Those coming from a constrained financial situation often overlook the idea of obtaining a commercial driver’s license, therefore severely limiting their employment opportunities despite feeling that they have the skills and affinity to work in transport. Yet paying a high tuition fee is not the only way to attend a truck driving school.

Truck driving sponsorships and scholarships put CDL certification within reach of almost anyone who is motivated. At some institutes, you will even receive payment as you complete your CDL. Here we’ll be taking you through all of your options, divulging the details of CDL training and what needs to be done to get certified at no cost.

Paid CDL Training Programs

Large transport companies often offer paid-CDL training in order to meet huge hauling demands of their customers. Most paid-CDL training providers will divide your course into a schedule of four-weeks on average. You are hired as an employee from the very first day that you begin your course, should you qualify.

To determine eligibility, an institute will have stipulated minimum age requirements as well as physical prerequisites. If you are eligible, training begins at a fixed weekly rate, increasing once you have concluded your CDL certification. Yet on the job training will also be provided, allowing you to earn additional endorsements, driving more specialized vehicles for a higher compensation.

The first phase of training normally takes you through basic controls, vehicle inspections, managing your speed and handling, turning, docking, safety, accident prevention and management, shifting, and the theory of freight. Phase one training typically runs for one week. Phase two begins at the start of the second week at most training institutes. You are sent out with a certified driving trainer and given the opportunity to work with live freight.

Working on the road and sleeping in your truck, you commence work in the same manner as you would as a qualified truck driver. At the commencement of the third phase, you are given your own truck and a rate based on the fleet you are qualified for. A fleet training manager typically gives you coaching advice via the phone, helping you to hone your skills. Once you are found completely competent, you can look forward to full benefits and a pay increase.

Government Commercial Driver License (CDL) Program Implementation Grant

Financial assistance is available across America thanks to the Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) Program Implementation Grant. National aid is supplied in an attempt to increase compliance efforts of each state. Various agencies are eligible for a grant in each state, with trucking grants and scholarships being provided by leading training institutions.

It is best to complete a free application for Federal Student Aid to determine whether or not you are eligible for a scholarship prior to being considered for a grant which could cover the entire cost of your CDL.

Always apply as early as possible for any grants or trucking scholarships. Most require an introductory essay expressing your motivation for applying. Be sure to address your long-term goals and far-reaching future aspirations in the trucking industry, rather than resorting to listing personal financial motivations for wanting the aid.

Grants, Scholarships and Paid Driving Opportunities

Here is a list of the country’s most lucrative paid driving opportunities, government grants, and active scholarships. Given the great demand for commercial drivers within the transport industry, many leading companies pre-hire thousands of drivers each year, covering the full cost of their tuition. In addition, financial aid is readily available.

Be on the lookout for financial aid which allows you to begin repaying your debt once employed. Many providers supply pre-hiring for this very purpose. Just stay aware that once you enter a contract with a paid driving provider or those supplying tuition reimbursement, you are typically tied to working with that company at a fixed payment schedule for a set duration of time.

Pell Grant

A Pell Grant is intended to assist those who come from a disadvantaged background. The financial assistance supplied is typically given to courses which involve long courses. Trucking tuition from leading state universities holds the highest eligibility. If you are an individual who is accepted and enrolled at a university offering commercial driver’s license training, then you may be eligible for a Pell Grant. The U.S. Department of Education has eligibility information and a free application for federal student aid available on their site.

Workforce Investment Act (WIA) Grant

A Workforce Investment Act grant can be difficult to procure; however, it could pay for the total cost of your commercial driver’s license training. This grant aims to assist those who wish to secure training for high-wage jobs. It is also a source of funding for those looking to re-enter the labor force. WIA grants cover tuition to a maximum value of $9,000 per year, per individual. If you are at least 18 years old, a US citizen and are unemployed, you may be eligible for a WIA grant. Find the one-stop career center in your state and contact a caseworker to begin the application process. Be sure to bring your social security card, driver’s license, documentation verifying your voluntary discharge or layoff, and your resume.

