ED Magedson – Founder
Progressive Truck Driving School1945 Bernice Rd Lansing, Illinois USA
Progressive Truck Driving School Progressive, Inc.www.cdltruck.com Misleading Prospective CDL Applicants Lansing Illinois
I highly discourage anyone from signing up with Progressive Truck Driving in order to obtain a CDL A License. There are a number of reasons why I discourage anyone from signing up with Progressive and why I regret having taken their course; a student is not guaranteed a CDL after taking any of their courses; additional testing starts at $400; the curriculum is set up so students are almost certain to fail the CDL exam; there is no real instruction given in the classroom time; the school is constantly flip-flopping classroom instructors; students are required to buy a $70 book from Progressive that is not necessary for the course; students are required to sit through numerous recruiting sessions from Trucking companies like Schneider and Swift; a student will not be given a certificate of completion of the course until they apply to one of the recruiting companies; and the school performs random drug tests on their students while the student is enrolled.
There are a few positive points to Progressive Truck Driving School. I attended the Lansing branch of Progressive so keep this in mind; the conditions may be different at their other two locations.
The first positive thing I would like to point out are the driving instructors at Progressive. I had very good experience with the driving instructors on the skills course and during my road practice. The driving instructors do not reflect the management of Progressive and seem genuinely concerned about students passing the CDL exam. This is not to say all the instructors are top-notch, but for the most part I was very impressed by their knowledge and ability to teach the skills of truck driving.
The second positive aspect at Progressive is the equipment. I felt the trucks and equipment used for training were in good repair, and if they weren’t, Progressive has their own mechanics to fix the trucks. Also, they are very easy to drive and good for training a new student. Occasionally, a clutch would get out-of-line but that is to be expected.
Progressive is also a very safe environment for learning considering how many people go through their doors. There are cameras in every room, and they keep cell phone usage to a minimum.
My description of the negative aspects of Progressive Driving School may be long-winded, but I feel it necessary to warn every single person considering Progressive Driving School, about their practices, after the experience I had with them.
I will start with the negative points that are easier to explain and then work towards the more complex.
My real complaint with the drug testing policy is the way they perform the random drug tests. If the drug tests are random, they should be truly random. I am a white male in my 30’s, I was never randomly drug tested while at Progressive. Progressive seems to have a tendency of random drug testing the younger African-American students at a more frequent rate than other students. There are some people who were randomly tested 2-3 times while I was enrolled at the school. And it always takes place on Mondays, so be forewarned.
The reason I was so annoyed at having to sit through recruiting sessions is because I paid for the driver training, and the recruiting sessions are counted as classroom hours. I did not pay to sit through recruiting sessions; I paid for classroom hours. Also, I was not interested in working for any of the recruiting companies and yet I was not able to opt out of sitting through the recruiting sessions.
Expect to have about 2 recruiting sessions per week (as a part time student), and expect to see Schneider, Swift, May Trucking, Falcon Trucking, Warner, Dot, Boyd Bros., Covenant, and a few others. Also expect to see Schneider and Swift a few times.
It is pretty obvious to see that Progressive is monetizing its student enrollment information by selling the names and information of Progressive students to trucking companies, and also selling the student classroom time to the companies for recruiting purposes.
The problem with using this outline to teach the students is that outline requires students to memorize parts of the truck, and things to do in the truck, when students are not actually in the truck. Progressive should allow students to take notes and learn these things on their own (active learning), and then give them the outline a week prior to the test as a study tool.
The teacher is more of a baby-sitter for students who are not out on the trucks practicing their driving. Students who have not obtained their permits are sent to the computer room, students who have obtained their permits sit in the classroom and go over the outline, watch videos, “study”, or are required to sit through recruiting sessions.
Most of the actual classroom instruction is “life coaching”. I don’t know any other way to describe it. It is a lot of come to class on time, be motivated, when you go into the test… look like you need a job, don’t wear jewelry into the CDL exam, why don’t you guys know this stuff, you should go to bed early if you expect to succeed. This life coaching stuff is a lot of advice that will do nothing to help a student pass the CDL exam.
The reason why I found this life coaching stuff so annoying and insulting is because every single person in the class got up one day and took the time to research driving schools, applied to the driving school, paid the money, and is now in class. If a student went through all of that, then I feel they are motivated, and they don’t need to be constantly told to be motivated in life. I also think the school is making a sweeping assumption that the majority of the students in the class are unemployed and “down-and-out” type people. I found this not to be the case; the majority of the people I was in class with were employed and many of them were getting a CDL to advance their career.
I went online and looked up the requirements for driving schools (which can be found on the Secretary of States website). Driving schools are required to have a classroom of a certain size, and have an approved book for instruction. The State of Illinois does not dictate what the driving school does with that book, or how it uses its classroom hours.
