How to Pay for Truck Driver Training
When most people decide to start out in trucking they don’t have big piles of cash sitting around to pay for driver training and other up-front costs. That can be problematic because in order to be on the road, you need to have the proper certification.
Truck driving school tuition and fees range from $1,500 to $10,000 depending on which skills you need to be licensed to perform. Add the cost of books, insurance, living expenses and the license itself and the price can quickly become unaffordable for many hopeful truck drivers.
So what can a potential driver do? It turns out there are a number of ways to offset the high cost of becoming a certified commercial trucker.
Government grants and scholarships
There are a number of federal and state grants and scholarships available to cover costs associated with commercial driving vocational schools and certification programs. The most important step in obtaining these sorts of funds is picking a reputable CDL school and working with the financial aid office. Any good CDL school will show you how to apply for Pell grants (created for low-income families), WIA grants (for unskilled workers who are looking for a way to learn new skills) and other state grants and scholarships.
Ask people in the transportation industry which truck driving schools have the best reputation. And don’t be discouraged by the long, difficult process of getting grants. Truck driving school is an investment in your future job prospects.
If you are a military veteran or belong to a minority ethnic group, you may be qualified for a specialized funding program. For example, the Post 9/11 GI Bill provides benefits for CDL training tuition and apprenticeships. Those of Native American ancestry may be able to secure financial assistance through the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Again, check with your financial aid office to see which options are available to you.
Tuition reimbursement programs
If you have some money to invest up front, tuition reimbursement may work for you. To start the process, you must first identify a freight company that offers tuition reimbursement and understand its terms.Typically you must be hired within a short period of time (usually 60 days) of completing CDL training. Then you remain with the company and each month it pays you a small amount to make up for the cost of your tuition. For example, Schneider Trucking recently offered a program where it reimbursed drivers up to $6,000 over 39 months.
Of course, this can be a difficult way to obtain school funding. If you don’t get hired by the company you hope to work for, you can be stuck with the full cost of CDL training and no job. Additionally, agreeing to stay with a company for three years may limit your ability to take other opportunities which become available as you gain experience.
Trucking Company Sponsorship
Some trucking companies will cover all of the costs of driver training if you agree to drive for the company for a designated period of time after obtaining your CDL. The advantage to this approach is that you don’t have to pay any money up front, and some companies will even give you a small signing bonus when you start. However, you are tying yourself to one trucking company for a year or more – a time when many truckers prefer to gain on-the-road experience on their own. Additionally, if you leave the company or are let go, you will likely have to reimburse the company for the cost of your training. Make sure you clearly understand all the terms and know exactly what will be covered by the company and your obligations.
A last resort for many potential truckers is a private bank loan. Educational loans tend to have lower interest rates than other bank loans, depending on your credit history. For many, the loan is a worthy investment, as becoming a commercial driver significantly increases your earning power. However, it means you will be covering the full cost of CDL School and the cost of interest.
There are plenty of opportunities there to help finance your CDL training. The most important piece is identifying the right person who can help you and remain persistent.