You have decided that you’re ready to commit and hit the road as a trucker but then you check into the costs of truck driving schools. You’re unemployed, or underpaid, and you certainly can’t dish out three grand or more to attend a school, there are options.
The first option you want to check into is State and Federal grants. WIA, the Workforce Investment Act, has many different grant programs available that often pay the entire training cost.
You may be eligible for funding if you are a dislocated worker. Dislocated workers have been let go/laid off from their current job and are unlikely to return to the industry due to a permanent plant closure, foreign competitors or lack of skills. Dislocated workers can also be self-employed or unemployed people who can no longer make a living due to natural disasters or the lack of skills to obtain a job that can support the household.
If you are not eligible for the dislocated worker program you may be eligible for TAA funding. Trade Adjustment Act (TAA) funding is available to people that may have lost their job due to foreign competition/trade.
To get more information about WIA, the Workforce Investment Act, that provides funding you should contact your local unemployment or job office/center and ask about getting a training grant. These programs do take some time for approval and often run out of money early so it is advised that you make contact with an agency as soon as possible.
If you are currently in a rehabilitation program or if you have had to switch careers due to an injury you may be eligible for training funds. Contact your local rehabilitation office.
Some truck driving schools offer Contract Training. Contract Training is when a trucking company offers you “free” training if you sign a contract to work for their company for a set amount of time, normally a year or more.
Contract Training can be a viable way to obtain training but is should be a second choice, not a first choice. Contract Training requires a detailed contract that is not only confusing but highly in favor of the company. Some contracts include large amounts of interest and exaggerated pricing for the training you receive. This may not be an issue, unless you cannot fulfill the contract.
Obviously, if you are signing the contract you expect to complete the transaction successfully but there are factors that interfere. You should review the sections that refer to your abilities to obtain a CDL. Some contracts mention that you can be expelled from the program, even before the end of the first week, and you will still be responsible for the full cost of training.
If you have a family emergency and have to delay training or you must quit your job to be home with the family, you can find yourself owing the company thousands of dollars for reneging on your contract.
Truck driving school graduates should drive for the same company for a year, ticket and accident free, but signing a contract that you will do so is jeopardizing your ability to move on and up if the opportunity provides itself.
As always, when signing a contract, know what you are agreeing to.
Many schools offer loans through financial companies they work with. Loans can be obtained by individuals with bad credit, often with a co-signer, but be wary as some of these loans have outlandish interest rates. As with the Contract Training, when you sign, know what you are agreeing to.
Another option, if you are currently employed, may be loans or grants made available through your company. Some of the larger companies offer their employees incentives to get training or education and truck driving courses fall under some of these approved programs.
Contact your Human Resources Department and ask them if they offer funding for truck driver training.
Many Native American students are eligible for funding through their tribal council or the Bureau of Indian Affairs. These programs often pay the full tuition for truck driving school so you should check with your local chapter for eligibility requirements.
If you or an immediate family member is/was a union member you may have funds available for training in an educational annuity. Often people think of using an educational annuity for higher learning but many can be used for vocational training, including truck driving school. Check with your union for more information.
Credit Cards are a great way to fund truck driver school. If you have a good credit history you can often get a new card with an interest free period. Depending on the length of time, you may be able to pay off the full tuition before the card accumulates any interest. Most truck driving schools accept Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express.
Some schools may offer alternative financing, such as putting a deposit down and paying the balance before you graduate. You can check with your chosen truck driving school and ask about additional options for financing the class.
Most college-sponsored programs accept VA loans. Check with the college to verify that it does offer the loans and how much out-of-pocket costs you will have to endure. Some colleges will send students through with no upfront cost to them, others will have the students pay all tuition and fees upfront and wait for reimbursement from the government. Some private schools will also accept VA loans so check with all local truck driving schools.
After you complete training and venture out into the trucking industry you will find that many of the companies offer tuition reimbursement. Though this program does not help you pay for school, it will help you regain the costs of training. Companies will need a receipt from the school and they will issue a stipend, normally on a monthly basis, that will pay you back for your training costs. (Reimbursement not available for individuals that received training with a federal/state grant).
The monthly stipend varies from company to company and it does take a substantial amount of time to get all your money back but it is a nice bonus and can help with credit card payments or loans from family members.
Call or visit local truck driving schools and speak with the admission coordinator, they will help lead you through funding options. Read and review all contracts, know what you are signing and enjoy your journey.