A truck driving school can prepare you for a career as a truck driver, which many companies rely on to transport goods from one location to another. Truck driving school consists of a combination of classroom instruction and hands-on training. This education will prepare you for a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), which is required to drive a commercial vehicle. Most truck driving schools can be completed in just a few weeks.
What You’ll Learn in Truck Driving School
At a truck driving school, you’ll receive training on:
- How to safely maneuver and operate a truck, especially on highways and crowded streets
- How to back-up, parallel park, and hook/unhook your truck
- How to conduct pre-trip inspections on your truck to ensure it’s running properly
- Federal laws and regulations of interstate truck driving
- Policies on package drop-offs and returns
- How to accept payments for goods
- What to do if items are damaged
- Sales tips, such as how to approach new customers
- How to drive defensively and safely
Some truck driving schools may provide you with a mentor who will drive with you to ensure you’re driving correctly and safely.
Applying to Truck Driving School
To be accepted in a truck driving school, you’ll need:
- A valid driver’s license
- A high school diploma or GED
- Be at least 21 years old
- Pass a Department of Transportation physical exam, drug test, and alcohol test
- A clean driving record–no DUIs (for drugs or alcohol) in the past five years
Other requirements may vary depending on the rules set by state Department of Transportation offices.
Paying for Truck Driving School
Generally, the cost of a truck driving program can range anywhere from $3,000 to $7,000 depending on the school and the type of CDL certification you are interested in–Class A, Class B, or C. (You’ll learn more about these certifications in the next section.) Most schools offer federal financial assistance to help you afford tuition costs.
At the same time, some truck driving companies, such as Wil-trans and Jim Palmer Trucking, will pay for your truck driving school costs if you commit to work for them for a certain amount of time once you finish the truck program. In addition, some employers, such as Schneider, offer tuition reimbursement for students who earned their CDL.
Getting Your CDL License at a Truck Driving School
An advantage to truck driving school is that you can obtain your CDL license fairly quickly. Truck driving school training normally takes about 160 hours to complete, which can be completed in four weeks.
Prior to getting your CDL, it’s important know what kind of vehicle you want to drive, as there are different classifications of licenses:
- Class A CDL allows you to operate a vehicle with a weight of 26,001 pounds or more, with the vehicle towed being over 10,000 pounds. This may include tractor-trailers, tanker vehicles, flatbeds, and truck-tractor trailer combinations.
- Class B CDL is required to operate a vehicle with the weight of 26,001 pounds or more, with the vehicle being towed being up to 10,000 pounds. This may include vehicles, such as box trucks (delivery drivers, couriers, furniture delivery), large buses (tourist, city, school buses), and dump trucks with small trailers.
- Class C License is required to operate vehicles that don’t meet criteria for a Class A or B. This license is meant to transport passenger vans with at least 16 passengers, or HAZMAT vehicles to transport hazardous materials.
Each classification has its own written and driving test, and may include other specific requirements depending on the state. Upon passing, you’ll earn your CDL license, which will qualify you for employment opportunities in the trucking industry. Often, truck driving companies will send representatives to truck driving schools to hire new truck driving graduates.
Once you find a job, you’ll likely continue to receive on-the-job training by the company. This will help you become comfortable with the specific truck you’ll be driving, as well as become educated on the types of goods you’ll be transporting.
In addition to your CDL license, you’ll have the opportunity to receive endorsements by taking additional training, depending on the classification you get. Endorsements qualify you to operate more specialized vehicles. Some endorsements include:
- H Endorsement is required to drive vehicles with hazardous materials
- N Endorsement is required to drive tank vehicles
- S Endorsement is required to drive a school bus
- X Endorsement is required to drive HAZMAT and tank vehicles
Are You Considering a Truck Driving Career?
Truck driving school provides you with the tools you need for a successful career as a truck driver. You’ll want to be sure to conduct research on your local community college or other nearby private companies to see if they offer a truck driving school that is a good fit for you. If you don’t want to pay for tuition upfront, pick a school that offers a tuition sponsorship program, which will connect you with a job after graduation.
As the demand for transporting goods increases, companies will continue to hire more truck drivers to deliver them. In fact, the job outlook for truck drivers is strong, with a projected 6% increase between 2016 and 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
On average, truck drivers can earn a median annual wage of $42,000, according to the BLS. Since truck driving school takes only about four weeks to complete, you’ll be able to begin working fairly quickly. In addition, you’ll get the opportunity to travel to different places and meet all kinds of people.