How Do I Choose a CDL Truck Driver Training School?

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There are several things to consider before choosing a CDL training program:

  • Accreditation, Certification, and Licensure: At the very least, you want to ensure your school meets state standards. For federal financial aid, you need an accredited school.

  • Communication: If you have questions, do they give you straightforward and relatively prompt answers when you contact them? Will they allow you to visit?

  • Cost: Can you afford the tuition after any financial aid options?

  • Independent vs. Company Paid: Are you comfortable with the type of training and commitment required by company-paid programs, or would an independent program be more your speed?

  • Job Placement Rates: How many graduates find work soon after program completion?

  • Reputation: Investigate the school's reputation. Online reviews are a good place to start but remember: they can be faked. It's best to look for schools that have been around for a good while.

  • Time: Do you have a flexible schedule, or do you need to take classes on evenings or weekends only? Can you spend a few weeks at a training program if opting for company-paid training?

There are training programs that can meet all of your needs—it just takes some digging to find them.

Types of CDL Training Programs

There are several types of commercial driver’s license training programs. CDL training programs vary based on (accreditation, licensure, certification, and who pays for training,) as well as the details that change based on location or individual instructors.

 

Accredited, Certified, and Licensed CDL Training Programs

 

CDL training programs fall into three basic categories: accredited, certified, and licensed.

Accredited CDL programs are those offered by educational institutions that meet the requirements for quality education set by certain national or regional accrediting organizations approved by the U.S. Department of Education. These institutions are also considered Title IV schools. For trucking, such programs are usually offered through community colleges. To earn accreditation, a school has undergone rigorous inspections and proven its standards to the accrediting agency. It's worth noting that accredited truck driving programs aren't common, and a program not being offered by an accredited institution isn't something to worry about unless you're hoping to get federal financial aid.

Certified CDL programs are licensed by the state and have been inspected by third parties, then granted certification by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). Schools aren't required to be certified, and those that don't have certification aren't necessarily bad schools.

Licensed CDL truck driving programs have met the state minimum requirements for curriculum, staff, and training. You may sometimes see these erroneously called "state-accredited," so be sure to clarify before enrolling or applying for financial aid.

All of this becomes simpler beginning February 2022, when new federal regulations about entry-level driver training go into effect. All new CDL A applicants, new CDL B applicants, those upgrading from a CDL B to a CDL A, and those pursuing specific endorsements will need to obtain training from a CDL training provider or school that meets certain standards. Qualifying CDL training programs will be listed on a federal registry.

 

How Much Does CDL Training Cost?

Costs of CDL training vary by type and length of the program and the specific license and endorsements you're going for. Some programs can be free, though it's important to ensure they meet all standards and you're comfortable with whatever they require in return.

The U.S. Department of Education College Affordability and Transparency List looked at several ground transportation schools across the country, all of which included CDL training. Tuition ranged from $1,039 to $12,333 in 2018-2019. However, this was a small sample of only 25 schools, with several branches of the same institutions reporting—and many of them were from higher-priced areas of the country. Nationwide, costs are typically $3,000 to $7,000.

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