Can You Graduate Trucking School with No Debt? 3 Pitfalls to Avoid

Do No Debt Trucking Schools Exist?

It's no secret that attending a four-year college after high school causes many people to take on outrageously expensive student loans. But individuals interested in becoming truck drivers can also rack up debt when trying to pay for trucking school.

Many people are under the assumption that the best way to pay for trucking school is to pay it all upfront and completely out of pocket. They then rely on collecting tuition reimbursement after getting a trucking job. Some companies such as Schneider and Roadmaster, offer these kind of tuition reimbursement financing options. The catch to these, though, is that you still have to come up with the $6,000 to pay for the training out of pocket before you can even attend the school. Then getting your money back is a separate challenge altogether, as many companies put limits on the amount of time that can pass between completing school and going to work for them.

Often times, paying out of pocket requires taking out a loan to pay for training. Not many people have six grand just laying around to toss at trucking schools, so they're forced to borrow the money from a financial institution. In return, they agree to pay it back with a high interest rate.

Yes, you'll receive tuition reimbursement (if you go to work for a company that offers it) but the reimbursement payback process usually involves small payments every month. So, you end up having to stay with a company for a long time in order to actually get everything back. For example, according to its website, Schneider's tuition reimbursement program pays back $150 per month, up to $6,000 worth. That means to get the entire amount paid back, you'd have to stay with them for 3 years and 4 months. There is nothing wrong with staying with one company for a long time, but that's a long commitment to make. Keep in mind that even though you're receiving tuition reimbursement, you're still responsible for paying your loan off, and the reimbursement amount may not be enough to cover the minimum monthly loan payment.

However, with company paid CDL training, you won't rack up debt because you won't be required to pay any upfront tuition costs unless you choose to. You're not out several grand, and you will only pay back a small amount of tuition via payroll deduction. No loans or upfront costs required.  Your only "debt" after trucking school is the amount of time (usually 1 year) you must work for the carrier.  

3 Pitfalls to Keep an Eye On

With so many payment plans and financing options available, it can be a bit confusing to decide how to pay for training. The following are some things future students need to keep an eye on when considering schools and their payment methods:

  1. Watch out for companies touting "free CDL training." There is no such thing as free CDL training and you can be sure that there will be some kind of commitment or catch that they're not telling you about. In terms of  trucking school, "free" should be a red flag. How good can the training be if they're giving it away for free?
  2. "No commitment, no obligation." Similar to free training, why would companies train you and expect no commitment from you? It just doesn't make sense. There's almost always some sort of contract or commitment that you'll have to make, even if you're attending an independent school. According to the Roadmaster wesbite, for example, you're required to have a pre-hire letter before leaving school. And if you do not go to work after completing training and getting your CDL, you'll be responsible for paying back the tuition (approximately $7,000). If you sign a contract with a truck driving company or school and don't read it or are unaware of what it states and you break it, you'll be responsible for paying back the cost of training and you could risk going into debt. Know the terms of the contract you're signing.
  3. What if you take out a $6,000 loan for trucking school, complete the program, and later find that you can't get hired on anywhere? Maybe because of your MVR, maybe because of a criminal offense that you didn't list on your application. Then you still have payments to make on your loan, but no job, and thus, no way to pay for them.

When looking to make a career change, it's important that you consider every angle of what it will cost you. It's easy to get so excited about something new that you don't pay attention to all the details, but you want to make sure you're 100% aware of the fine print so you don't end up in a worse financial situation than before.

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Driver Solutions offers a company sponsored program free of any upfront tuition costs. Ready to get your new career started? Fill out our no obligation online application to get on the road to a successful future. Filling out an application does not commit you to anything, but will allow you to schedule a time to speak with a Driver Agent about your options.