Driving trucks can be a rewarding career, offering the opportunity to travel, enjoy flexible wages and perform a needed service in the community. Yet there is one major hurdle that truck drivers need to overcome in order to get their licenses and start their careers, and that is the hurdle of truck driving school. New drivers often have to take on several thousands of dollars in education expenses before they can get their Class A licenses. This has caused many who are interested in this career field to pursue something else, creating shortages in the industry. To help aid in filling these shortages and keeping the trucking industry stocked with qualified drivers, the federal government has stepped in with aid programs.
If you are considering a career in trucking, here’s what you need to know about current aid programs.
The Truck Driver Shortage Causing a Serious Need
The American Trucking Association was estimating a 50,000 driver shortage in the trucking industry at the end of 2017. Numbers are not really improving all that much in 2018. As aging drivers seek retirement and an insufficient number of new drivers are entering the marketplace, and this gap is going to continue growing. With an insufficient number of drivers in the industry, fleets are suffering.
While this is good news for those who are considering entering the field as new drivers, because there are a large number of jobs available and ample signing bonuses to be had, it’s a challenge for the trucking industry as a whole. The federal government understands that without a thriving trucking industry, the entire country’s infrastructure could suffer, and thus they have created programs to help truckers get the funding they need to go to school.
Commercial Driver License Program Implementation Grant
The federal government is tackling the truck driver shortage problem through the Commercial Driver License Program Implementation Grant. This grant is different from many other grants for education in that it is not delivered directly to the applicant. Rather, it is delivered to the school or trucking company that is seeking to hire the applicant. They can then use that money to pay for the driver’s training, taking that expense away from the driver and shouldering it themselves with help from the federal government.
If you are looking for work in an area with a known driver shortage, chances are high that your local trucking companies and truck driving schools are utilizing these funds. Talk to the hiring manager or the financial aid department of the school you are considering to find out if this is an option.
Additional Sources for Federal Aid
The Commercial Driver License Program and Implementation Grant is the only federal grant specific to the truck driving industry, but that does not mean it is the only option out there for those considering a career in truck driving. Other federal aid programs, like the Pell grant, can apply to truck driving school. These awards are delivered based on financial need. To apply, you will need to file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
Some people may consider a career in truck driving after losing their job in another field. If you lose your job because of foreign trade changes, you may be eligible for the Trade Adjustment Assistance program. This program provides funding for vocational schools, which includes trucking school. While it is not specific to the trucking industry, it is yet another option to help pay the costs of trucking school.
As you can see, there are quite a few options to help you pay for trucking school, with the federal government’s help. If you are interested in starting a career in this field, start by talking to a trucking company to see what aid options are out there, then call your chosen CDL school to learn your options through the school as well. Finally, apply for any federal programs that apply to you, and you will soon be on your way to getting your training and your Class A license.