It’s true that you can be a hotshotter even if you don’t have a CDL. However you can get more job opportunities (or loading opportunities for owner-operator) if you have one. In most states, you’ll be required to have a CDL if your vehicle and trailer have a combined GVWR or more than 26,000 lbs. If you don’t have a commercial driving license, imagine all the lost opportunities you’ll have.
Before choosing a school, it’s important to first meet the following requirements:
- Age – The age requirements vary per program but most truck driving programs require you to be at least 21 or 23 years old.
- Clean criminal history – This is required although there are allowances depending on the nature of charges.
- D.O.T drug test – You need to pass the D.O.T drug test to get a CDL.
- U.S. citizenship – You should also show proof of U.S citizenship to qualify for CDL or commercial driving program in the US.
- Driving history – You should also have at least 3 years of verifiable driving experience.
- No moving violations for the past three years and no “Driving under the Influence” charges within the last five years.
Factors to Consider in Choosing the Best CDL School
1. Programs offered
A good starting point is a school that offers courses certified by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). This organization certifies training and finishing programs for truck drivers.
Moreover, choose a school that offers a comprehensive training program with a balanced classroom time and on-the-road training. In the classroom, you’ll learn all the basics including road signs, rules, compliance and other information vital in the trucking industry. Outside of the classroom, you’ll get actual training to learn new techniques and improve your driving skills.
Also, you may consider a school that teaches both manual and automatic transmissions. Even if others say they are a thing of the past now, there are still a significant number of trucks running on manual. Learning both manual and automatic transmissions can give you an edge.
2. Length of the program
Even if you have a CDL, some employers may be hesitant to hire you if your training is only a few weeks. A program that is too short is more likely rushed or fast-tracked for reasons only the school knew. But as a student, it can be quite stressful, plus you’ll not learn as much than when you are given adequate time to absorb the lessons.
3. Job Placement
Many CDL training schools offer a job placement program to help students after they successfully complete their training. Before you decide, do a bit of research by checking the success rate of the school. Some schools partner with transport companies. That is why they have a high placement success rate, and that is a plus.
CDL training can be expensive, so if you see schools offering free training or free classes, it is more likely that there are hidden fees involved, or it may be a scam.
Depending on the program you are into, training costs can be from $3,000 to $10,000. Make sure to read the contract before signing for a program.
Experience and a good name are important factors to consider in choosing a school. It’s not enough that a school has comprehensive training programs if they have just popped up months ago. Look for an established CDL school with a good reputation. Their name can help you land a good job.
Before finally reaching a conclusion, visit the school in person and check out their facilities. Take a look at their trucks and trailers for training. Are they at par with what you are looking for?
The facilities and equipment that the school provides for the training are very important, so don’t make a decision unless you already checked them out.
Getting a CDL is a big step towards more job and income opportunities. Choosing a CDL school is your first step in making this goal a reality. While choosing the best CDL can be a difficult decision, this guide could help narrow down your options and lead you to the best school that can potentially help you achieve future success in the trucking industry.