Everything You’ll Want To Know About Paid CDL Training

Row of White Fleet Big Rig Trucks

Paid CDL training is an alternative to private truck driver training schools, for those of you who are thinking about getting your CDL license but are put off by the high cost of tuition at a private CDL training program.

After all, it always feels a little crazy to have to pay a boatload of money to get a job.

One way to get your CDL license is to get go through a Company Sponsored CDL Training Program. 

Several of the mega carriers have CDL schools where they offer these specialized programs.

Everything You'll Want to Know About Paid CDL Training

It may sound too good to be true.

There are definitely advantages to getting company-sponsored CDL training. 

But like everything in life that’s good, there is often a downside.

Overall, a paid CDL training program can be a good way to become a truck driver.

What Trucking Companies Will Pay For CDL Training?

These trucking companies offer paid CDL training with a job, upon completion of their program.


What’s The Best Part of Paid CDL Training? 

The best part of getting your CDL training this way, is there is little or no money upfront to get started.

However, there is a strict commitment to the trucking company that trains you, at the end of the training time.

Taking advantage of one of these programs can be a decent way to get your CDL license, should you not have the money to go to a private training program. (But note, there are alternatives!) 

How Does Paid CDL Training Work?

It’s like a 2-For-1 deal….. training AND a job.

Sounds pretty good, right?

It can be, but you need to make sure your contract is very clear from the start.

Are Free Truck Driving Schools Really Free?

That depends.

Some programs do not have upfront fees. Others do.

Some trucking company-sponsored CDL training programs have a plan where the company deducts the training fee from their monthly pay and some will reimburse the training fee to the driver, should they stay with the company for an extended time period.

Free trucking school programs/company sponsored training are probably the most cost-effective way to get a CDL, with the least amount of money paid to the training school.

However, after factoring in the low wages during the first year or so as a driver, while fulfilling the contractual agreement for receiving the free training, a private training program may be the better choice. (So in reality, it’s really NOT free.)

It all depends on your personal situation.

It’s really important to ask lots of questions before signing on to make sure that you know full and well what you’re getting yourself in to.

Do I Qualify For Paid Truck Driver Training?

Here’s what is required to qualify for most of the company sponsored programs.

  1. Good, squeaky clean driving record
  2. Good squeaky clean criminal record
  3. Able to pass the physical (required by D.O.T.)
  4. Able to pass a drug screen test (required by D.O.T.)
  5. 21 years old +
  6. Valid U.S. Driver’s License
  7. U.S. Citizen
  8. Solid work history for at least the last 36 months (AND must be able to prove this work history is valid and true)
  9. Commit to employment with the trucking company for 1 year (more or less, depending on the company)
Row of White Fleet Big Rig Trucks

Why Choose a Paid CDL Training Program?

Training programs vary from company to company.

  1. Affordable Commercial Driver’s License Training

There are a few distinct advantages in enrolling in one of these truck driving schools.

Most of them do not require any money upfront, as compared to the private truck driving training schools which can be very expensive. We’re talking thousands and thousands of dollars for private CDL school tuition.

  1. Guaranteed Job As a Truck Driver

At the end of the training program, the trainee will work for the carrier. So a truck driving job is waiting at the end, when the trainee gets their CDL.

The carriers have the benefit of hiring a new driver, so it’s a win-win situation for both the company and new driver.

A guaranteed job at the end is something worth having.

  1. Learn On Company Equipment

It’s also an advantage to learning on company equipment. Chances are, as a new driver, you’re bound to have a few little bang-ups here and there as you learn to maneuver and navigate the truck in tight spaces.

So, it’s best if you’re going to ricochet off something, to do it in a truck belonging to a mega carrier.

These huge trucking companies are very accustomed to equipment damage, so it’s more likely the penalties for the driver won’t be so severe. Or maybe no penalties at all. But always good to learn on big company equipment first.

Another advantage of running for one of the big carriers is that they generally have the easiest equipment to drive.

Generally, they’ll have drop nose trucks with great visibility and automatic transmissions. You will have enough to think about when you’re learning so you don’t want to be worried about whether you’re hitting the right gear or not.

