Many people consider continuing their education after finishing high school or if they are adults seeking the needed skills for a potential career change. Truck driving school is one of many options that they choose. Like many colleges and programs, you have to find a way to pay for truck driving school. Fortunately, there are a variety of options.
How Much Does Trucking School Cost?
Depending on the school, independently-owned trucking school will cost around $3,000 – $7,000. The exact amount depends on the school, the state, and which CDL you want. To obtain your Class A CDL, the cost falls within the range above, and this allows you to drive all vehicles available with a CDL A, B, or C.
Relative to a four-year college or a university, this amount is not much. But a few thousand dollars is still substantial.
Aspiring truck drivers need to plan around CDL school lasts about seven weeks, so this often means the taking off of work.
If the school isn’t close to home, students also need to consider housing options as well, which is an additional cost.
Of course, you can pay out of pocket, but many students do not have the money that is required. With this in mind, there are options that may assist you in paying for your truck driving school of your choice. Depending on where you reside, the tuition may differ, but the options you have are the same.
How Do I Get My CDL for Free?
Getting anything for free is always ideal. Unfortunately there aren’t any options for free schooling, unless you received all of the money from grants and scholarships alone. There are options, however, that you can pay close to nothing for truck driving school.
Company-Sponsored CDL Training
Company-sponsored CDL training is a bit different than the privately-owned trucking schools. Company-sponsored training is also called “paid training” or “contract training.” Here’s how it works:
A trucking company pays for and runs the education training for students. This company provides the trucks, the trainers, the practice areas, and sometimes even the bus tickets, hotel rooms, and accommodations for aspiring drivers. And it’s technically free! So what’s the catch?
Once you finish your schooling here, you have to work for the company for up-to-a- year with lower pay in order to “pay back” the company for schooling. This situation works similarly to a loan, except you sign a contract to work and reimburse the trucking company itself for your tuition.
During this time, you make slightly less than what you could have earned if you had simply graduated from an independently-owned trucking school because this reimbursement sum is taken from your paycheck.
With a company-sponsored CDL training, you don’t have to pay anything up front or worry about any loans. You just agree to work for the company in exchange for your schooling. This is a good option for students who cannot afford to pay out of pocket, but your training is never “free” in the long-run.
A NOTE ABOUT COMPANY-SPONSORED TRAINING – With a private school, the trainers teach you everything you need to know for when you are in the field once your training is complete. A company-sponsored school teaches you the same things, but because you will work for them after your training is complete, their training may be just a little biased towards that company’s specific needs and requirements.
Loans for Independent Trucking Driving School
Due to the demand for truck drivers and the consideration that drivers tend to make great money, obtaining a loan to attend a private trucking school is fairly easy. Typically after 6 months, you need to begin paying back the loan. This gives you plenty of time to start driving and to save up some of your earnings in order to make your payments. You do not have to pay in one lump sum. Instead, you can make monthly payments until the loan is paid off.
Tuition Reimbursement Programs
Tuition reimbursement is an opportunity for the trucking company you work for to pay back your loans. Granted, this could be a great option for you, but make sure you are really happy with the company you drive for. The tuition reimbursement program may lock you into working for the same employer for a while.
The monthly loan payments are not be that substantial and the money that you may owe for your schooling may not be nearly enough for you to stay there for a long period of time. Staying at a particular company restricts you from taking better-paying jobs elsewhere, so this arrangement isn’t ideal unless you legitimately enjoy working there.
What Are My Other Options to Pay for Trucking School?
Yes, there is free money that you can receive to help pay for your schooling, and you don’t even have to pay this money back! A scholarship is money that is given to students based off of need, merit, or some other specific criteria. There are many ways to become eligible for scholarships.
There are scholarships specifically for truck drivers or general scholarships based off of your income, your demographic niche, or for being left-handed!
You just have to do the research and find the right scholarship for you. We recommend that you research locally first because there are many local scholarships, and the opportunities may be easier to obtain.
There may even be community colleges near you that offer CDL courses.
Check out the Truckload Carriers Association to apply for a potential scholarship opportunity.
Grants are very similar to scholarships. The only difference here is that a grant comes from a corporation, foundation, or government organization. Usually, grant money is given directly to the school to disburse for a specific student. Many states receive grant money for CDL schools from the FMCSA (Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration), whose goal is to make sure the roads and highways are safe. Educated drivers falls under this purview.
Getting a loan should only become an option if scholarships and grants are unavailable for you. Unlike those options, you have to pay the money back over time. Usually while you are in school, you don’t have to pay the loan back right away. The payments begin you are finished with your schooling.
Depending on what kind of loan you take out from a bank, you can either pay it back right away (direct unsubsidized loan) or start paying on your loan after six months of being out of school (direct subsidized loan).
Follow this link for more information: https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/types/loans/subsidized-unsubsidized#subsidized-vs-unsubsidized
Is There Free CDL Training for Veterans?
Veterans do actually have the opportunity to receive their CDL training at no cost. In addition to the truck driving training program, former members of the armed services may also receive reimbursements for exam fees and housing costs. This is thanks to the GI Bill or the Post-9/11 GI Bill.
This option is available to veterans only if you have at least 90 days of aggregate active duty service and had not been dishonorably discharged. This also applies to veterans who were not in combat. The original bill was established for returning World War II veterans, and the post-9/11 G.I. Bill applies for veterans who served after September 10th, 2001. These bills were designed to help veterans get back into the workforce and may offer you tuition for your trucking school.
The VA website is a valuable resource for our veteran truck drivers.
Can I get my CDL without School?
Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: Yes, it is possible to obtain a CDL without going to school, but we don’t recommend it.
Many trucking companies do not hire drivers without the needed certification. Safety comes first, and it’s more difficult for the company to insure uncertified drivers.
If an accident were to happen, the costs and liability would fall back on the company if they chose to employ an uncertified driver. As a result, the companies don’t like to hire drivers without that certificate.
This means that you can get your CDL, but you may not get a job. It is in everyone’s best interest if you get your certification and training to make sure you are safe as a driver, the company is safe, and everyone on the road is safe.
How Long Does Trucking School Take?
Once you have looked into how you will pay for training, your next question may be how long does getting your Class A CDL take? If you go to a full time program for five days a week it can take seven weeks to complete.
Class A training takes longer than Class B training because with a Class A CDL, you have to learn how to drive greater variety of trucks. This pays off in the long run because the larger trucks allow you to take on larger loads, and that means more money.
As they say, time is money. Just as you consider how much money you want to spend on trucking school, you should also consider the following factors regarding how much time you will spend:
- Total School Time: Consider how much total time you are willing to spend in school. Can you afford to have no income for this time period? If you work full-time, do you want to leave your job for full-time training? Or can you fit part-time training into your schedule?
- Classroom Hours: Depending on the school, you may have fewer classroom hours than others. If you want to complete your education more quickly, then you may want to get a CDL manual, study, and pass the written exam before you even start your truck driving school. You could then concentrate completely on the driving and skills portion of the training.
- Driver Hours: Many schools require a set amount of driving hours for each student to complete for practice. How often you can get behind the wheel will determine how long it will take to complete training, and this largely depends on if you are a full or part-time student. Full-time is obviously quicker, but part-time training gives you more time for your own personal commitments.
- Endorsements: If you choose to add endorsements to your license, such as HAZMAT, this adds more time to your training as well. Getting these endorsements is highly recommended because they open up more opportunities to haul different kinds of freight and earn more money as a result.