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Trucking Question And Answer - Question 7

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Would it be better to get my CDL A at a community college that cost like $2500-$3500, or sign on to some big carrier like SWIFT and get my training? I've heard if you get company paid training you have to stay with them for a year or two but I don't want that. I want options.


As far as choosing a private school versus getting your license at a trucking company, I would say the decision really comes down to money and personal preference. It normally doesn't cost anything up front to get your training through a trucking company, whereas the schools will require you to pay before you begin. However, financial aid is fairly easy to come by because the schooling is short, the career pays very well, there is a high demand for drivers so jobs are easy to come by, and therefore you should have no problem whatsoever paying back the loan after graduation. So I would say that if you can come up with the money, either on your own or through a student loan, I would take the schooling at a community college or an independent trucking school.

If coming up with the money up-front is a problem then don't sweat it. Just go to school at a trucking company. I have spoken with many hundreds of drivers over the years that have gone through one type of schooling or the other, and nobody has had any problems either way. Regardless of your choice, you'll get your license and be on your way with your career.

Staying With Your First Trucking Company For One Full Year

Let me add a couple things. First of all you're correct - if you get your training through a trucking company they will indeed require you to stay on for one year, or you will have to pay back a prorated amount of money for the schooling. If you go through a private school you will have the freedom to work anywhere you choose.

But regardless of the schooling you choose, I highly recommend you stay on with your first company for at least one year. It seems like a long time, but it isn't. One year without any accidents at a company is like "earning your badge" in the trucking industry. If you can do that, you can pretty much go anywhere you like - as long as there is nothing crazy like a DUI, a ticket for reckless driving, or anything like that on your record. If you get through one year of safe OTR driving at a company, you're generally free to move around quite easily.

And one year is a very, very short time in trucking. You know very little about how to really handle a rig, schedule your days, and handle the day to day affairs within your own company - like with your dispatcher, load planners, and safety and logbook departments. Your entire first year will be like hardcore schooling - believe me. Don't think you're a real trucker when you graduate from school. Schooling only teaches you enough to get you a job. Once you're on the job, the real training begins. You'll sure see what I mean when you get there. Listen damn close to your trainer, watch everything very closely, and learn from everything you do. Get all the advice you can from the other drivers out there. 98% of them will be more than happy to answer your questions and give you some good advice. After all, they have to share the road with you - and so do their families and friends. Besides, they remember quite well how it feels to be a new driver. Some people act like they've forgotten, but believe me, nobody has.

Focus on one year of safe driving with one company and then you'll be ready to try something new. Moving around a lot early in a driver's career, and expecting to be treated like king of the road right out of school are mistakes that I've seen a lot of drivers make. Be humble, listen far more than you speak, and watch everything that everyone does - and learn from it. Doing that, along with some very smart decision making, will turn you into a real trucker and lead to an awesome career.

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TruckingTruth was founded by Brett Aquila (that's me!), a 15 year truck driving veteran, in January 2007. After 15 years on the road I wanted to help people understand the trucking industry and everything that came with the career and lifestyle of an over the road trucker. We'll help you make the right choices and prepare you for a great start to your trucking career.