Commercial Drivers License (CDL) Training is not cheap. The price can start around $3,000 and range up through $10,000 depending on where you take your training and what endorsements you receive. When you don't have a job, a few thousand dollars can be a little steep. There is Free CDL training options out there, but they come with a catch.
As an overview, there are three CDL levels, and each one will require a different amount of training.
Class A Truck: Any combination of vehicles with a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR) of 26,001 or more pounds (11,793 kg) provided the GVWR of the vehicle(s) being towed is in excess of 10,000 (4536 kg).
Class B Truck: Any single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,001 or more pounds (11,793 kg), or any such vehicle towing a vehicle not in excess of 10,000 pounds (4536 kg) GVWR.
Class C Truck: Any single vehicle, or combination of vehicles, that does not meet the definition of Class A or Class B, but is either designed to transport 16 or more passengers, including the driver, or is placarded for hazardous materials.
In addition, there are also several endorsements such as school bus, tank truck, tractor trailer, etc, that one can received in addition to the base training.
The Free CDL Training Options
Company sponsored training is paid for directly by a trucking company. It is usually owned or closely associated with either one trucking company or a group of trucking companies. In return for free (or sometimes greatly reduced) tuition, the driver commits to working for the company for a guaranteed amount of time. This time varies depending on the company. In the case of a reduced tuition, sometimes part of the tuition is taken directly out of a drivers paycheck once they start work.
Tuition reimbursement is another options. You attend a private independent CDL training school, pay the tuition fee upfront, and then the company reimburses you after you pass the course. This generally also comes with a time commitment.
What to Look Out For?
With either of these options, make sure you have a guaranteed job at the end. Economies are fickle and if you don't have a written guarantee, the company may decide to use this training to weed out the slower learners.
In most cases you will generally have to agree to work for the company a certain amount of time after you complete the training. If you leave the company before the time is over, you will have to pay back the company a prorated sum. If you find a company that offers a time commitment of less than 12 months, you can probably consider it a good deal.
The tuition reimbursement option at a private school will generally have a higher quality of training. Since these schools are making money on each student, they will got at a slower pace and give everybody more individualized attention. Just remember that the company will probably only reimburse you up to a certain amount.
On the other hand, company sponsored training is essentially overhead and they will try to push you through as fast as they can. They might even try to eliminate you from the program if you are not learning as fast as they want you to.
If you have the money available, the better option would be to hire on with a company that offers tuition reimbursement, pay for the private CDL school of your choice, and have them reimburse you after you complete the training. If you can't come up with the tuition, then hire on with a company that has their own company sponsored training class.
There are countless successful truckers that have gone through both types of CDL training, and either option could be better for your situation. Each type of school is simply a means to learn the skills necessary to get your CDL license. The important thing is to get started. Start researching the schools and companies, get yourself a good CDL study guide, and start your career in commercial truck driving.
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