Starting a truck driving career as a truck driver can be fun, rewarding, and exciting. If you are interested in becoming a long-haul trucker, you will need to decide how you will go about obtaining your CDL and where to go to truck driving school.
You most likely will have tons of questions about CDL training schools, CDL training programs, training time, and what the different schools offer. To narrow down your search and choose the best truck driving school, we encourage you to review the following tips.
Tip #1: Know the difference between paid CDL training programs and private truck driving schools.
When you are researching schools, you will typically come across two different options—paid CDL training programs and private truck driving schools. Paid training programs are normally company-sponsored programs offered by various trucking companies.
The trucking company will hire you and put you through their paid training. You are paid while you work on obtaining your CDL and on-the-road training. However, you will still have out-of-pocket expenses like housing, food, and tuition.
Another type of paid training is where the trucking company will offer tuition reimbursement after you finish truck driving school and meet other qualifications like being employed with the company for a specific period.
Private truck driving schools offer training programs and teach truck driver training. They may offer job placement assistance after completion of the program. This option requires you to foot the bill for all costs associated with the training program and obtaining your CDL.
Tip #2: Select a comprehensive training program.
You want to choose a school that offers you classroom instruction and on-the-road training. Paid training programs will often pair you with a dedicated trainer for your on-the-road training that can last between four and six weeks before you go solo.
Private driving schools will provide you with at least the minimum number of range and on-the-road training hours required to obtain your CDL. Once hired by a trucking company, they may also provide additional on-the-road training with a dedicated trainer.
Tip #3: Be careful if you are offered “free training.”
There are trucking companies that partner with private driving schools to recruit new drivers. They may advertise their training programs as being free. However, someone is still paying for the training.
For instance, the trucking company may require you to sign a financial agreement where you agree to pay them back for your training if you do not stay with the company for a set period. Other companies may start you at a lower pay rate to recoup the costs of your training. Just be aware of these programs and always read the fine print.
Tip #4: Review the job placement percentage of the school.
If you opt for private training, find out what percentage of students are placed with an employer after completing the program. Ideally, you want to choose a school that has a job placement percentage in the high 90s or even 100%.
Tip #5: Be willing to travel to get the best training possible.
The location of the school should not matter. Your objective should be to find the best schools with the best training programs. Sometimes you might luck out and have a school nearby in your state.
Other times, you may have to travel out of state to find the best school. If you choose an out-of-state school, verify that you can obtain your CDL in your state.
Tip #6: Find out what others have to say about the paid training or private school.
One of the easiest ways to decide if a paid training program or private school is right for you is by reading online reviews. You can see what other truckers had to say about their experiences with instructors, the quality of training, and so on. You will also be able to find out which ones you should avoid.
Tip #7: Visit truck stops and talk to the truckers.
Make a point to visit nearby truck stops and talk to the truck drivers. Ask them how they went about getting their CDL and if there is a particular school or paid training program they would recommend. To thank them for taking the time to talk to you, offer to buy them a snack and a beverage.
Tip #8: Determine how you will cover the costs of your truck driver training.
There are several different options to secure the money required to pay for CDL training programs, such as:
- VA Benefits – Your GI Bill may cover most of your out-of-pocket costs.
- Federal Student Aid – Some schools are eligible to accept federal student aid programs like Pell Grants.
- Student Loans – If the school doesn’t accept Pell Grants, you may still be eligible to apply for a federal student loan.
- Private Grants – There may be various types of grants available in your state.
- Scholarships – You may also find scholarship opportunities to pay for your truck driver training.
Keep in mind that you can often use a combination of financial aid, scholarships, and loans, so that all of your out-of-pocket costs are covered throughout your training.
Tip #9: Choose the best value, never the lowest cost.
The most important factor when deciding between private truck driving schools and company-sponsored paid CDL training programs is looking for which ones offer the best value. Never base your decision on the lowest cost. Otherwise, you might not get quality training to prepare you for a career as a professional truck driver in the trucking industry.
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