If you’re considering a career in the trucking industry but can’t afford to pay for CDL training, there are several companies that offer company-sponsored training.
Are there truly free truck driving schools? Yes, some are.
But there are some companies that will require you to pay back the tuition costs once you’ve started your career.
Naturally, some free schools are better than others. We’ve rounded up the best schools to help you find a program that fits your needs.
Our 5 Favorite Free Truck Driving Schools
Swift Transportation is one of the biggest trucking companies in the United States, and also offers one of the best company-sponsored CDL training schools in the industry.
Potential truckers can take advantage of free tuition if they sign a two-year contract with the company. Tuition costs can be financed through Swift, and the company simply deducts $150 from your payroll each month for the initial 13 months of employment. From then on, Swift will add an additional $150 to your pay for the following 13 months. Technically speaking, tuition will be free if you work for the company for 26 months.
Upfront expenses are minimal ($400 or less), and rooms are provided. Depending on the location, you can expect to share a hotel room with 2-5 people. Meals won’t be paid for, but training lasts just two to three weeks. A minimum of 40 hours classroom time is required.
Swift currently operates five CDL training schools in the United States:
- Richmond, VA
- Millington, TN
- Phoenix, AZ
- Lewiston, ID
- San Antonio, TX
Some school locations will require students to obtain a CDL permit before they begin the training program. If required, the permit can be obtained through an online course. Be sure to check with the school you’re considering to find out if a permit is required.
As one of the largest trucking companies in the United States, Swift training schools are a smart choice for budding truckers looking for a solid career.
Prime is another trucking company that’s seen steady growth and is one of the most successful carriers in North America.
One of the major benefits to choosing Prime’s training program is there are no upfront expenses. Tuition is free with a one-year contract. Meals are provided during the first week of training, and lodging is also paid for by the company.
Prime’s training program takes approximately 30 days to complete and requires a minimum of 40 hours classroom time and 100 hours driving time. CDL permits are not required as students will earn them during the first week of training.
A US Passport will be required as well as a HazMat endorsement. If you don’t have a passport and/or the funds to obtain one, Prime will help you obtain one.
Drivers pay no upfront costs to attend the program, and after one year of employment, there will be no charges for tuition and all obligations will be fulfilled. If you leave within the first six months, you’ll be required to pay $1,750 in tuition fees.
The average 1st year trucker salary at Prime is one of the highest in the industry, which makes this carrier one of the best choices for potential drivers looking for a successful, high-paying career.
With more than 60 years in the business, FFE Transport is a well-established carrier and a leader in the temperature-controlled trucking industry. The company offers truckload, LTL and dedicated services all throughout the country.
The Dallas-based company also offers company-sponsored CDL training with no-cost tuition with a contract. Upfront expenses are low ($500 or less), and lodging is paid for by the company. Meals will not be provided, and drivers will be expected to sign a one-year contract with FFE Transport.
Training lasts just 18 days with 40 hours of classroom time and 9-10 days of driving. No CDL permit is required as students will earn theirs during training.
The great thing about FEE’s trucking school is that there are zero tuition costs. You don’t have to put any money down. The company won’t even deduct any tuition costs from your payroll. The only catch is that you have to stay with the company for one year. If you can manage that, your tuition will be 100% free.
If you decide to leave before the year is up, you’ll be charged $3,000.
While tuition is free, there are some other out-of-pocket costs. You will need to pay $100 to $150 for CDL permit fees.
Transportation and lodging will be paid for, but drivers will be responsible for basic living expenses, such as meals.
With driving school prices on the rise, all potential truckers should consider FFE Transport’s training program.
Roehl Transport Incorporated
Based in Marshfield, WI, Roehl is a leading carrier that’s been in the business since 1962. The company operates more than 4,600 trailers and 1,900 tractors. Roehl also has a number of class B CDL jobs available.
The company’s CDL training program is free with a 120,000 mile contract (approximately 1 year), but students also have the option of paying the $2,800 tuition costs upfront.
If you can’t afford to pay tuition costs upfront and don’t want to enter a contract with Roehl, you may qualify for a loan from the company. If you opt for a loan, you will earn loan credits while driving with the company. Once you reach 120,000 miles, your tuition will be paid for in full.
Potential drivers should be prepared to pay for some expenses out-of-pocket. Roehl doesn’t pay for lodging, so that will cost roughly $380. They won’t pay for meals either, and there’s an additional $285 in other upfront expenses required.
