The best way to get your Class A CDL is to go to truck driver training school. But how do you know which school is right for you?
For many aspiring drivers, cost is the most important factor that determines where they want to go to trucking school, and we discussed how to pay for school in the previous chapter. But cost shouldn’t be the only consideration. Where you receive training is a critical decision that affects your entire career.
Choosing a CDL school can take as much thought and planning as choosing a college. Before you can even start looking for a school you need to look at your personal situation:
- Can you attend full-time or do you need to schedule your CDL training around other obligations like work, family time, etc.?
- Are you capable of paying for school and meeting your other financial needs?
- Do you need to be home every night or can you live away from home for a week or two at a time?
- If you need to be home every night, how far is the nearest school?
Location, Location, Location
Where you live will inevitably affect your choice of where to go to truck driving school.
In a major metropolitan area there may be dozens of schools from which to choose. In a rural area, you may have only one school nearby.
Of course, you can go to a school that’s outside of your region, but this adds additional costs and keeps you away from home and other obligations.
For example, if you live in rural North Carolina, you might have an 80 mile commute every day to get to the nearest school.
In a situation like this, you have to weigh this inconvenience with the cost of attending a school further away where you may need to pay for housing.
On the other hand, even an 80 mile commute can get you home to see your family.
Truck Driving School Should Fit Your Needs
Every individual seeking to become a Class A CDL driver has a different set of needs, and these needs help you determine which school to attend.
If you’re light on cash and heavy on bills, you should consider a school with a fast completion time, which would lead to quick employment and a regular paycheck in the shortest period of time possible. When money is not a concern, you can be far more selective and pick the school with the best equipment or highest-rated instructors.
Trucking School and Your Career
Keep in mind your ultimate job and career goals. If you’re looking to be an over-the-road driver that gets home on weekends, don’t pick a school whose only equipment is a day cab and 48-foot trailer.
Most importantly, consider the school’s job placement rate and/or placement guarantees. Ask how often the school holds job fairs and ask which trucking companies attend. If you want to haul a specific type of freight, check if your school has good placement with trucking companies that deliver that freight.
The cost to become a CDL Class A driver is usually a big consideration. It’s not only the cost of the school but the possibility of a few additional expenses. We’ve listed some:
- If attending a school out of your region, you’ll need meals and a place to stay.
- If you are commuting from home, what is the cost of that? Gas prices can add up quickly if you drive far distances, five days a week for seven weeks.
- The fees for permits, physicals, drug testing, etc.
If you choose to go to a company-sponsored school, that can pay for your training, but you’ll be placed immediately with that specific trucking company.
Ask yourself if you can you afford to live on whatever pay rate they are offering.
There are many other questions you should ask a trucking school before you decide to spend your hard-earned money and time. For example:
- Is the school accredited and fully licensed?
- Does the school have its own practice area?
- How much classroom time compared to how much driving time you get?
- Do they have day and night driving classes?
- What equipment and trucks do you get to use?
- How many students per instructor? (We recommend a teaching environment with 2 students per instructor.)
Your goal is to receive the best education you can get with lots of time behind the wheel. Aim for a minimum of 32 hours of driving time. Keep in mind that this experience not only helps you get a job, but it also keeps you safe on the road!
Also ask the schools what happens if you don’t pass your CDL exam the first time. Most top-rated schools offer a guarantee that you will pass the first time. If you don’t, you should be able to repeat the training at no additional cost or get your money back.
Tips To Choose the Right School for You
- Research the websites of different trucking schools and different trucking companies that offer schooling.
- Do a Better Business Bureau check on schools you might be considering. The more research you do, the more likely you’ll be to make the best school decision.
- Check with your local community or junior college. Many schools offer CDL truck driver training.
- Most truck driver training schools don’t publish their rates, so be prepared to fill out lots of forms and make lots of phone calls to determine this information.
- Visit a school you may be thinking about. This gives you an opportunity to see the school, the equipment, and if they have a driving course on site. Talk with an instructor and a few students if you get the chance.
- If there’s a truck stop in your area, talk to a few drivers to get their views on schools. Ask if they went to school and, if so, where. Ask if they were satisfied with the school and if they have any tips for you.
- Check online reviews for a variety of trucking schools.
- If you decide to attend a truck driving school outside of the state you reside in, make sure your new CDL is transferable.
After cost, the most critical factor in choosing a school, though, is how successful they are in placing you with a trucking company after graduation. An inexpensive school that graduates you quickly isn’t going to do you much good if their placement success ratio is low.