Truck Driving Schools and Training
There are two (main) ways to get in to trucking, unless you personally know the owner or major player in a company. (1) Truck Driving Schools and (2) Company provided training.
Non-affiliated Truck Driving Schools
There are numerous truck driver training schools scattered around the United States. There are two sub-classes of truck driving schools – those operated as a part of a community college or other adult education sponsored training and independent For-Profit schools. The classes offered thru college or workforce education programs are generally cheaper then State Licensed For-Profit post secondary education centers. However, where you attend most likely will be affected by where you live and how much freedom to travel you have. If you have to pay for room and board also and your finances do not permit you to live apart for the (typical) 5 weeks of training, you may have to opt for a school with in driving distance to home.
While not exactly cheap to attend a truck driving school, the investment in time and money is minimum considering the cost of attending a 2 or 4 year college training program and with in weeks of starting school, you can be on the job and earning a paycheck. Starting income for a 1st year Over The Road (OTR) truck driver is easily $35,000 a year and depending on your exact employer and how hard you work, could be more. Most companies offer employee benefits, some starting only a few months after you first jump behind the wheel and haul your first load.
Some Truck Driver schools are accredited by the Veterans Administration (VA) to offer training to US Armed Forces veterans with the VA picking up all or a portion of the tuition costs. If you plan to request payment thru VA, check with the VA not just the school that the school is approved by the VA.
Different training schedules may available at different schools. Some offer a 8-5, 5 day a week program which are basically full time. While others may have weekends and limited nights during the week for students who must continue to work a job while training for a new career. Obviously the full time schools are completed much quicker, but if you have ot keep working to support a family or pay bills, the part time training may be a viable option.
While you will normally have to pay for your training up front, many trucking companies will reimburse you for your tuition costs (but not living or commuting expenses) if you hire on with them and stay a minimum amount of time, commonly 1 year but it does vary. Not all companies offer this so pay close attention to which companies do and which do not and more importantly the conditions you have to complete to qualify for payment. See Your First Trucking Job for a more detailed discussion on reimbursement of training costs.
When selecting a Truck Driving school, especially if you have several to pick from, you should pay attention the variety, the age and the condition of trucks and equipment you will be training in.
Trucking Company Provided Training
Some larger trucking companies, because of a continuous shortage of qualified drivers, have established their own drivers schools. The key advantage to selecting one of these programs is that there is no out of pocket costs for tuition and supplies as the company is providing them for you. Some will even pay a minimum salary while you are in school. (Some do, some don’t – check carefully.) The downside to this arrangement is that you agree to work for the company for the first year or more and if you fail to do it, as based on your specific contract, you will have to repay the company some or all of the costs to train you. And the company determines how much your training was worth, not you nor is it necessarily based on nearby independent schools. The other problem with not staying with company is that you may be establishing a record of undependability. See Your First Trucking Job for a more comments about jumping company to company.
Many programs operated by trucking companies are completed much faster then independent programs. Since most over the road truck drivers, especially in the beginning, will work in three week stints, basically 7 days a week for three weeks. These companies will also train their employees with the same mindset as opposed to the 8-5, 5 day theory that many full time schools will utilize. Since you are training in the class room and on the (drivers practice) range and also some on the road, you will complete the required minimums must faster then just working 5 out of 7 days. You can also expect to actually haul freight for the company sometime during the training.
Minimum Training Required Different states have different minimum training requirements, and there not going to be researched here as they are subject to change way to often. Some times require a specific number of hours in a class room environment and a designated amount of time practicing specific maneuvers and actual road time. Others, not so much, you have to pass a written test to be issued your Temporary Instruction Permit and then later you have to pass another written test and then a Skills test by an authorized (by the state) tester, and you get your Commercial Drivers License. Check specifically what the rules are for your state. If you live near a state line with another state, taking a class in the other state may not qualify you for a license in the state where you live.
Medical requirements While you are researching, check the specific requirements regarding your medical certificates. Again, different states have different – and very specific – requirements and methods to obtain a medical certificate authorizing you to drive an 80,000 lb monster down the road.
Going to a certified and accredited Truck Driver Training School is an excellent, fast and efficient way to become a professional truck driver.