The book that is required for the class was seldom used in the class. I believe that the book is only required to fulfill the State Requirements. We very seldom used the book, and all the information needed to pass the CDL exam is in the CDL booklet available for free at the DMV.
Students are required to complete 10 “exams” or short assignments, which require the book to find the answers. I found that most people just skimmed the book to find the answers, and some students didn’t even open the book and just filled in the answers using common knowledge. I would say that about 3% of all the students at the school actually read the book.
If Progressive actually utilized the required book, and created a curriculum for teachers to teach in the class, students wouldn’t feel like they are wasting time and money. After sitting through a few recruitment sessions, and watching a few outdated videos, students start to become agitated and also begin to resent the school. There are about 30 chapters in the book, Progressive could create outlines of the chapters (for the teachers) and go over about 5 chapters per week on a rotating schedule. This would give students a descent education on trucking and the trucking industry, and be a better use of the classroom time. The school could also alternate so that when morning students are going over chapters 1-5, evening students are going over chapters 6-10 to avoid overlap.
I also felt that Progressive should devote a certain amount of classroom time to teaching the information needed to pass each endorsement exam (found in the DMV CDL Book). I completed each endorsement available while at Progressive, but I studied and tested on my own without Progressives help. This would be a good way to make students aware of safety regulations, operations, and responsibilities of more specialized driving operations such as driving a tanker, double or a triple, or hazmat truck. I feel this would be another good way to utilize the classroom time at Progressive.
There are also times where they are short on driving instructors and they will swap out mechanics for driving instructors. This wouldn’t be a problem except the mechanics speak Polish and their English is a little difficult to understand.
Progressive has a number of programs a student can sign up for. The majority of students sign up for the 160-hour program ($3200), unless they receive funding from the state. In that situation, the student usually signs up for the 240-hour program ($4800). When I was inquiring about the courses offered at Progressive, I asked if the 160-hour program was sufficient to pass the CDL exam. They assured me that if I did my work, fulfilled my requirements, and studied hard, that the 160-hour program should be sufficient. Later on, while enrolled in the course, I talked with an instructor at Progressive regarding the number of people who usually passed the exam (exams are given every Friday). He told me that, “on average, if 12 people are testing, about 3-4 will pass”. And that includes students who have previously failed the test and are retaking the test. That means that 9 people out of 12 are failing at least one part of the 3 part exam. I don’t know what the DMV numbers are, but I know that those are terrible odds. And what I noticed from hearing other student’s stories, and from paying attention to who was passing and who wasn’t passing, is that on average, each student is failing the exam at least 2 times. I failed the exam once, and passed the exam the second time, but that was at the South Holland DMV.
Although a driver, with a permit, is allowed to fail the CDL A exam 3 times before he/ she has to reregister for the exam ($50), Progressive will not allow a student to retest any part of the exam without paying approximately $400. Any student who signs up for the 160-hour program is allowed to test 1 time. If a student takes a more expensive program (200, 240, 300hr) they are allowed more attempts at the exam; the more expensive the program, the more attempts they get.
Progressive is making a large percentage of its money from students failing the exam and having to retest at $400 dollars for each retest. They are not charging for the retest, they are charging for the additional training they feel a student needs in order to be allowed to retest. For example, if a student fails the first attempt at the exam, and then has to retake the exam twice, they are paying an additional $800.
There is another trick that Progressive has; every student who is set to test has to be OKed by the driving instructor, the skills instructor, and has to finish their 10 assignments, in order to take the CDL exam. If a student is not OKed, or does not finish their assignments, Progressive will not allow them to test, even though they have paid for the course and gone through the training. That means that a student can go through the entire training, pay for the training, and still not be allowed to take the CDL exam. If the student wants to take the exam, they will have to pay $400 for the required training to get them ready for the exam. I have seen this happen.
When a student signs up with Progressive, they are given a certain number of classroom hours, a certain number of skills hours, and a certain number of driving hours (coinciding with the 3 parts of the CDL exam). Regarding the skills hours, a student of the 160hr program is given a certain number of hours on the skills course. The skills hours are divided into three types; straight backing, angle backing, and driving the actual testing course.
A student of the 160hr program is only allowed to drive the actual testing course the week that they are testing. Some students were only allowed on the testing course the day before they were tested. Of the total number of hours a student has for skills practice, sometimes a student is only allowed an hour on the testing course prior to testing. I was allowed 2 hours. This makes it very difficult for a student to pass the exam when testing on a course they have hardly driven on.