Minnesota Trucking Association Drive to Thrive Scholarship

The Minnesota Trucking Association aims to empower those who aspire to work in the trucking industry. Their Drive to Thrive Scholarship is open each year for those who wish to either purchase a career in the trucking industry or enhance their skillset even if employed. Scholarships cover up to $2,500, with legacy scholarships available. Full information along with an application form is available on their site.

Truckload Carriers Association Scholarship Fund

The Truckload Carriers Association has been funding scholarships since 1973. Each student found eligible can expect benefits between $2,000 and $6,250 per year. An application and eligibility information are available on their site.

USA Truck Career Launch Program

Job seekers can apply for a scholarship for their Commercial Driver’s License through the USA Truck Career Launch Program. Acting in partnership with the University of Arkansas Global Campus, Northwest Technical Institute and Mid America Truck Driving School, this launch program is open to all with women and veterans encouraged to apply. CDL certification is supplied over a five-week period with a pre-screening required from those deemed eligible. The classes given are to be attended at the Northwest Technical Institute in Springdale. Find out how to apply on their website.

Women in Trucking Scholarship Program

The Women in Trucking Foundation accepts scholarship applications from both male and female applicants who wish to advance their career through obtaining a commercial driver’s license, or qualification within the areas of driving, technical areas of motoring, safety, or leadership. Each application must be accompanied by a 200 to a 400-word essay which outlines your career objectives with motivation as to why training will help you to reach those aspirations. Scholarships range between $1,000 to $2,000 per successful applicant, with a one-time payment being granted. View the Women in Trucking Foundation ‘Scholarship’ page for more information.

Nebraska Trucking Foundation

Open to high school students who aspire to attend Nebraska’s Community colleges to obtain a CDL, the Nebraska Trucking Foundation scholarships are each worth $1,000. Northeast Community College has five scholarships available. Central Community College and Metropolitan Community College each have two, and Southeast Community College have one scholarship on offer. Students are required to be enrolled; however, this is a fantastic opportunity for anyone in the region. Full details and a scholarship application is available on the Nebraska Trucking Foundation website.

Werner Student Driver Program

Werner is a massive trucking company which runs a generous student driver program. A 275-driving hour training course is supplied to those accepted into the program. During the first 275 hours, the weekly pay rate is $650. You will be assigned your own trainer and given all of the guidance needed to become an experienced driver. Werner may then employ you at a higher rate relative to your individual skill. You can find full details on the Werner website.

Seaboard Foods Scholarship

Seaboard Foods awards $1,000 scholarships to students attending truck driving training at Seward County Community College. This is a huge benefit to aspiring truck drivers in North Kansas, with the application form and questionnaire available here, and more details provided on the Seaboard Foods website.

Self-Certification and Self-Study

In certain states, self-certification is an option for obtaining your commercial driver’s license. While you lose out on the behind-the-wheel training and guidance of experienced truck drivers, this is the lowest cost option for anyone looking to become certified. Before rushing off to the certification process, it is highly recommended that you study the syllabus supplied online for your state. There are countless instructional resources and practice tests available to help prepare you for your knowledge exam.

Self-Study Guidelines

Each State has a CDL manual available for self-study. You can either download it to study as a PDF or obtain a print version from your local DMV or driver’s license office. If you have an earlier print version of the manual, then it would be best to compare the first chapter of the latest manual to ensure that you are up to date with any recent changes for your state. Be sure to evaluate your medical requirements and legal perquisites in the first chapter of the CDL manual.

Depending on your desired commercial driver’s license, different portions of the manual will need to be studied. The general knowledge test is given to all new CDL applicants, while the manual will set out what you need to learn for each particular type of endorsement, e.g. air brakes, combination vehicles, passenger transport vehicles, etc. Practice tests are readily available online to test your competency. Once you feel that you have completely mastered the syllabus, it is time to head to your local department of motor vehicles or state transportation department.

