So you want to be a trucker, but you don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on truck driving school. Many aspiring truckers are in the same boat. Some are budget conscious. Others don’t have the money for school and assume financial aid isn’t an option.
But is there really a way to get a CDL without school? Can you skip the classroom training and simply take the exams on your own?
Can I Get a CDL Without Going to School?
Technically, yes, you can get a CDL without going to school. Maybe you have a truck driver friend who has offered to give you one-on-one lessons. They can likely teach you the basics of driving a truck and how to operate a rig.
Once you feel comfortable, nothing is stopping you from taking the exam and getting your license.
If you don’t have a trucker buddy to help you out, you’ll likely have a hard time passing the road skills test.
In most states, the CDL exam includes:
- A written test (knowledge exam)
- Vision test
- Road skills test
You can read and study to prepare for the written test, but you can’t possibly prepare for the road test without some kind of hands-on training.
So, yes, you can get a CDL without school – if you have some kind of hands-on training from another trucker. But that doesn’t mean anyone is going to hire you. A CDL means nothing if you can’t put it to work.
The Best Way to Get CDL License
If you want to get your CDL and give yourself the best chance to get hired by a trucking company, then your best bet is to attend trucking school.
Why won’t trucking companies hire you?
- Company policy
- Insurance reasons
Sure, you may have your CDL, but trucking companies will have no idea whether you received proper training. Hiring someone who obtained their CDL without attending formal training is a serious risk for the trucking company.
Essentially, you become a liability.
When trucking companies hire new drivers, they want to make sure that they’ve been adequately trained and know how to handle driving a tractor-trailer.
Driving a truck is not like driving a car. Improper and unsafe driving can quite literally put other lives at risk as well as your own.
Trucking School is the Safest Choice for Getting Your CDL and a Job in Trucking
Reputable trucking companies want to hire new drivers who have completed a formal training program with at least 160 classroom hours.
Many aspiring truck drivers are concerned about the costs of attending a formal trucking school. However, there’s more to consider than just the cost of school. Formal training at a qualified school will give you proper:
- Education on how to safely operate a rig and the rules of the road
- Preparation for the exam and road skills test
- The ability to work hands-on with experienced trainers who can answer questions and correct mistakes
Trucking school should be considered an investment in your future. While you can technically get a CDL without going to school, ask yourself whether that’s really how you want to start your new career.
Formal training from a qualified school with qualified instructors will give you the tools and education you need to drive safely. However, if you somehow find a company that will hire you without having gone through a training program, you may find yourself in a situation where you don’t know what to do.
Paying for Trucking School
Attending trucking school is the best way to get your CDL. But many people still have concerns about paying for training. The good news is that there are quite a few options to help cover these costs.
Company sponsored training: With this option, the trucking company fronts the cost of training. In exchange, you will work for them for a year or whatever their requirements would be.
Tuition reimbursement. Many trucking schools have relationships with trucking companies that offer tuition reimbursement. So, you may have to pay for your training yourself, but the company that hires you will reimburse you for the cost of tuition through monthly payments. Even with this option, you still need to sign a contract stating that you will work for the company for a certain period of time.
Financial aid. People don’t realize that they can apply for financial aid when attending trucking school. If the school is accredited, there’s a good chance that you can apply for government-funded tuition assistance.
Veteran assistance. Many trucking schools participate in the Transferred GI Bill Benefits, Post 9/11 GI Bill or VA Vocational Rehabilitation.
State and federal grants. Grants may be available to cover the cost of tuition. For example, the Workforce Investment Act has different grant programs that may even pay for the entire cost of tuition.
- Student loans. Many schools also offer loan options through the financial companies in their network. Even if you have bad credit, you can typically qualify for these loans. However, they may have exorbitant interest rates. Therefore, it’s important to understand what you’re getting into before signing on the dotted line.
Many schools offer assistance to help students get the training they need to enter a trucking career. In addition, they may offer payment plans that allow you to get started with classes and work towards getting your CDL.
Ultimately, it’s worth the time and money investment to complete formal training. Yes, you can obtain a CDL without going to school, but you’ll likely be wasting your time because reputable trucking companies only want to hire drivers with formal training.