  1. Many Carriers Are Looking To Train New Drivers

Another perk is there are lots of these companies around the U.S. which have implemented this style of training. They ALL want you to come to their driving school and hire you!

Many of the mega carriers have branches in many different parts of the country, so you won’t need to travel far to attend one of their schools.

  1. Earn Money While Training

You won’t get rich will training, but there will be some pay will you are training.

Want To Attend a Privately Owned CDL School But Need Money?

10 Ways To Pay For CDL School

Any Downsides To Paid Training I Should Know About?

  • ONLY LEARN ENOUGH TO GET A CDL — This type of training is what I like to call fast-track training. These are normally training programs which teach the trainees only what they really need to know in order to pass the driving test.

They aren’t always in-depth, comprehensive courses. After all, it would be nearly impossible to master all the skills required to be a great truck driver in just a few weeks.

The really big kicker here is you may find future employers will look negatively on paid cdl training. Some employers feel the training is insufficient and doesn’t meet their hiring standards.

  • May Need To Travel To Training School — The trucking company’s training program may be held far away from where you live. This can cause inconveniences to you and your family if you are not prepared for it.
  • Expenses While Away At Training — Some schools cover accommodation expenses/meals while at training. Some do not. Some schools provide accommodation (be sure to check into the accommodations provided to be sure they are up to ‘your standards’. After all, you’ll be there for awhile.)
  • Training Period Is Short + Moves Fast ! —  Most company sponsored school training is short and moves along VERY FAST. The school days start early in the morning and run for long sessions. It is not unusual for the training days to run as long as 12 hours or more per day.
  • Training Program Boot Camp — Yes, the training at a company sponsored program, is much like boot camp. For more detail check out the post on what to expect at a company sponsored school from day to day.

The trucking companies who train will train you just enough that you can successfully pass your CDL and their goal is to do it in as little time as possible.

  • Commitment To The Company — After training, as a new CDL driver, you will have a commitment to the trucking company, to stay and work for them for a period of time.

If the company isn’t a good fit for you, you are stuck for the duration of the time (could be 6 months, 1 year or even 2 years).

If you leave the company, you will be legally obligated to pay back the trucking company for the driver training. They WILL collect from you.

Convoy of Big Rigs

Paid CDL Training? Or Private CDL Schools?

Make no mistake, paid CDL training with a company  is going to be less of a cash outlay upfront, but don’t worry they’ll get their pound of flesh worth out of you.

You are really paying either way so take the time to research a program before signing up.

There are private CDL driver training schools which are completely independent from the big carriers.

But generally they cost a fortune and at the end of the day when you graduate, there is no guaranteed job.

The three greatest advantages of going with company sponsored CDL training instead of a private school are:

  1. Low cost to get into the program. You’re not laying out a lot of money or any money up front.
  2. Earn money while training. They will pay you a wage instead of you paying them (although it can be meger).
  3. Immediate job. The idea is also you will have a guaranteed job with that company when you’re done the training,
    These are distinct advantages to most people who don’t have the financial means to enter a private truck driving school.

Be careful about all of the negative comments online about the company CDL training schools.

Most of the time, but not always, the person making the comment was most likely the one at fault for the bad experience.

Often these poor experiences come from:

  • a failed drug test
  • lying on an application
  • being absent from too many sessions
  • fighting with other students
  • smoking weed on the premises (yes, it does happen)
  • being reckless when driving with instructor
Big Rigs on Highway

What’s It Like Working With a Driver Trainer?

Most trucking company training programs stipulate that you run with a trainer in one truck for a period of time, in order to gain valuable practical experience behind the wheel.

But, not ALL of them do, as we discovered, but most require this.

While not exactly a disadvantage, you will need to work with a driver trainer – which can be a pain. Trainers are just part of life for a new truck driver. Like it or not. Living in a truck for a few weeks with a driver trainer can be a trying experience.

Some trainers are better qualified and more skilled than others. 

Some do the job because they actually like it or enjoy the company of a second driver. Others do it solely for the money.

Be aware that some driver trainers can be difficult to get along with, and it may be necessary to ask the  company for a different trainer, due to personality conflicts.

However, be prepared to ride the wave with whoever you are assigned to as the company may not care about whether you get along with the trainer!

