Cost of CDL Training & Schools
One of the biggest and most important questions you may have when considering CDL school is the cost of tuition. This can vary greatly depending on the school you choose and the state you are in. CDL training school tuition can range anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000. According to the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI), a non-profit organization that develops certification standards for the truck driving industry, the mean and median cost of courses at a reputable, PTDI-certified school is roughly $5,000. This includes public, private, and carrier schools combined. Depending on the school, this can be an all-inclusive cost, meaning that registration fees, books and other supplies are covered under the tuition cost. There are lots of things to review when considering CDL school. If you think you can't afford it, you are most likely mistaken! Financial options abound, and you may not have to pay the full cost of tuition out of pocket. Let us break it down for you below…
Monetary Costs of CDL School
CDL school tuition can be confusing. There are a few things you should be aware of when looking at the cost breakdown for CDL school tuition. In addition to the cost of courses, your school of choice's tuition may or may not cover the following:
- Books - Course materials most often come in the form of books. Depending on the school you choose and the courses offered, you may need a range of different instructional books.
- Department of Transportation (DOT) Physical Exam - A physical examination by a licensed medical examiner listed on the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) National Registry is necessary to ensure that anyone who plans to drive a commercial motor vehicle is physically healthy enough to do so safely.
- Department of Transportation (DOT) Drug and Alcohol Testing - Before you can be hired as a truck driver, an employer is required to receive a negative DOT drug and alcohol test.
- Permit Exam Fees - There are fees associated with your CDL learner's permit. This can vary from state to state.
- CDL Exam Fees - Depending on the license class you are applying for (A, B, or C), there will be a fee to take your final CDL exam.
Personal (Non-Monetary) Costs of CDL School
Aside from the financial aspect of attending CDL school, there are other "costs" to think about. The first is the time commitment to attending school. CDL school can last anywhere from 2 to 14 weeks, depending on the type of school you attend (public, private, carrier, etc.) and the frequency of classes they offer. Do you plan to keep a full-time job or have family commitments that will need to be kept while you attend CDL training classes? Perhaps a night or weekends-only course is for you. Do you have the ability to devote more time to your classes so you can get done more quickly? Traditional daily weekday classes might fit the bill, but you will have to balance time away from friends, family, work (which can lead to financial hardship), and other commitments to make this happen. The location of your school may factor in as well…don't forget to think about the time it will take to get you to and from your classes.
While there can be substantial costs associated with attending CDL school, the good news is that you have many options when it comes to paying for them. In fact, there are programs out there that can supplement your out of pocket costs, or pay for them nearly entirely. Take a look below at the options that may be available to you:
- Cash - Savings, financial help from family, credit cards, or any combination herewith will gladly be accepted at CDL schools. Be sure to inquire with the school about monthly payment plans; full payment may not be required up front.
- Loans - Public and private loan options abound. Financial institutions like banks, credit unions, and other local agencies offer loans, or you can explore federal student loans (see below). It is important to keep in mind that private loans may carry higher interest rates, so in general it's a good idea to explore federal student loan options first.
- Financial Aid and Grants - Applying for financial aid through FAFSA is a great first step if you want to explore your federal student aid options, in which the government subsidizes some of the loan cost. If you qualify through FAFSA, a federal Pell Grant awarded through participating institutions is money that can be used for school and differs from a loan in that it doesn't need to be paid back. There may be other grants available in your region; it doesn't hurt to ask your preferred CDL school if they have any other grants or scholarships available to prospective students.
- Company Tuition Reimbursement Programs - It may seem backwards to think about an employer before even settling on a school, but many of the leading trucking companies offer substantial tuition reimbursement plans for new hires. Roadmaster Drivers School, for example, claims that some of their partner carriers offer up to 90% tuition reimbursement. The amount of reimbursement will vary depending on the school and what trucking companies it partners with, and you must keep in mind that there are certain stipulations to be aware of when selecting this as an option; for example, many trucking companies will reimburse you over time to ensure that you are serious about working for their company. Be sure to read over all the conditions of your selected carrier before going forward with a company tuition reimbursement program.
- Programs for Veterans - Veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces have some unique options when it comes to paying for CDL school. The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill, including the Yellow Ribbon Program, can be used to pay for your training if you qualify and your school's program is approved. Many of the big carriers also participate in the Department of Veterans Affairs Military Apprenticeship Program, which can offer up assistance as well. For a full rundown of military tuition programs, visit the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.