That said, CDL training will only last 17 days with 110 hours of driving time and 50 hours of classroom time.
All drivers will be required to have a U.S. passport, and a HazMat endorsement is recommended.
If you’re looking to work for a company that’s family owned and offers flexible tuition options, Roehl is a great choice.
PAM has been in business since 1980 and specializes in hauling freight for the automotive industry. The company also hauls cosmetics, air conditioner units and paper.
Technically speaking, PAM does not offer free CDL training, but costs are lower than the full price of tuition at other schools. Students pay just $1,095 with a one-year contract. Upfront expenses are low, too, at less than $100.
PAM offers students a number of different options when it comes to paying for tuition. If you have no means to pay for a deposit or the tuition upfront, you can sign a one-year contract during which you’ll repay your tuition expenses. About $45 will be deducted from your pay each week to cover these costs. This equates to a little over $2,300. The good news is that at the end of the year, the company will reimburse you $1,245. If you quit before the year is through, you’ll be on the hook for the remaining tuition costs.
Lodging is paid for by the company, but students will be required to pay for their own meals.
Training lasts three to four weeks with 2-3 weeks of driving time and 40 hours of classroom time.
With top pay, great benefits and a thorough training program, PAM Transport offers one of the best training opportunities in the industry.
Getting your CDL training and driving skills are the single biggest factor in making or breaking your career as a professional truck driver. Choose your CDL program wisely, try to speak with former students and find out if they feel they got the proper training and skills from the program.
New Opportunities In A Revitalized Economy
Why Are Truck Driving Schools Experiencing Record Enrollment Numbers?
The trucking industry as a whole is currently undergoing a major influx of new applicants. In the past, those who want to go into truck driving simply learn from veteran truckers who show them the business. But the massive amount of job layoff’s in recent years coupled with strict government regulations, new professional standards, and the emergence of new technologies make truck driving schools a launching point for a successful career.
As the industry enjoys the new influx of talent at the training schools, the outlook of a projected shortage of 111,000 truck drivers in the next two years, from 2008 records appear to be way off. The prospects for a commercial driving career are indeed very good now and for the future.
Why become a truck driver during an economic downturn?
There would be plenty of personal reasons in choosing a career in truck driving, some people are looking to take charge of their own careers now and the independent owner operator career is appealing.
The most common reasons more people are enrolling in truck driving schools:
— Independence. Truck drivers spend most of the time on the road, and usually do their job without the need of supervisors. This means a more relaxed working environment with less pressure from superiors, and that the driver’s own initiative is given full play in tackling bumps on the road.
— Excellent pay, with the opportunity to have your own trucks someday and establish your trucking business. Most people don’t realize this, but truckers can make an average of $35,000 a year on their first 12 months on the road, fresh out of truck driving schools. Income can then go up to an average of $45,000 – $50,000 annually after a few years. Veteran truck drivers have an even better prospect in the business if they own their trucks, netting average salaries of over $100,000 annually.
— Opportunity to see the world. The Marines has no sole claim that “the world will see you” when you become one of them; truck drivers likewise get to see new places across the country when hauling their goods. It’s hard to resist the chance of being able to see all the interesting vistas of America from the Atlantic to the Pacific, especially if the other prospect is being stuck for life in an office cubbyhole.
— Economic Impact. Virtually all consumer items and industrial materials have at some point been transported by trucks from their point of origin to their destination. If you bought something, a truck brought it – truckers are indispensable to commerce.
Trucking is not a job for everyone. Some jobs require the driver to be on the road for days or weeks on end, away from their homes. Others may find it difficult to rest even when off-duty; for example sleeping on berths while the truck is moving. But if none of these bother you, then jumpstart your career by getting into truck driver training.
Certified truck driving schools are the best place to start. These institutions keep the highest quality of education, safety, and training to comply with government statutes. Some schools even offer tuition assistance, as well as guaranteed work after graduation. They also offer training in the latest technologies such as satellite navigation, internet tracking and tracing, and online billing. Another advantage offered by this path is that its graduates usually earn better than their colleagues who did not receive similar training. Fresh graduates can usually get $45,000 yearly upon signing up.
Apprenticeship programs can provide a good start, but once completed, you are stuck with the company that provided the training. To get the best opportunities available, it is best to start with truck driving schools.
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