What Are The Disadvantages of Working With a Mega Carrier For CDL Training?

When you sign up for a training program with a mega carrier, they usually require you stay with their company for a year or so after your training program is complete. This way, they can benefit from the driver training they’ve given you and recoup some of their investment.

Unfortunately, that contractual year may pay poorly.

Working for a smaller trucking company after you get some experience may be a good idea.

Driving experience is what it’s all about in this industry.

You may not have your choice of where you’re running for the first year or two you are with the trucking company. In fact, the first year CAN be quite challenging.

But the object of the game is to get seat time and build experience.

If you decide to jump ship because you don’t like working for them, at least wait until the contract expires with the carrier rather than get into a stressful legal hassle.

When you sign up with the mega carrier for a CDL training program, establish clearly from them how much money you will earn during your training period.

So many new truck driver trainees, literally starve on these training programs. Training wages are typically often on the low side.

You need to know exactly how much money you’re going to be bringing home a week.

Then you will know if this company-sponsored CDL training program will allow you to pay your bills.

Who Will Not Benefit From a Company Sponsored Training School?

Company Sponsored Truck Driving Schools will welcome you with open arms once you have signed on the dotted line.

However, there are some circumstances which will NOT make you a good candidate for one of these programs.

  • If you have accidents or a D.U.I. on your driving record or a criminal history, you may not get a driving job AFTER your training.

They may tell you it won’t be a problem, but in most cases, it IS a problem. The trucking companies are at the mercy of their insurance companies and if the insurance company rejects a driver, they cannot be hired.

Don’t waste your time and money thinking you can outsmart the system or believe what the program rep tells you. Move on to another career where these circumstances will not stand in the way.

What About Paid CDL Training For 18 Year Olds?

Most programs require the candidate be 21 years of age. If you’re under 21, you’ll need to wait a few years to apply for CDL training to become a truck driver.

How Do I Know Which Company Sponsored Program Is the Best?

When looking for a training school, be certain to check out the details of the training program:

  • Thoroughly review all details, especially the repayment of the training, if any works and how much you can expect to be paid.
  • Be sure your financial obligations are in writing, after all, this is a contract you’re about to enter.
  • Talk to some driver graduates of their program, if you’re able, find out about their experiences.
  • Find out what type of trucking the company does and where they run.
  • Do they specialize in produce hauling, flatbed work, tanker hauling, dry vans?
  • Do they run OTR (long-haul trucking)? Short haul? Or just in a specific region of the country?
  • Teams?

All of this information will have a bearing on your choice of training school.

Try to choose a company which does the kind of work you are interested in.

Otherwise, you may be unhappy right from the start. If you’re going to be working for them for the next year or two, it may as well be doing something where you’re reasonably happy.

What You Should Know Before Jumping Into Paid CDL Training

Before you sign up, here’s some words of advice.

You’re in a for a major commitment and should be certain that it is what you want. It’s a great opportunity but one that may be difficult at first.

  • Learning To Drive A Truck Is Stressful

First and foremost, the initial training period can be difficult and stressful.

It’s possible that you will be paired up with a driver trainer who isn’t particularly someone you like. They may even match you with a trainer who really isn’t very good at training whatsoever. It isn’t unusual to be paired with a driver trainer who only has a few years (or less) of driving experience.

It can be stressful when you’re looking for new customers learning to maneuver that big truck down narrow city streets. You will worry about getting lost and you will worry about being able to find the customer.

Making the delivery on time is always stressful.

But, hang in there. The object of the game is to get lots and lots of behind the wheel time.

These training programs are not a walk in the park. It’s going to be tough.

Persevere. Stick to it.

  1. Expect Low Pay, But Don’t Settle

Truck driver training wages are usually low for the trainee. It’s something you need to be aware of if you’re entertaining getting into a professional driving career.

My intention is not to scare new drivers away from the industry but rather to help them succeed by understanding the trucking industry. If you are pursuing a career in trucking, be aware of what you’re getting into.

  1. Truck Driver Training Wages Are Low

Mega carriers are often publicly traded companies.

These trucking companies hate to lose one thin dime on anything they do.

