Do you have to actually attend an official truck driving school? No, but if you want to get a real job in the trucking industry one needs to have formal training. Rarely do companies hire someone who has neither experience nor proper training.
Just like any career field, truck drivers must get training and be licensed. This can cost and add up quick, depending on the program you choose. Most trucking schools are for several weeks to even months. But there are options and ways around the high upfront cost. Do I mean free?
Well, as everyone knows, “there‘s no such thing as a free lunch”. However, there are options for getting paid training. And yes, this is offered by legitimately recognized truck driving programs, training schools and/or companies. Keep in mind, learning to be a truck driver and earning your CDL is not the same thing.
Simply put, it does take time and practice to be able to handle a large truck properly. Just because you can drive a standard or you’re really good at backing your boat to the dock doesn’t guarantee you will make a great truck driver.
There are techniques and skills to learn and more importantly there are numerous rules and regulations you must adhere to.
Earning your CDL is just as important as earning your regular driving license. Many say it can be equally stressful as well. I can imagine many are saying, “What!” But think about it, the average
American gets their license at 16 (permits at 15), that’s a lot of pressure for a teenager. The CDL is the key step in a new career. Both open the doorways to a new sense of freedom and new responsibilities.
A CDL is very important for many industries. It doesn’t matter if you’re a commercial truck driver, you operate a dump truck, or drive the local school bus you need to take and pass the CDL and related exams. Of course there are other considerations, the vehicle(s) you’ll operate, additional endorsements, and other professional requirements.
We’ve touched base on many of the requirements already in one of my previous articles “CDL Requirements-What You Need To Know”. What I would like to do is to go into more detail regarding the schools. Perhaps assist you in seeing your options while pursuing your truck driving career. Perhaps even help you achieve your goal of driving the big trucks!
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Do Free Truck Driving Schools Really Exist?
Ok I have already mentioned that the schools aren’t really free. That doesn’t mean you have any upfront expenses or even need to pay huge tuitions. “Wait doesn’t that mean free?” Well not in the sense that most people think.
Anyone who has joined the military heard about the “free college”, but ask any Veteran if it was actually “free”? No it wasn’t, really. The same is true with most vocational programs, there are usually contractual commitments attached to the offered training.
There isn’t anything wrong with that. Actually, numerous schools are available for those wishing to follow a career in truck driving. They offer a variety of programs, often tailored for solely for the trucking industry. Others will offer a broader range of programs. The length it takes to complete the course really depends on what they offer and whether they are a specialty school or part of the community college.
The issue is twofold, tie and money. So first ask yourself these questions. Can you afford to pay for the schooling and the CDL licensing? Do you mind being committed to one organization for a period of time?
Is this industry really the right choice for you? If it is, but you lack the funds to pay for it, then you’ll just have to pursue a program offered by an actual trucking company.
One thing for sure, being truck driver can be cool!
How Do They Operate?
The basic answer is simple. If you are selected, they provide you the training needed. At the end you get your CDL, lots of practice, and a job. Well that sounds pretty good, doesn’t it? Remember, if you choose this route you are then committed to work for that company for a period of time.
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However, there are several different options; the following are the most common. Some schools offer reimbursement, which basically means you attend trucking school and you pay for it.
After you successfully pass all the requirements, the company will pay you back for cost of the school.
Another option is where they provide the training but deduct the cost from your pay until the school fees are covered, while others cover it all, you just need to shop around and find the one that suits you best.
In most cases there is the contractual obligation I’ve mentioned, the length of which can vary from 12 -24 months usually, but they do vary. Most have a clause that will allow you to break your contract, with a penalty.
Sometimes they will require full reimbursement for the training, while others will prorate it based on the amount of time you drove for them. Be sure you know all the details and expectations before you sign any contracts.
List of 10 Free Truck Driving Schools
Now you have decided that this is the right choice for you. Well, here is a list and some basic information on a few of the available schools that I’ve selected.
This is by no means a complete list nor are they listed by their overall rating. Like with anything else, make sure you research and pick the school that offers the best options for you.
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1. Swift Transportation: One of the largest in North America, they are based out of Phoenix Arizona.
2. FFE Transport Services: They have been around for over 60 years; they are based out of Dallas Texas.
3. Prime Inc.: Operates in both the Continental United States and Canada, they are based out of Springfield Missouri.