There are currently several trucking companies that help newcomers earn their commercial driver’s license, or CDL, which is required to drive a commercial vehicle like a semitruck. These companies typically require you to sign a contract stating that you will drive with that carrier for a certain amount of time after you earn your CDL. In exchange, the carrier will either pay for your training or lend you the money, to be paid back through paycheck deductions once you’re hired. Many of the companies that offer loans will reimburse you for your tuition once you’ve worked for them for a certain amount of time.
Below we’ve outlined the details on company-paid CDL training and what you can expect as an employee of each company.
How Long Does CDL Training Take?
For most of the courses provided by these companies, CDL training lasts roughly two to four weeks. Some places also require additional on-the-road training after the formal requirements for the commercial driver’s license have been met.
Training times can also vary based on whether the program is for a Class A license or a Class B license. Class A licensing programs typically take longer, as they provide certification for a wider variety of loads and truck types. Class B training programs, which are for dump trucks, straight trucks, and other small-load trucks, can be as short as one week. The companies in the list below all offer training to obtain a Class A CDL.
What Are the Requirements for Enrolling in CDL Training?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration publishes the federal requirements to apply for a Commercial Driver’s Permit and a Commercial Driver’s License in its CDL program documentation and FMCSA FAQs. For the Commercial Driver’s Permit (CDP), drivers must:
- Be 21 years old in order to drive across state lines or transport hazardous material
- Have no prior disqualifying criminal offenses
In order to obtain a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL), drivers must:
- Hold their CDP for at least 14 days
- Be able to provide the following:
- Current driver’s license
- A 10-year driving history (certain states may require applicants to bring in the hard copy; others will verify driving history through an electronic system)
- A valid Medical Examiner’s certificate (see details on the Self-Certification FAQ and medical requirement FAQ pages of the Department of Transportation website)
- Pay the applicable fees (these fees vary by state)
- Pass a knowledge and skills test (the test will have at least 30 questions, and applicants must earn at least an 80% to pass)
- Provide a vehicle for the skills test
- Pass the CDL skills test, which includes three parts:
- Inspection of the vehicle
- Basic controls exam
- Road test
Additionally, companies are required by federal law to give a pre-employment drug test to all CDL drivers. As of February 2020, the FMCSA has established new training standards requiring certain individuals seeking their CDL to complete additional training before taking the CDL test.
Keep in mind, beyond federal regulations, additional application requirements, fees, forms, and necessary documentation are imposed at the state level. Note that some companies require you to obtain your CDP before you begin training with them.
What We Recommend
We’ve put Knight Transportation at the top of the list for its strong over-the-road training program and good pay. Roehl Transport is also a good option with slightly higher training wages and more training locations offered. However, both of these companies require you to pay for your own transportation to the training site.
In comparing these companies, we considered training pay, quality of training, long-term pay, and benefits offered. We’ve ordered the list starting with the best overall options.
- CDL paid training wages: $400/week trainee’s salary (varies by location); transportation and lodging not provided
- CDL training duration: About two and a half weeks, depending on testing; up to six weeks for over-the-road training after graduation
- Training locations offered: Phoenix, AZ (open to residents across the U.S.)
- Expected long-term compensation: Starting pay is around $0.40 per mile, pay increase after 30,000 solo miles
- Benefits and bonuses: Paid time off; medical, dental, vision, and life insurance offered; 401k with company match; pet and passenger policies
- Additional requirements: None specified
- Find out more
- CDL paid training wages: $500/week
- CDL training duration: Four weeks; additional over-the-road training required
- Training locations offered: Marshfield and Neenah, WI; Conley, GA; Bensalem, PA; Gary, IN; Grand Prairie, TX; Phoenix, AZ
- Expected long-term compensation: Roehl drivers can make $60,000+/year
- Benefits and bonuses: Full benefits offered, hired and paid as an employee on the first day of training, pet and passenger policies
- Additional requirements: The ability to read, write, and speak English; U.S. or Canada driver’s license held for at least two years; verifiable work history
- Find out more
- CDL paid training wages: $200/week advance (repaid through future earnings with a $25 deduction per paycheck); instruction time is unpaid; $250 bonus if you pass your test the first time. After earning your CDL, you get paid a minimum of $700/week for the first 40,000 miles, then a minimum of $800/week after 40,000 miles
- CDL training duration: 2-4 weeks with instructor
- Training locations offered: Springfield, MO, Pittston, PA, Salt Lake City, UT (Prime will pay for transportation)
- Expected long-term compensation: Varies based on position
- Benefits and bonuses: Health insurance, 401k, paid vacation, pet and passenger policies
- Additional requirements: Must pay $100 fee online after being approved for orientation
- Find out more
- CDL paid training wages: Free tuition with two-year commitment, dock worker wages while attending school, exact pay varies by location
- CDL training duration: Two weeks; additional over-the-road training
- Training locations offered: Across the U.S.
- Expected long-term compensation: Varies; regional drivers are paid by the mile
- Benefits and bonuses: Flexible schedules; local drivers are home daily.
- Additional requirements: Must not have been released from a driving position for a drug- or alcohol-related offense in the past three years; must not have failed or refused to take a drug or alcohol test in the past three years
- Find out more
- CDL paid training wages: None while going to school, $500/week during training after school
- CDL training duration: Three weeks in school; five weeks completing over-the-road training
- Training locations offered: Des Moines, IA; Columbia, SC (TMC hires from several states and provides transportation from your state of residence)
- Expected long-term compensation: Between $0.49 and $0.64 per mile; percentage pay is also available
- Benefits and bonuses: Medical/Dental/Vision, 401k, Employee Stock Ownership Plan
- Additional requirements: Must provide social security number and three-year home address history
- Find out more
Also see our research on semitruck leasing programs with no credit check required, trucking companies that hire felons and finding a CDL truck rental for your test.