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So you want to become a truck driver, but you need to invest time and resources to gain the proper qualifications. Of course, one of the most important steps in that qualification process is to obtain your CDL license. However, the problem is that you’re strapped for cash.

Don’t worry, even though you feel as though earning your CDL license is out of reach, it’s actually more than possible to receive grants and scholarships for CDL training. Like any other form of schooling, these programs can help you achieve your goals without exhausting your wallet.

Fortunately, this article will dive into everything you need to know about CDL training grants.

Before You Apply for a CDL Grant

Before you make the decision to apply for CDL program grants, there are a few things you should consider. First and foremost, you should take some time to thoughtfully consider which school you’d like to attend. This decision will impact not only your funding but also your truck driving education as a whole.

You can choose between community college programs or private trucking schools, but be sure to do your research. Unfortunately, there are many fraudulent and ill-equipt CDL programs out there. But, the best way you can avoid being taken advantage of is to have the knowledge you need to distinguish professional schools from superficial ones.

Then, after you’ve chosen a school, you’ll need to look into their financial aid office. Many schools will want to help you earn the government grants you need, so knowing whether or not they have a helpful, easy-to-reach financial aid office is important.

Finally, be sure that you consider all of your options. Depending on your situation, you may have greater or fewer options available to you. Here is a comprehensive list of options listed below.

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How Much Do CDL Programs Cost?

The average CDL program in the U.S. costs between $3,000-$8,000. And with the average program lasting only five months, that amounts to $600-$1,600 per month.

On the other side of the coin, creating a trucking school can be a serious investment. While some schools can have start-up costs as low as $15,000, those with a lack of initial resources can spend upwards of $125,000.

Either way, these costs can be difficult to pay out of pocket, which is why many prospective truck drivers and teachers seek out grants. Luckily, some grants cover 100% of the costs associated with CDL programs.

Types of CDL Program Grants & Scholarships

Depending on your situation, there are many CDL training grants and scholarships you can apply for. Here are those programs in more detail:

  1. CDLPI Grant Program

    Most commonly used as a grant for entities who want to create a CDL program, this grant isn’t necessarily useful for students.

    Overall, the CDLPI grant program is government-issued and associated with the FMCSA. Working from the top-down, this program provides financial assistance to States and other entities. In turn, states and entities are expected to improve road safety by training qualified drivers.

    Eligible applicants include State agencies, local governments, or individual persons. When received, this grant can cover up to 100% of the costs associated with research, development, demonstration projects, public education, and other relevant activities and projects.

    If you’re looking to create one of these programs, you can learn more about this grant on the FMCSA website.

  2. WIOA Program Agency

    While not technically a grant, Workforce Innovation & Opportunity Act (WIOA) program agencies help train people who’ve been laid off, have suffered from natural disasters, or lost their job in some other way. The agencies receive funding from the government, which can then be used to provide you with funding assistance.

    WIOA program agencies do cover truck driving schools but won’t necessarily give you the full amount to pay off the cost. Instead, this program will typically provide you with whatever amount of assistance deemed fit by your application.

  3. State and Local CDL Training Grants

    If you want to earn your CDL license, it can be a great idea to look into the grants offered by your state and local governments. After all, trucking is a high-demand occupation, and states often offer grants to trainees. These grants can cover part or all of your training and do not have to be repaid.

    Research is crucial for trying to obtain these grants, as every state is different. For example, Missouri offers CDL grants through the SkillUp program, which typically covers the full cost of CDL training.

    In general, states in the West tend to have more support available to those looking to obtain CDL training grants, while states on the East Coast are known for being more restrictive.

  4. CDL Training Scholarships

    Similar to grants, you can also earn scholarships to help pay for your CDL training. Generally speaking, Scholarships can cover anything from the cost of tuition to lodging and other fees.

    Most scholarships are made to help applicants from different challenging circumstances. For instance, women, veterans, and the economically disadvantaged can often have access to scholarships.

    To obtain funding from a scholarship, you’ll need to first research which scholarships you qualify for. Then, after you gather a list of scholarships, you’ll have to submit applications. Requirements for applications can vary, such as essays or academic information, but will be clearly outlined by the scholarship.

    Examples of CDL training scholarships include:

    • Women in Trucking Foundation Scholarship. This scholarship encourages women to pursue trucking careers by offering them financial support. Depending on your income and other circumstances, the award is worth $500-$2,000 per student.

    • Truckload Carriers Association Scholarship. This is a more generalized scholarship as students may be awarded up to $6,000 if their application is chosen.

    While these are just two examples, there are many other scholarships out there that have the potential to cover a majority of your schooling expenses. Just remember to apply early, so you have plenty of time to perfect your application.

  5. Vocational Rehabilitation CDL Driver Programs

    If you’re someone who’s been injured and can no longer work your current or previous job, trucking is often an excellent re-training opportunity. That’s because vocational rehabilitation programs (Voc Rehab) aim to get you back to work by helping you learn a new skill.

    With that in mind, many Voc Rehab programs offer funding for injured or disabled individuals looking to undergo CDL training. To earn funding, you’ll need to contact a Voc Rehab office.

    That office will then pair you with a counselor who will evaluate your career options with you. After that, just mention that you’d like to pursue your CDL license so you can become a truck driver, and then your counselor will help you from there.

  6. GI Bill Grants

    The GI Bill is an education funding grant provided to military veterans. Therefore, if you served in the U.S. military and want to earn your CDL license, you may be able to benefit from this funding.