 As a result of this, many mega carriers will now train a driver, hire them and then bill them for their training while using the driver to drive one of their trucks and make them even more money, all at the same time. (BEWARE OF LEASE OPERATOR PROGRAMS!)

Starting wages for new drivers can be low.  However, this differs from company to company.

So when researching for a trucking company to start off your driving career, do the research.

Get lots of detail about the training program and the associated costs.  If you’re able, get this information from the trucking company in writing.

Training time often can run into a few months, again, depending on the company.

Do the calculations to be sure you’re still going to earn enough money during the training period to pay your bills.

  • Will You Earn Enough Money In Training To Pay Your Bills?

If through your training period you’re being paid strictly by the mile and that’s usually the case, try to establish how many miles a week you can expect, so you can calculate your earnings.

You will need to know how much you will earn during training BEFORE accepting an offer to go into a paid CDL training driving position, while you complete your training.

This is important stuff to know. You’ve MUST be able pay your bills. You should at least be able to support you and your family. If it looks like the pay will be insufficient, tell the carrier and let him sweeten the pot.

If that doesn’t work, look for another deal.

There’s no point starving to death and having your family out on the street while you’re learning to drive a truck.

  • Get The Training Wages Schedule In Writing

Be sure that you obtain in writing from the carrier.

  • the pay schedule
  • the mileage rate of pay
  • the method of how they determine the paid miles driven (PC MILER? HUB MILES?)
  • how much for unloading time, pickups, drops, etc.

Most of the most mega carriers pay poorly, but they are an initial stepping stone toward better paying jobs for you in the future.

Think of the process as a ‘means to an end’ for desired career as a truck driver.

Do We Think Paid CDL Training Is Worth It?

  1. Although paid CDL training has some downsides, it may be necessary for you to ‘settle’ for one of these schools. If you don’t have the $ for private school CDL training, paid training is the way to go. For a 1 year commitment from you, they GIVE you CDL training and a truck driving job.
  1. This type of training must be the right fit for you. If you can’t see yourself engaging in this type of training, don’t do it. Remember Johnny Cochrane’s famous words? If it doesn’t fit, don’t commit!
  1. Carefully look at all of the paid CDL programs, to pick the one best suited to you. They are not ALL CREATED EQUAL.
  1. Go with the flow. These programs are what they are. If you pick a good one that is best suited to you, it could be the smartest choice you’ll ever make in your trucking career.
  1. Getting your CDL from a trucking company driver training school is a stepping stone to a trucking career.  The experience gained initially with your training will give you what you need to secure the exact driving job you want later in your driving career.
  1. Keep in mind that you’ll likely need to spend an extended period of time with the same company after training to fulfill your contractual obligation. However, the guaranteed job will get you some good experience so you can then go out in the future and get the job you really want.
  1. It’s the easiest, simplest and least expensive way to get your foot in the door and get your career underway as soon as possible. There are numerous advantages and some downsides. However, it boils down to individual preference.  Hopefully, you’ll be lucky enough to have signed up with a carrier that you really like and you’ll stay there and put in your time for a few years.Ideally, that’s always the best scenario. However, you may find the carrier isn’t a good match for you after you have your license.  You may want to move on to another trucking company.
  1.  I still recommend getting at least a couple years with the initial carrier first so you’ve got a little bit of experience under your belt.  This experience will make you more marketable when you then decide to approach other carriers later.
  1. There are distinct advantages to paid CDL training schools. With little to no money up front and a job at the end of the training, you’ll have the tools you need to start off your truck driving career right, with the best chance possible for future success as a professional driver.

It sounds intimidating. But stay with it.

If a career in truck driving is really what you want, hang in there. It WILL all work out.

If at all possible, go with a private CDL school, where you pay your own pay or get funding to help out with the tuition. That way there’s no obligations.

What Do I Need to Take With Me to CDL Company Training?

This is a typical list of supplies you’ll need.

If you are not living at home during the training, find out from your school what you should bring along.

