Choosing from among the many available CDL training schools is a decision that deserves a great deal of time and consideration. The right school can help you achieve your goal of becoming a truck driver more quickly than you might expect, while the wrong school can be a waste of time and money that can set you back months, or even years, on your chosen career path.
With so many truck driving schools available, it can be overwhelming trying to choose the right one, especially if you're not sure what to look for. What follows is a list of some of the most important qualities to look for in a truck driving school.
1. Type of Training
Depending on the type of vehicle you want to drive, you need a specific class of CDL license. If you want to drive a tow truck, bus, or similar vehicle, you need a Class B CDL license, but if you want to drive a long-haul tractor-trailer, you will need a Class A license. The first thing you should find out about any CDL training school is whether or not the training they offer is relevant to the type of license you want to obtain. That should help you narrow down the choices right away, giving you a more manageable list to work with.
2. Program Comprehensiveness
Before taking anything else into consideration, you must find out how much is included in the course. In other words, does the course offer practical training providing on-the-road driving experience, or is the course limited entirely to classroom education? If the latter is the case, the program may not be for you.
Sometimes the courses may include both classroom and practical training but charge separate fees for each. Be sure you know exactly what you are paying for and what is included before signing up for a program.
As you're checking out various CDL training schools, you may notice that they come with three different types of credentials: some are accredited, some are certified, and others are licensed. They may all sound impressive to you, but you may not understand what they mean or the requirements for each.
When a school meets certain regulations and policies set by the U.S. Department of Education, it becomes accredited. Accreditation doesn't necessarily have anything to do with the school's effectiveness at helping you to become a truck driver. For that, you'd have to look at statistics like the rate of graduates who pass the CDL exam or testimonials from former students.
Certified truck driving schools are overseen by one of the country's top trucking industry organizations, either the Commercial Vehicle Training Association or the Professional Truck Driver Institute. Students at these schools only graduate after meeting standards for the trucking industry set by the U.S. Department of Transportation.
A licensed school has met the minimum facility, curriculum, and training requirements set by the state. It may not be overseen by the CVTA or the PTDI. When choosing a CDL training school, you should look specifically for one that is certified rather than licensed. It may also be accredited, but that should be a secondary consideration.
Enrollment in a truck driving school represents a significant investment, as comprehensive training can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000. However, it may be possible to recoup your upfront expense. Some employers will reimburse you for the cost of your tuition, or in other cases the federal government might cover these costs.
If you're a veteran, find out right away if the school accepts the Post 9/11 GI Bill. Gather the necessary paperwork and file for benefits that could defray some or all of the cost of tuition.
The most important thing is to be wary of any tuition offers that sound too good to be true.
5. Job Placement
The best truck driving schools don't just provide you the necessary training for you to get your license, they also help you to find a trucking job after you graduate. They may partner with trucking companies, whether local or national, or they may offer you personal coaching. Find out what type of job placement services each school offers, and also inquire about their success rates.
Some CDL training schools only offer training in certain locations, while others have facilities throughout the country. It is important to find out where the school is located and whether or not you have to travel to get there. If a particular school you want is far away, you'll have to decide whether the quality of the program is worth the commute, or if it's more important to you to attend a school close to home. If your ambition is to drive long distance, commuting to school could be good training in itself. Otherwise, some schools may be willing to arrange accommodations for you at a more convenient location.
Because of the cost involved in CDL training, you want to ensure a good return on your investment. Knowing what to look for can help you make a beneficial decision.