    For example, the GI Bill can help offset tuition costs and license tests and even provide you with an apprenticeship, housing, etc. Most commonly, you can receive an average monthly housing allowance of $1,789. Though, this number can vary by location, eligibility percentage, and other factors. Similarly, you can also receive up to $83 per month for books and supplies.

    In this way, those who qualify for the GI Bill stand to obtain huge benefits from it.

  7. Trucking Company Financial Aid

    Due to the U.S. driver shortage, many trucking companies have started to offer financial aid as an incentive for prospective truck drivers to gain their CDL licenses. This financial aid can include anything from training or paying for lodging in exchange for a work commitment.

    Additionally, these companies can also offer support for those looking to create a CDL training program by providing trucks and other funding assistance.

    However, this assistance will require the following:

    • Clean driving and criminal record

    • Able to pass a physical and drug test (required by D.O.T.)

    • 21+ years old

    • Valid U.S. Driver’s License

    • U.S. Citizen

    • Work History

    • Employment commitment of one year or more

    Either way, companies will only offer financial aid because they stand to benefit from the transaction, so if you choose to go this route, be sure you’re aware of everything you agree to.

    If you’re interested, here are some trucking companies that offer grants and programs:

    • CRST Trucking School

    • C.R. England CDL School

    • Knight Transportation

    • Prime Trucking School and Prime Trucking Company

    • KLLM Trucking School and Company

    • FFE Trucking

    • Roehl Transport

    • Schneider Trucking School and Company

    • Swift Transportation

    • Stevens Driving School (Stevens Transport)

    • Wilson Logistics Training

    • Millis Transfer

  8. Non-Profit Foundations

    Non-Profit foundations are also an option if you require funding, as these programs serve to assist those in need. However, keep in mind that many of these programs have religious or community affiliations, meaning that you’ll need to fit certain criteria to earn funding. This can be easier or harder to do, depending on your circumstances.

Tips for Earning a CDL Training Grant

While earning a CDL training grant may seem daunting at first, especially if you have to compete with others to receive it, there are effective ways you can stand out. Here are our top tips for earning the funding you need:

  • Research. Regardless of whether you’re seeking a scholarship, company grant, or something in between, it’s important to do your research. Look into what programs you qualify for, and ensure that you understand what you agree to.

  • Know Your Goals. It’s important to know which school you want to attend, how much money you need to attend, and where you want to be after you earn your CDL license. That way, you’ll have a better understanding of what programs and agreements are right for you.

  • Practice Writing. If you’re applying for a scholarship or program that requires you to write an essay or something about yourself, make sure you practice writing before you create a final copy. Look online for guides that can help you craft a stand-out essay.

  • Proofread. It can be valuable to have a friend, colleague, or some other professional help you improve your application. This other person can help you spot mistakes you’ve missed or give you tips on how to make something better.

  • Apply Early. The best grants and loans often have many applications. With that in mind, you’ll have a much better chance of hearing back from a program if you prepare and submit your application early.

CDL Training Grant FAQ

  1. What is the highest paying CDL endorsement?

    The highest paying CDL endorsement is Tanker Drivers. These professionals transport liquids and gasses that are often hazardous (e.g., gasoline), and for this dangerous work, they earn an average of $78,000 per year.

    Other high paying CDL endorsements include: Oversized Load Hauler ($73,000), Team Driver ($73,000), Hazmat Diver ($71,000), and Ice Road Trucker ($60,000).

  2. How can I get free money to start my trucking business?

    The best way to earn “free” money for your trucking business is to apply for grants. However, this money isn’t technically free, as it usually comes with stipulations and can be taxed at the end of the year.

    The most common grants used by those who want to start a trucking business include:

    • SBA 8(a) Business Development Program

    • FedEx Small Business Grant Contest

    • NASE Growth Grants

    • Veteran-Owned Business Opportunities

    • USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grants

    • School Scholarships and Grants

    • Nav Small Business Grant

    • The Amber Grant

  3. What local trucking companies pay for CDL training?

    The local companies that pay for CDL training will depend on your location, but there are several larger companies that offer loans around the country. Some of the most well-known companies that provide funding for CDL training programs include:

    • CRST Trucking School

    • C.R. England CDL School

    • Knight Transportation

    • Prime Trucking School and Prime Trucking Company

    • KLLM Trucking School and Company

    • FFE Trucking

    • Roehl Transport

    • Schneider Trucking School and Company

    • Swift Transportation

    • Stevens Driving School (Stevens Transport)

    • Wilson Logistics Training

    • Millis Transfer

    However, do keep in mind that this funding usually comes with stipulations. Often, you’ll have to agree to work for the company for at least one year prior to your training.

  4. Are there unemployment grants for CDL training?

    Yes, there are unemployment grants for CDL training. There are two common programs that help those who’ve been unemployed. The first is the WIOA Program Agency, which helps train people who’ve been laid off, suffered from natural disasters, or lost their job in some other way.

    Additionally, Vocational Rehabilitation CDL Driver Programs can also help those who’ve been unemployed, specifically if they have been injured and can no longer work their current or previous job.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for CDL training or trying to start your own trucking driving school can be nerve-wracking, especially when you don’t have the funding you need. However, there are many routes you can take to earn that funding with minimal costs.

Before you take on expensive loans, look into the grants and scholarships you may qualify for. After all, there’s a truck driver shortage in the U.S., and many companies, government programs, and non-profits are eager to assist you in your journey.

Overall, if you do your research on the right steps to submit a successful application, you’ll have the financial means to pursue your goals.

By - Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job.

His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.