Decide How You Will Pay for Truck Driving School

Black wallet with $20 bills

Many people who enter a new field or changer their careers end up going to a two or four-year program for school or retraining. Fortunately, truck driving schools don’t take that long. Like many colleges and training programs, though, you do still have to find a way to pay for trucking school.

How Much Does Truck Driving School Cost?

Private truck driving school generally costs around $3,000 – $7,000. The exact amount depends on the school, the state, and which CDL you want. To get 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.

Calculator on graphing paper with pen
Trucking school costs between $3,000 – $7,000.

Compared to a four-year college or a university, the cost isn’t that bad. But a few thousand dollars is still a decent chunk of change.

CDL school lasts about seven weeks, so a lot of drivers take off of work during training.

If the school isn’t close to home, you’ll need to consider housing options too, which adds on another cost.

Of course, you can pay out of pocket, but many aspiring drivers just don’t have $3,000 – $7,000 sitting around in their bank accounts.

Fortunately, you have a few options to help you pay for truck driving school. Depending on where you live or go to school, 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 nice. Unfortunately there aren’t any options for completely free schooling, unless you received all of the money from grants and scholarships alone. You can pay almost nothing or defer payment with a few of the followinng options.

Company-Sponsored CDL Training

With private trucking school, you pay for school up front. Company-sponsored CDL training is a bit different. Company-sponsored training is also called “paid training” or “contract training.” Here’s how it works:

With this type of training, a trucking company pays for your truck driving school. They provide 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?

Blue Swift truck in a lot
Some companies offer “free” training.

Once you finish your schooling here, you are contracted 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 less than what you could have earned if you had simply graduated from a private 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 can’t 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 high 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 start 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 don’t 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. This could be a great option for you, but you have to be really happy with the company you drive for. Similar to company-sponsored training, a tuition reimbursement program locks you into working for a specific employer.

Staying at a particular company restricts you from taking better-paying jobs elsewhere, so this arrangement isn’t ideal unless you really enjoy where you work.

What Are My Other Options to Pay for Truck Driving School?

Scholarships

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 given to students based off of need, merit, or some other specific criteria. 

Smiling truck driver behind the wheel
There are grants for truck driving school.

There are scholarships specifically for truck drivers as well as general scholarships based off of your income or demographic niche.

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

Grants are very similar to scholarships. The only difference here is that a grant comes from a corporation, foundation, or government organization. Thee grant money is given directly to the school, and they give it to a specific student. 

Loans

Getting a loan should only become an option if you don’t have access to scholarships or grants. Unlike those options, you have to pay loan money back over time. Usually while you are in training, you don’t have to pay the loan back right away. The payments begin when you are finished with your schooling.

Depending on the 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). 

One option for student loans is through Sallie Mae.  Sallie Mae requires a $1,000 minimum loan.  If you need less than that, however, you can send back the rest, and be accountable only for what you owe. You can visit their site for other repayment options.

Another option for a student loan is the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Many loans require you to have a FAFSA on file in order to apply. You can fill out that application here. Because of the short training period of trucking school, many FAFSA loans are difficult to get. Follow this link for more information on federal aid. 

 You will want to ask questions from your school or training center to find out what loans/grants you may be eligible for.

How Do I Get Paid During Training?

For many drivers, they will still need an income during CDL training. Even if you get company-sponsored training, you probably have other bills to pay, as well as food and housing.

If you don’t have the savings, one option is to find a CDL training program that will allow you to take classes only on the weekends. This will take longer, of course, but you can still work during the week.

Another option is to create an arrangement with a trucking company or training facility. They may have jobs in logistics or in their warehouse that you can do while you are training. You aren’t licensed to drive yet, but there may be a chance for employment. This is something you will have to call and ask about though.

 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 costs of CDL training, 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 certification that comes from a real truck driving school. Safety comes first, and it’s more difficult for the company to insure the driver if they don’t carry proof of training.

Man taking notes at his computer
Getting your CDL without school has a cost.

If an accident were to happen, the costs and liability ultimately fall back on the company if they chose to employ a driver who hasn’t gone to training. As a result, the companies don’t like to hire drivers without a school certificate.

This means that you can get your CDL, but you may not get a job.

It’s 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, you’re probably wondering how long it takes to get your Class A CDL? If you go to a full time program for five days a week, truck driving school can take 3-7 weeks to complete.

Class A training takes longer than Class B training because you 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.

Read on to our next Chapter to learn all the best tips for choosing the trucking school that’s right for you.

 

About The Author
Contributor: Sade Turner (Logistics for 5+ years and technical writer).

Expert Review: Luke Nold (Experienced truck driver for 5+ years and published writer for Fleet Magazine).

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