Trying to decide between attending a truck driving school or enrolling directly with a trucking company can be a difficult decision. Either option has merits and both options will put you on the right path to furthering your career.
Do I have to go to truck driving school to get my CDL?
Attending a local truck driving school might have been the first thing that came to your mind when you first started thinking about getting your CDL. Truck driving schools do a great job of preparing you for the various written exams you will need to take. They also have qualified driving instructors who can normally show you a few tips of the trade. Truck driving schools offer courses tailored to the needs of each student. But before enrolling, it’s important to visit as many schools as possible. Ask about tuition, placement, class sizes, and instructor experience.
How much will it cost to go to school? On average, tuition fees are around $ 4,000, but this amount may vary depending on your state and the availability of a competing school in the area. A general rule of thumb is that you will pay between $ 3,000 and $ 6,000 for tuition. The good news is that most people can take out student loans to cover tuition costs. Truck driving schools support you in obtaining a student loan. Most trucking schools have a financial aid service that can walk you through the student loan application process. Once you finish your education and start driving, you will have 6 months before your student loans are due, which should give you enough time to start making money before your first payments are due. are due.
Keep in mind that there are trucking companies that offer tuition reimbursement, so depending on the job you are looking for, you may be able to find an employer who will help you pay off your student loans. Repayment programs are usually disbursed gradually and then only after working for a specified period of time. Some employers offer full scholarships, but be careful; terms and conditions can have damaging consequences.
Once you’ve selected a school, don’t expect to get on a truck right away. Approximately 20 hours will be spent in a classroom to acquire the skills necessary to pass the written part of the CDL. In addition, class time can also be spent learning federal regulations, logbooks, pre-travel, as well as map reading skills and trip planning. Some schools will offer simulator training, but this should not be considered a “driving” experience. Occasionally guest speakers (truck drivers) will visit and talk about the industry.
The second part of the truck driving school is devoted to the use of the equipment. At this point, some schools may even offer a block of instructions on how to chain. The truck you drive will usually be a sleeper cab with considerable mileage. Some schools will offer training on day cabs, single axle trucks, or even a platform with an automatic transmission. You should expect to spend approximately 20 hours on a closed course learning basic driving skills before the trip, followed by approximately 20 additional hours of driving on a designated route through your community. The typical route typically includes city and highway traffic situations: hills, traffic lights, left and right turns, level crossings, and highway junction / exit.
Once completed, you will take the CDL test. Success will give you the opportunity to start your adventure with the transportation industry!
The advantage of going to truck driving school is that many people can find one near their homes. This normally means that they can stay at home while attending school. This is a good option for people who still have to work full time or part time while attending school. Let’s be honest, we all have to eat so you might not be able to quit the job you have to take classes. Some truck driving schools have evening classes for people who have to work during the day and then take classes in the evening.
Company sponsored training programs
Another option besides enrolling in a local truck driving school is to qualify with a trucking company that offers a training program. As the driver shortage continues to grow, many companies are starting to offer training programs to attract new talent to their businesses. Each business has slightly different requirements, but generally a business sponsored training program will not require any personal expense on your part. This means that no student loan is required. In addition, the company that trains you will also guarantee a job for them after your training is completed. Some companies even pay you a salary while you take training so that you have the money. While all of these things are better in the short term, that doesn’t mean the program is free or the best option.
Normally, with a company sponsored training program, the company will still charge you for the tuition, but they will defer your full tuition fees as long as you remain eligible for the program and meet their time requirements. predefined driving directions. Basically, after you complete their training program and get your CDL, you start working for them for a lower rate of pay. The company then recovers your tuition fees by having you as a driver who is paid less. Additionally, the company that paid for your training will normally require you to invest a minimum amount of time in which you are not allowed to quit to find a new job elsewhere. If you leave the program or leave the company before the end of the training period, you will likely have to reimburse the tuition fees. Some companies may prorate your remaining tuition fees so that you are not required to repay the full amount, but nonetheless, with a company sponsored program, you are at the mercy of the company. For lack of better words, the business is yours until you complete the program. Plus, with a company training program, you have to travel wherever their training center is. This means that from day one of your truck career, you’ll never be gone. There is no transition period. In addition, during the training program, it is not uncommon for drivers to be away from home for weeks.
Questions CDL Students Should Ask Before Starting Training
Below are a few questions you might consider asking trucking companies that sponsor training opportunities. Keep your questions open to gain a thorough understanding of what to expect.
- What are the financing conditions for my training?
- Can you send me an overview of the financing needs?
- What funds do I need up front (if any) before I start school?
- Will you provide me with a study guide to obtain my license?
- How long does it take to get my CDL and training diploma?
- What endorsements are you going to prepare me for?
- Will I receive my diploma after the training?
- Where is the training center?
- What is the instructor / student ratio?
- Will I receive travel assistance to the establishment?
- Will I receive meals and accommodation during my training?
- What type of trucks will I use during the training?
- Will I learn on a standard transmission?
- How many students do you assign to each truck during the training?
- Will I learn to back up and ride on the road with a 53 foot trailer?
- Will the trailer I use be loaded or empty?
- How do you prepare new drivers for adverse weather conditions?
- Do you use simulators to train?
- How long does the training take to get my CDL?
- How do you meet the physical / licensing requirements set by the FMCSA?
- Will I receive a salary during school?
- After school is over, how long will it take before I can receive my CDL?
- After school is over, how long will I have to ride with a coach or mentor?
- Does the finisher pilot trainer have a specific guide to follow?
- Will I receive a copy of the training guidelines they are supposed to follow?
- While I expect the trainer or finisher pilot to rate me, do I also rate the trainer or finisher pilot?
- What will I gain while I am with the coach or the finisher pilot?
- What will my remuneration be once I am released from my trainer or pilot finisher?
- What hours can I expect to drive per day for the first two weeks?
- How many hours per day should I expect to drive after two weeks?
- How much emphasis will the coach or finisher of the practice be on support?
- Will the driver’s trainer or finisher focus on post-trip / pre-trip inspections?
- If I get paid for my own training, how does the reimbursement plan work?
- What will my rate of pay be once I am released from my trainer or pilot finisher?
Which option is the best for me?
As we discussed before, there are pros and cons to each CDL training method. New drivers just need to assess what their overall needs are. Everyone’s situation is unique. Some drivers would be better off going to a truck driving school where they can stay put, get their CDL, and have more flexibility after graduation. Other people might want to get paid right away and not want to take out student loans for tuition, so for them, enrolling in a paid CDL training program is the way to go.
Here is a recap of the pros and cons of each training method.
|Truck driving school|
|Possibility of staying close to home||Initial cost of the pocket|
|Good academic preparation for taking CDL exams||No job is guaranteed after you graduate|
|Potential for evening classes to always be able to work||Could train with poor equipment|
|Qualified instructor to prepare you for the driving license|
|More flexibility with the choice of employment once you have graduated|
|Company sponsored training program|
|No reimbursable costs||Must go to the business training center|
|Possibility of being paid for training||Commitment to work for the company for a predetermined period of time|
|You already have a job when you get your CDL||Once the training is complete, you usually work for less pay|
|May need to ride and team up with another driver during training|