Can I Get a CDL Without Attending Trucking School? 4 Pitfalls of Getting a CDL on Your Own

Previously, we've discussed two possible ways to get a CDL: learning on your own, or attending a truck driving school. It can be tempting to look at these two options and think, “Well I’ll just save time and money by doing it myself.” But trust us when we say, getting a CDL without formal training isn’t always a good idea.  In fact, it might be a setback in finding employment as a driver. 

Want More?  Read on to find out more about these pitfalls or get caught up on our entire How To Get A CDL series

Pitfall #1: Lack of instructor experience

Sure, it’s possible to get a CDL without formal training by studying the CDL handbook and learning a thing or two about driving from a buddy. But by getting a CDL this way, it’s way too easy to miss out on the most beneficial part of the truck driving school – the instructor experience.

Where the guy down the street may have a few years of driving under his belt, the instructors at CDL training have a combined experience level often exceeding 30+ years. Not to mention, professional trucking school instructors have been trained on the best methods by which to teach an inexperienced driver how to operate such a large vehicle. And because the real-world experience is necessary in order to become a truck driving school instructor, CDL training students can rest assured that they’re learning from well-trained teachers.

PERK: In most cases, students also have more than one instructor available in case they need extra help with practicing driving maneuvers or mastering the pre-trip inspection. When getting a CDL solo, the driver is at the mercy of a single person’s knowledge and schedule.

Pitfall #2: Experience and school reputation

Truck driving schools are in business to create safe and professional truck drivers. So naturally, a state-recognized trucking school is going to have a better success rate than that guy down the street when it comes to preparing a new driver for life on the road. Which education looks better to potential employers when applying for a job: an accredited trucking school with a solid reputation in the industry, or a couple driving lessons from a neighbor down the street?

Pitfall #3: Being successful is not just "learning to drive."

Ask any experienced truck driver what the majority of the profession is, and most will say that it’s way more than just holding the wheel and steering. In fact, drivers who think the job is just that are quickly surprised at just what all goes into being a professional truck driver once they get out on the road. 

So if trucking isn’t just about driving, what else is it about?

It’s about being proactive, not reactive. It’s about being a defensive driver and anticipating what other drivers out on the road are about to do. It’s about accurately planning routes and getting the load to its destination on time (or early). It’s about logging legal hours and abiding by DOT regulations. It’s about ensuring that the truck is safe for operation by performing a pre-trip inspection every single day.  But perhaps most importantly, it’s about maintaining professionalism even when there’s no supervisor standing over your shoulder.

This knowledge is hard to learn without attending a truck driving school.

Pitfall #4: More difficulties finding a job after getting a CDL

The above three points bring us to the most important – the job opportunity available to those who attend truck driving school versus those who do it on their own.

When attending a company-sponsored CDL training program like the one Driver Solutions offers, students have a job opportunity lined up before truck driving school even begins. When getting a CDL without any formal training, you have just that – a CDL. No job prospects, no job placement benefits, nothing.

The point is – having CDL training looks better to potential employers than someone who got a CDL on their downtime. Pretend you’re a hiring manager looking for a new driver. Which of these candidates seems more qualified?

Candidate A: A CDL holder with no driving experience. He did not attend any sort of school or training program, but reviewed the information in the CDL handbook a few times and managed to pass the written tests. He practiced some basic maneuvers in a parking lot with a friend who has his CDL.

Candidate B: Also a CDL holder with no driving experience. But he attended an accredited and nationally-known CDL training school that focused on classroom training, range training, and street training, all at length. He earned the recommended amount of study hours, graduated, and got his CDL in a 3-4 week program.

The choice is pretty clear, right?  The person with training looks better. Candidate B appears to be more serious about becoming a truck driver, and employers will be able to see this. This hiring mindset is exactly the same as it is for any other profession – employers want to hire someone who has schooling in their chosen career path.

“I’ll just look at small family-owned carriers and Owner Operators,” you say. Not so fast – how many insurance companies will want to take a chance on covering someone with no experience and no training? Employers want verifiable learning experience both for their own peace of mind, as well as for insurance purposes. Recent CSA regulations also assign scores to trucking companies based on their drivers’ behavior. Trucking companies are less likely to put their reputation on the line for a new driver that lacks formal training.

Closing Thoughts

Ultimately, the decision to attend a truck driving school or not depends on your goals for the industry and the resources available.. But aspiring drivers must consider all the options and scenarios, and seriously take into account the likelihood of landing a job in a completely new career path without any formal training. It would be unreasonable to expect to get a job as a teacher or an engineer or a chef without any sort of training, right? Trucking is the same way.

If you're ready to attend trucking school and get on the road to a great new career as a professional truck driver, just click the Apply Now button below to begin.

More on How to Get a CDL

We answer everything you ever wanted to know about getting a CDL in this series.  Just click a link below for the complete article:

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