According to PTDI, the average cost of a certified driver training program was just under $5,000 in 2016. Most people don’t have that much cash laying around in their sock drawer, particularly if you are unemployed, switching careers, or just starting out in life. Fortunately, it isn’t absolutely required that you fork over all that money all at once. There are several ways you can make your truck driver training more affordable.
To find out if you qualify for financial aid from the government, fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You can find an online aid predictor on the FAFSA website. In about 15 minutes, you can get an idea of what sort of financial aid options may be available to you. The aid you get will depend, in part, on which school you attend. Driving schools based in community colleges are more likely to be eligible for financial aid. The online aid predictor asks questions about your marital status and family income, and also suggests other places you might look for financial assistance.
If you are a veteran, you may be able to use your GI Bill benefits to pay for truck driving school. Ask the schools you are interested in attending if they accept this form of funding. If they do, the administrative office should have all the forms you need to apply. You can also check with the VA. Programs through community colleges are more likely to qualify for GI Bill payment than those run through private schools.
You may be able to take out a low-interest loan to cover the cost of tuition. Most student loans don’t start accumulating interest or requiring payment until you graduate. Then, once you start working, you can repay the loan. Be sure to calculate how much money, including interest, you will end up repaying over the term of the loan.
Some of the large national trucking companies will pay for your CDL instruction. The company may run their own school, or pay a third-party to train their recruits. If you go through an employer-paid program, remember that the carrier is in business to make money, and they would not be offering free training to candidates if they could not offset the costs one way or another. In some cases, you might have to pay for training up-front, and the employer reimburses you over time while you are working for them. This still requires a big initial cost. Other companies require you to commit to working for them for one year after you complete your training at a reduced pay rate. The company may also deduct the cost of your training course out of your pay, like a loan, until the total cost is repaid. Of these different setups, the most common is the one-year commitment plus repayment. If you quit before your year is up, you can end up owing much more than your tuition would have cost if you had paid for it yourself. Do some research with other people who have gone through the program and make sure you won’t be giving up more money by working at a lower introductory wage for a year than you would have if you had taken out a loan to pay for your training.