The majority of the time the student spends practicing “skills”, the student will be practicing the “straight back”. A student is required to do 6 hours of straight back practice. “Straight backing” is simply pulling up a certain distance, and then backing up that same distance. There are lines painted on the ground to guide the student. Even if a student does not have problem with straight backing, they still have to practice 6 hours of this and are not allowed to move onto angle backing until they have finished those hours.
The next stage of skills practice is the angled backing. A student starts from a boxed area, pulls up at a variety of angles, and then backs back into the box they started from. Although this is helpful, this is impractical because a driver seldom has to back into a space they originated from. A driver usually has to pull next to a spot and then back into it, such as a loading dock. I was never allowed to perform the loading dock maneuver on the skills course, except for the 2 hours of practice I had on the testing course.
A student is also set up to fail because of the braking tests that are required during the pre-trip examination. Although we study the pre-trip ad nauseam, the brake tests are never actually performed in the running vehicle. I asked two instructors, on separate occasions, during my driving hours, if they could help me perform the braking tests and they both told me “this is time for driving instruction, you have to do that another time”.
If a student wants to practice the braking tests, they have to practice them while in the truck on the skills course. If the brake tests are reviewed, they are reviewed in the classroom, or near a truck, which is not running.
It is not surprising that the portions of the CDL exam that students most often fail are the pre-trip exam (brake tests) and the skills section.
A WORD TO THE WISE:
As a graduate of Progressive, who passed the CDL A exam at the DMV (not at Progressive), I recommend you not to patronize Progressive Driving School. Save yourself a giant headache and money by researching other schools and applying elsewhere.
1.) If money is an issue, don’t be fooled by Progressive’s scholarship program. On the 160-hour program ($3200), Progressive offers a scholarship of $1000. Remember, if you do not pass the exam in one shot, you will have to pay $400, and you are not allowed to go and take any portion of the exam at any Illinois DMV. If you do, you will be disqualified from testing at Progressive. The program, minus the $1000 is still more expensive than some other driving schools, like Acapulco Driving School in Cicero, which costs $1700.
2.) Make sure the school you are signing up for can guarantee that you will complete the CDL exam. Some students take longer than others, but there are schools out there that will follow a student from start to finish and will stay with you until you finally pass the exam. One of these programs is the Truck Driver Training Program offered by Prairie State Community College in Chicago Heights, Illinois. The program will take you all the way to completing the CDL A exam, and is a non-for profit school run by the state of Illinois.
HOW TO GAME THE SYSTEM:
If you have no other choice than to sign up for Progressive’s Driver Training Program (your company is paying and insists you go to Progressive), this is how to game the system.
1.) Take the 160-hour program, apply for the scholarship, but pay your tuition up-front. Do not take the extended payment plan. If you get the scholarship, and pay up-front, the total amount you have to pay is about $1700. That means Progressive is charging about $500 for the extended payment plan.
2.) Get your permit before you enter the school. Progressive will discourage you from getting your permit before you enter the school and will tell you “we’ll make sure you get your permit”. In order to get your permit, all you have to do is get the free book from the DMV, and read three chapters; General Knowledge, Combination Vehicles, and Air Brakes. You should be able to pass the permit exam.
You will also have to explain to the DMV that you will be taking the A exam, for interstate travel, and take a DOT physical. If you don’t want to take a physical, I think you can specify that you will only be traveling inside of Illinois and then you can change it later.
Doing the permit test takes about 2 weeks, if you study. If you finish it ahead of time, you will be allowed on the truck sooner. If you fail the permit exam, while you are at Progressive, you will be barred from the school and have to wait a month before taking the test again and re-entered into the school.
3.) Get all of your endorsements while at Progressive. The classroom time is a waste of time, use that time to study the endorsements in the CDL DMV booklet. Most of the tests are fairly short which means you can use a day to study and then go to the DMV on your own to take the test. By the time you complete your program, you can have all the endorsements finished.
4.) Get your CDL B license while you are at Progressive. I didn’t meet anyone at Progressive who was in a Class B specific course, but I did meet people who were only looking to drive a Class B truck. Class B trucks are much easier to rent than a Class A truck, and you can test for a B license while in class for an A license without there being any conflict with Progressive. Penske, Rider, and a number of other places will rent you a truck.
I hope this article helps drivers make a more educated decision when deciding on a driving school. If you have also dealt with Progressive Driving School, please post your experience and advice. I am interested to know how other people feel about this school.
This report was posted on Ripoff Report on 07/29/2013 05:34 PM and is a permanent record located here: http://www.ripoffreport.com/reports/progressive-truck-driving-school/lansing-illinois-60438/progressive-truck-driving-school-progressive-incwwwcdltruckcom-misleading-prospective-1071138. The posting time indicated is Arizona local time. Arizona does not observe daylight savings so the post time may be Mountain or Pacific depending on the time of year.
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