  • Clothes. Take enough clothing for a few weeks, including a sweat shirt, jacket, rain coat, work boots, extra pair of shoes, hat, sunglasses, personal toiletries – shampoo, soap, towel or 2, toothpaste, toothbrush, laundry bag, work gloves (for handling landing gear, fueling, fifth wheel etc). Check with the school if you need to bring your own bedding or sleeping bag.
  • Money. A few hundred dollars is a good idea, or money on your bank card.
  • Food. Bring some food from home or hit a Walmart or local grocery store. Don’t forget you’re not making any money when you’re at school, so you’ll want to economize when you can.
  • General classroom supplies. Handful of pens, notebook, calculator
  • Documents + ID. Birth certificate, SS card, Driver’s License, Driving History

10 Tips For Getting the Most Out of a Company Sponsored CDL Training Program

  • Use your time wisely. At some programs, you’ll find yourself standing in line and waiting around in the first few days. Use this time to study your manual. Don’t waste your time. The first test will be general knowledge, air brakes and the state’s traffic laws, so get busy and read while you stand around.
  • Make your own lunch, if not supplied. You can pick up lunch supplies at a nearby Walmart and make lunches in your hotel room. This is a good way to save money and save time between classes. Use lunch times for studying and practicing.
  • Study. Spend every spare minute you’re able studying or practicing maneuvers with the truck. You only get one shot at this. Be dedicated and you’ll be successful.
  • No drugs. If you’ve been a user of recreational drugs over the past 24 months, it may be best not to bother attending the program. Companies will do urine and hair follicle tests. Don’t be surprised to see several students get bounced on the first day due to failed drug tests.
  • Don’t lie on your application. Tell it like it is. If the company discover you’ve lied about criminal history or moving violations, they’ll drop you like a hot stone.
  • Go prepared with all documents and credentials the school recommends you take. If you don’t, you’ll waste time and be in a holding pattern, unable to proceed with the training.
  • No booze. Don’t plan to indulge in alcohol during training. If you get caught, you can be tossed from the program.
  • Forget the bars and clubs. Don’t get caught in bars or clubs. Yes, it’s your right to do what you please, however, the school has rules, and you could very well violate the school training policies.
  • Don’t take your car. I would recommend that you don’t take your own vehicle. You could end  up being the taxi driver for the trainees without a care who need a ride to the local Walmart. It could be a lot of hassle that you won’t have time for.
  • Don’t make friends with the wrong peopleNo need to explain to you why I am sure.

What Happens If I Decide to Quit My Training?

To be honest, CDL training at a company sponsored school is not a ‘walk in the park’. The programs consist of long days, sometimes rugged living conditions,  often a low level of respect from trainers and management. Your patient will no doubt be put to the test. You may be subjected to humiliation and verbal abuse as well.

Not all programs are guilty of this, but many trainees and graduates we have interviewed agree that it was the worst part of their truck driving career. HOWEVER, keep your eye on the prize. It’s only for a short time. But, also know when enough is enough and you’re being pushed beyond normal limits.

Once you are on the road with your designated trainer, it will be too late to avoid getting hit with the entire training costs, if you drop out of the program.

If you find that you cannot tolerate the mistreatment and things are in a bad state, put on the brakes. My suggestion is to do this before hitting the road with your assigned trainer. At least then, the money you would owe to the company can be pro-rated to the time you’ve already spent in training. You’ll most likely owe them some money for the few weeks or so you’ve been training, but not the whole program.

What Is It Like at a  Company Sponsored Training School?

  • School days are very long. You won’t get a lot of sleep during training. Don’t count of lot so leisure hours watching television or sleeping late in the morning. The program will start early.
  • Classes size can vary, can be a small group or quite large. .
  • Some schools have on site cafeterias with 3 meals day/7 days/week.
  • Some have laundry facilities, gyms, racquetball courts, nice study facilities
  • There are some schools with facilities that may not meet your own personal standards. Check out accommodations + meal facilities before signing on the dotted line!
  • You’ll have a ton of information thrown your way, so be prepared for information overload!

F.A.Q. – Paid CDL Training

What is Company Sponsored CDL Training?

These programs are quite popular in the U.S.
If you don’t have the cash to pay to attend a private truck driver training school, these programs are the next best solution for you.
No cash (or very little cash) is required for entrance or throughout the course.
These programs train you to get your CDL and then offer you a truck driving job at the end of the training. This is a big plus as professional driving jobs can difficult to secure without former driving experience, as can be the case if you get your license on your own, at a private CDL school or a community college program.

