How to Pay for Truck Driving School
Truck driving programs are generally less expensive to complete than college degrees. However, the out-of-pocket costs could still be prohibitive for many. Even if the costs aren't holding you back, who doesn't like saving money?
This article explains how much you can expect to pay for commercial driver's license (CDL) training tuition and associated costs, the types of aid available to you, and additional financial benefits available to drivers.
How Much Does Trucking School Cost?
Truck driving school costs an average of $3,000 to $7,000 in total, though rates vary by location, type of CDL, and the individual school, with some costing around $12,000.
Do I Have to Pay for Room and Board During CDL Training?
You may have to pay for room and board during your truck driver training if you live far away from the school. Often, schools partner with local hotels for discounted rates. Other expenses, like food and entertainment—though you'll likely have little free time while attending a full-time program—are also your responsibility.
Do I Pay for My CDL or Endorsement Exams and Licenses?
You'll almost definitely have to pay for your commercial driving exams, commercial learners permit (CLP), CDL, and endorsements out of pocket.
A CLP is required before starting trucking school, and you'll typically need to take a knowledge test to earn it. Sometimes the costs are rolled together, sometimes not. This can cost as little as $5 or up to $20.
Your road skills test, which comes after training, averages $30 to $60. Sometimes the tuition you pay covers CDL examination costs.
The CDL itself costs between $75 and $100 in most cases, though it can be more expensive in some states.
If you want to add endorsements, you may need to pay additional exam and license fees.
Additionally, you may be expected to pay for your DOT medical exam if your insurance or employer doesn't cover it.
Is Government Financial Aid Available for Trucking School?
Federal financial aid, including loans and grants, is only available to students attending Title IV schools, which most CDL programs are not.
The government mandates programs must be a minimum of 16 weeks in addition to the Title IV requirement, which is also uncommon for driving schools.
Luckily, the U.S. Department of Education has a list of schools participating in Title IV programs, which is updated four times a year. Some truck driving schools appear on the list, along with community colleges that may offer CDL training programs.
If your program is eligible for federal aid, you must also meet the following requirements:
Once you're sure you meet all the eligibility requirements, it's time to fill out the FAFSA and wait for your offer letter. Don't worry; this won't affect your credit score.
State aid often has fewer hoops to jump through, and they generally only offer grants—which means there is no need to repay them. Some states may require the FAFSA, even if you're not eligible for federal aid. The best way to discover if your state offers trucking school grants is to look through their Department of Education website or contact the department directly.
Can I Get Loans for Truck Driving School?
You may be eligible for government or private loans for trucking school.
Federal government loans are available to those who meet the requirements in the previous section. These have lower interest rates than private loans.
Private loans may be more readily available for truck driving school. Bear in mind these loans often have high interest rates. Applying for these loans requires credit checks, and even if your loan isn't approved, your credit score may be affected.
Researching and Applying to Trucking School Scholarships
There are trucking school scholarships available beyond the ones we list, especially in your local area—if you know where to look.
An online search for "trucking school scholarships" is, of course, a great way to start. Search for things like:
However, it's important to read the fine print—for instance, some scholarships with the word "trucking" may be for family members of those in the industry who plan to attend a four-year school.
You're not limited to scholarships exclusively for trucking, though. Look at scholarships available to those attending vocational or certification programs, both from national organizations and in your area.
Individual truck driving schools may also offer scholarships. They'll likely mention this on their website.
To apply for the scholarships, follow the instructions on their respective applications to the letter. Common scholarship application requirements include:
Below is a list of a few scholarships that may be open to truck drivers. Some specifically mention the field, while others don’t—though all are open to vocational programs. If you’re unsure if the scholarship is open to truck driving programs, reach out to the granting organization directly before spending time on the application.
Are Grants Available for Truck Driving School?
Yes, there are some grants available for truck driving school.
Grants are commonly offered by local, state, and federal governments. Some require you to attend a certain kind of school, such as a community or four-year college, while others are open to other types of education.
You apply for federal grants via the FAFSA. Other governmental grants have varying requirements, which are detailed on state websites. Requirements may include a relatively lengthy application about your educational, personal, and financial backgrounds.
Can I Get Free Truck Driver Training?
Tuition-free truck driver training is available through many trucking employers—though there are strings attached.
Think of this as an interest-free loan—though you may have to pay interest if you quit the company or program before your contract ends or if you don't pass your CDL exam. If you complete the program, you'll be expected to work for the carrier for a set amount of time (usually around one year), and you'll likely have lower paychecks than standard drivers during that period.
Note, this said, "tuition-free," not "free." You'll likely have to live on-site during training (unless you live very close by), meaning you may be responsible for room and board while you learn.
These programs are intense, so you'll almost definitely need to quit your job before enrolling. You need to be very confident you'll succeed in your training if you can't afford to go without pay.
However, some programs do pay during training, which is worth investigating.
In short, company-paid training requirements vary greatly, and it's best to learn everything you can before choosing this option.
Will Employers Reimburse Me for Truck Driving School?
Some employers reimburse for truck driving school while others don't. Many companies that do partner with specific schools, and lists of these partnerships should be available on the training programs' websites.
If you find a company that reimburses for training, you'll likely have to work for them for a minimum amount of time. They usually slowly pay your tuition or loan off via additional money in your paychecks throughout your contract. This means you'll need to pay those bills yourself, as the company isn't paying your loan provider or school directly.
Can Veterans Get Extra Assistance with CDL Training?
Many veterans are eligible for assistance with CDL training costs.
If you drove large vehicles in the military or completed the appropriate USMAPs, your time training for your CDL could be significantly shortened or waived entirely.
Some military education benefits can apply to CDL training, including (with some limitations):
Military families may also be eligible for truck driving school assistance via Chapter 35 benefits, and the VR&E program may help you determine if this career is right for you.
What Other Financial Benefits Are Available to Truck Drivers?
Truck drivers have financial benefits those in other industries don't, both in terms of costs affecting everyone—like taxes—and in trucking-specific job costs.
Self-employed drivers can deduct some work-related costs, including, but not limited to:
Some companies offer special discounts for truck drivers, such as:
And don't forget about National Truck Driver Appreciation Week, when other companies may offer special discounts for drivers.