CDL program rose to the surface and piqued his interest, especially with courses offered at Southwest Virginia Community College, located just down the road from his home. Wayne wanted a quick program that would get him back in a truck as soon as possible, and FastForward checked all the boxes. Plus—there was what Wayne described as a “spectacular” career coach there to support him every step of the journey.

Getting back on the road

While having a CDL used to be good for a lifetime of driver eligibility, a recent law change impacted an entire fleet of retired and semi-retired truckers.

“I had my CDL years ago, and you used to be able to get grandfathered in if your license was expired. All you needed was pre-trip and a driving course,” Wayne said. “That law changed in 2020 if your license was expired. If it was, you had to go through the whole course again.”

Wayne was by no means a stranger to life as a commercial truck driver. He had driven recycling trucks, water trucks, semi-trucks, construction trucks and many other vehicles, so going back to school excited him.

Connecting with a career coach

One of the first steps to earning a CDL through FastForward is working with a career coach. Wayne said this was one of the best parts, thanks to the generosity of his coach Adrianna.

“Adrianna was super. I cannot say enough good words about her,” Wayne said. “She went above and beyond to help me get into a course. If I emailed her, she would email me back. It didn’t matter if she was at a conference or whatever it may be, she always emailed me back quickly for any problems or questions that I had. She was a super lady,” he said.  

Reaching the magic 160 hours

So, if you’re wondering what the whole “short-term” aspect of FastForward entails, Wayne explained it simply in the CDL world: you must get to the 160-hour mark, and then you’re on the road.

Students spend the first week of the program in the classroom and completing online modules at home. Then, the remainder of the course is hands on learning.

“You go to the driving range, and you have a teacher there. My teacher was Chris, but they all do an exceptional job,” Wayne added. “If you don’t know how to drive a truck, they show you how to drive a truck, shift the gears and how to back a truck in.”

After a few weeks of parking lot practice, the remainder of the class happens out on the road. Driver instructors sit in the passenger seat and give students real-time feedback to help them improve and gain confidence as they navigate the highway.

Support when you need it most

What happens if you’re struggling during the short training? Wayne said the instructors are there to support.

“If you have any difficulties in some areas, for example offset backing, they’ll take you and have you do just offset backing just so you can get familiarized with it, opposed to going there and just offsetting once or parallel parking once,” Wayne said. “They really strive to make you the best that you can be. They don’t want you to just pass the test and get your CDL. They want you to feel comfortable in the truck. They want you to feel comfortable in whatever stage of the truck that you’re in.”

Advice for a future student

When it comes to being a successful student earning a CDL, Wayne said that having a positive attitude and not being nervous are key mindsets for success.

“Relax. At Southwest Community College, those teachers got you. If you mess up, that comes with the territory,” he said.

Plus—Wayne reminds future students that training sessions are low stakes and start with driving around empty parking lots. So, you don’t have to worry about heading straight to the interstate, there’s space to learn and grow before the big trips.

Driving his career forward

Right now, Wayne drives a tandem truck (pictured below), which includes a tractor without a trailer.  

However, in the next two months, Wayne’s headed down to Georgia to deliver garbage trucks all over the United States. Once he’s successfully driven the truck to its destination, the company pays him to rent a car and head back home to Georgia.

Be on the lookout for Wayne if you’re driving across the country, and give him a wave if you pass by. Looking to earn your CDL at your local community college through FastForward? Find your local “Adrianna” and talk with a career coach to get started today.

Wayne’s tandem truck