Are There Any Costs For These Programs?

Yes, there will be some costs involved along the way, but very minimal. Each program has different items students are expected to pay for, for example meals, accommodations, learner’s permit etc.Count on an extra few hundred dollars to pay for miscellaneous fees. (This is not including food + accommodation)MOST programs include a form of housing or accommodation. Although I understand that some companies advance students meal money and then deduct it back in small amounts, once they are getting pay checks when they start their actual driving job.

How Long Are These Training Programs?

You’ll be fast tracked through the program. After all, time is money and money is time.Each program is different. The range is from 17 days (the super accelerated programs) to 6 weeks.Keep this in mind. You’ll be training without an income. Remember that. Plan accordingly.

What Are the Requirements To Be Accepted to One of These Programs?

Each program is different, but these are common standards:21 years of age
U.S. Resident or Green Card
Able to provide work history indicating stability
No at-fault accidents in past 36 months
2 or fewer moving violations in past 12 months
Under 5 moving violations in past 36 months

What Is My Obligation to the Trucking Company After Training + Getting my CDL?

Although these programs are often called ‘free CDL training’ or ‘free CDL schools’, this is not the case. Yes, there is little to no money up front or fees charged to get your Commercial Driver’s License in this way. If you successfully complete the course and get your license, the trucking company will offer you a driving job. But here’s the kicker. In exchange for the training the company has provided for you, they’ll hire you, but you must stay with them for a set period of time. The time period is usually about 12 months, sometimes longer, depending on the company. hould you decide to bail and say ‘To HECK with it, I’m not staying with this company!”, you will find yourself in a legal bind. The trucking company will ask you to repay them for the training they gave you. If you don’t pay up, they will pursue you legally. So my advice to you is this. So my advice to you is this. If you enter one of these company sponsored training schools, take the time to do your research first, in order that you train with a decent company, which will treat you well and give you a decent pay after training.

Is There Company Sponsored CDL Training in Canada?

At the present time, there are no company sponsored programs open for enrolment in Canada.Schneider has a program which is presently on hold and not accepting applications at this time. Check back in the future for updates on reinstatement of this program.

Dealing With Trainers

Dealing with your trainer can be challenging for a trainee.The best advice I can give is to hang in there. It’s only a short stint. It’s difficult to share a small space with another person, no matter who it is for weeks at a time. Try your best to get along and be professional.If your trainer is jeopardizing your safety, don’t hesitate to ask him to change his/her behaviour. Don’t hesitate to report the behaviour immediately to a superior.

What About Lease Operator Programs at the End of My Training?

What else can I say but, “DON’T DO IT!”  You are just getting started in the trucking industry. The last thing you need is to be managing a trucking business as a new truck driver.Stay away from these programs!!!

What About Company Sponsored CDL Training For Felons?

Each training school handles accepting felons into their program differently.Mostly their decision is based on a case-by-case basis.In the midst of a truck driver shortage, the odds of a company accepting you are better than ever.These are some of the circumstances carriers will look at:No pending cases
No convictions within the past few years or so
Companies consider the nature of the crime for which you were convicted

Is Paid CDL Training Worth It?

It depends on your situation. It provides for almost no money required, CDL training + a job. That’s what you’re after right?
The company provides a job, upon successful completion of training. That’s another thing you want right? You do NOT want to be without a driving job after ANY training. I guarantee you that every trucking company you apply to, if you have no practical driving experience, will not be interested in hiring you.
Remember, though that in exchange for training you own them a piece of you for about a year’s time. Can you do that? Consider this carefully.

Which Trucking Companies Have the Best Program?

Excellent question. But you may not be happy with my answer. There’s no way anyone could give you straight up recommendations for the best free CDL training + a job programs, unless they attended a number of the programs and were able to compare them.If you read that some program is great, check out the source. Who SAYS it’s great?Is it the trucking company who owns the school? Is it a third party who is making money to say how great the training is?Be careful what you believe.All of the training programs are long hard training and learning days for weeks on end.Some are better than others.We are currently investigating a number of these programs to give you a fair and honest report, which ones are worthy of further investigation.

What You Need to Know About CDL Training

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