Shopping for a Commercial Driving School that fits your needs can be difficult. Where you live, your schedule, employment status, and preference for Class A or Class B training will all factor into your decision making when selecting a school. While the most natural question for someone looking for a CDL training program may be “how much does it cost?” It is important to understand what you are getting in terms of training hours, how much time you will get behind the wheel, what type of transmission you will train on, and what out of pocket costs you might expect to incur in addition to the cost of training.
In this guide, we will highlight the key questions you should ask when applying to a truck driver training school – including how to evaluate the varying costs.
Key Questions to Ask When Choosing a Professional Truck Driving School
1. How many Hours are included in your training?
It’s vital to know how many Behind the Wheel (BTW) and Classroom hours you will have completed during your training. Most employers will require 160 total training hours to be eligible for employment. If you already have employment lined up, you will want to verify the employers' expectations. Many schools offer comprehensive training under 160 hours and will require you to pay for additional behind the wheel (BTW) hours to reach the number your employer requires.
As a general rule of thumb, the more BTW hours you have in your training, the more appealing you are to an employer and the more successful you will be on your road test. Try to secure as many BTW hours as possible in your training program.
2. Will my BTW hours be certified?
Keep in mind that just because you get behind the wheel, doesn’t mean the school you attend will follow through on certifying this time with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
Depending on your career interests, it could be important that any behind the wheel training hours are recorded and forwarded to the “Training Provider Registry” - So, you and your future employer will be able to corroborate your hours using the www.checkyourrecord.gov system.
3. Is the road test fee included in the cost?
There are many potential fees linked with vocational education; it is important to know what fees are and are not included, so you have a clear picture of total out of pocket cost.
4. Do you offer Manual and Automatic training?
While there has been a dramatic shift toward automatic transmissions in the past several years, many trucking companies still have manual transmission tractors.
Training on an automatic transmission will place a restriction on your commercial driver’s license (CDL) preventing you from operating a manual transmission. So, if in the future you have an employment opportunity at a company who operates manual tractors, you’ll need to return to school to get the restriction lifted.
We recommend students always attempt to train with a manual transmission early in their education to remain flexible and open to all types of employment opportunities.
5. Does your organization provide Job Placement support? If so, are their contracts involved?
If you don’t already have employment lined up, you’ll want to know if the school you attend can assist you with finding a job, and what exactly that means for you.
Some schools will have contracts with a carrier to provide them drivers, this is not necessarily a bad thing - but you will want to know if that contract “locks you in” to employment. Being locked in means entering a multi-year no-compete contract with a given employer. For many new drivers, this could mean you are stuck in a position and pay-rate you aren’t happy with. Alternatively, it could leave you without any job placement support if you opt out of the employment options offered through the school.
At The CDL School, we offer lifetime job placement support in trucking careers for our graduates. We do not enter binding contracts with our carrier partners, so you are free to choose and change employers according to what meets your needs.
6. What do I need before I start?
Different programs and state regulations will affect what credentials or tasks you will need completed before you begin Behind-the-Wheel training. In general, you should expect to start behind the wheel training only once you have:
- A valid driver’s license
- A Commercial Learners Permit
- A DOT physical
- Completed ELDT theory training from an approved provider
Many schools will require you to perform ELDT theory at a different school or online provider, this cost is not included in your program package.
At The CDL School, we offer ELDT theory online and in-person at each of our campuses across the nation. You can train on your own time from the comfort of your own home, join an instructor led online course, or train at our campuses. ELDT theory starts every Monday and normally takes just 2 weeks to complete.
The Bottom Line
It’s important to equip yourself with the tools and knowledge to appropriately assess a training program. In doing so, you can eliminate the chances of attending a school that will not provide you certifiable hours or opportunities for employment that suit your needs.
About The CDL School
The CDL School is committed to your success. We certify every hour of BTW training and report it to the DMV. With access to carriers nationwide, we can support you in finding employment that suits your needs, if you choose to utilize it. We include several out-of-pocket costs in our training fees to limit the number of surprises you will encounter later.
To learn more about how The CDL School can help you become a professional truck driver, start your application today.