Hauling via intrastate routes only will not require a medical certificate; however, it is highly recommended that you supply a medical certificate to ensure that your CDL allows you to travel across interstate lines. A medical examiner’s certificate remains valid for up to 24 months. Ascertain that your medical professional is listed on the National Registry of Certified Medical Examiners. Take your birth certificate, US passport, or any other proof of permanent legal residence in the United States, along with your medical certificate and DOT self-certification form (links supplied below) along with you to start the CDL application process. You will be granted a booking for the knowledge test at a nominal fee, with set hours specified for each DMV or state transport department. If you fail your test, you can retake the test in three days’ time.

Passing your knowledge test makes you eligible for the skills test at a slightly higher cost than the knowledge test. Once you have passed, you will be given a skills test receipt which supplies the tester the proof needed to ensure that your written test was successfully completed. You will be given the opportunity to book a skills test at a future date. You should then take your receipt and secure a commercial learner’s permit (CLP) which is valid for 180 days. During this period, you should take the time to become accustomed to the practical aspects of driving a commercial vehicle.

Without a training school, it is very hard for most to get the physical driving experience needed to master their trade. While practicing, a licensed driver needs to be sitting in the right seat if you are driving a truck, or in the row directly behind the driver, if you are training to drive a bus. Federal law dictates that your CLP needs to be held for a minimum of 14 days before a skills test can be taken. Once you feel that you are competent and capable, book your skills test and, with hard work and diligence, you will soon be a proud holder of a commercial driver’s license.

Once you have successfully been tested and passed the skills test, your results will be processed. You will then need to return to your department of motor vehicles to collect your commercial driver’s license which remains valid for four years. Once you have your basic CDL, you should always remain aware of possible future endorsements on your license which you can obtain at a later date, granting you far better employment opportunities.

CDL Self-Certification DOT Forms

Here are CDL self-certification and medical forms for the states which permit the process. Download and fill out these forms, taking them to your closest department of motor vehicles customer service center to have a booking made for your test. Some states require you to request the form in person from your nearest department of motor vehicles or state transport department, so be sure to inquire if it is not listed below.

CDL Skill Testing Tips

Do not make the mistake of squandering your time during the 14 day waiting period. Practice as much as possible and ensure that your pre-trip inspection is known so well that it is second nature. There are many components to memorize with only 45-minutes available to conclude your pre-trip inspection of the day of testing. Informational videos are invaluable to preparing for a vehicle inspection. Almost every state supplies informative videos to help assist your CDL skills training.

Backing maneuvers are another aspect of training which need to be known extremely well. All applicants will be asked to perform a “straight line back” and “offset back” maneuver, as well as an alley dock or parallel parking exercise. Time limits are extremely stringent, leaving practiced drivers ample time to complete all maneuvers. Do not exceed these limits or you may be penalized so badly that you do not pass. Looks and pull-ups may cause points to be deducted from your score if used excessively; however, the deduction for performing a check is far less severe than the points removed if cross a boundary line or cone. Use them as needed and stay safe rather than taking a chance.

Regarding the road test, ensure that you know how to complete a correct “stop/start” exercise, while also knowing where to stop at intersections, how to move your head to check mirrors and pass intersections, and always know how to shift smoothly. Never remove your hands from the steering wheel, keeping both hands on the wheel unless shifting. Vehicle off-tracks are another key issue to understand. Should you run over the curb or any other objects, you will fail your test. Nerves can often lead a driver to miss important traffic laws and speed limits, always observe all highway signs and act in accordance with the proper commercial driving protocol.

Education Always Supplies an Answer

Given the vast amount of resources available in today’s bustling transport and trucking sector, there is truly no excuse for not pursuing your dreams and joining this lucrative employment avenue. A career in trucking brings far-reaching benefits and the demand for drivers is ever growing. Regardless of your financial or personal circumstances, there is always a way to ensure that you get your commercial driver’s license and placement in a top company. Take action today to secure your career and your future.