Cost to Get a CDL

How Much Does it Cost to Get a CDL?

Last Updated on March 26, 2024
Written by CPA Alec Pow | Content Reviewed by Certified CFA CFA Alexander Popinker

Becoming a professional commercial vehicle driver through obtaining a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) opens up opportunities for stable careers in trucking and commercial transportation. But the investment in training, testing, licensing, and other fees to get your CDL can be quite substantial.

This guide will examine the full range of costs associated with earning a CDL. We’ll cover the pricing structure of trucking schools, state testing and license fees, and additional expenses. You’ll also learn cost-saving strategies through company-sponsored programs, scholarships and more.

How Much Does it Cost to Get a CDL?

Here is an in-depth look at the itemized expenses involved in earning your CDL license:

Truck Driver Training School Tuition and Fees

This is typically the biggest component. What type of program you select impacts costs significantly:

  • Private truck driving schools – The average tuition here ranges from $3,000 to $7,000 depending on location and course length. Accelerated 4-week programs cost more.
  • Community college CDL programs – These range from $1,500 to $4,000 for in-state residents. Out-of-state students pay $4,000-$7,000.
  • Company-sponsored training – Many carriers like CRST, Prime Inc., and Stevens Transport pay for CDL training (valued around $5,000) in exchange for a 9-12 month contract. This removes tuition costs. Veterans may utilize GI Bill benefits to offset some expenses as well.

State CDL Licensing and Testing Fees

These fees are non-negotiable requirements in every state:

  • CDL Permit Application Fee – This ranges from $10 to $100, depending on the state.
  • CDL Permit Fee – The permit allowing you to practice costs $15 to $50 on average.
  • CDL Road Test – Testing fees with a state examiner range from $30 to $150. Retests mean repaying.
  • Hazmat/Passenger Endorsements – Requires additional knowledge tests and a $86.50 FBI background check for each endorsement.
  • CDL License Fee – The final licensing expense ranges from $40 to $150.

DOT Medical Examination and Drug Screening

Meeting medical and drug testing requirements incurs additional costs:

  • DOT Medical Exam – This is done by an approved medical examiner at $50 to $150.
  • Drug and Alcohol Screening – Plan $40 to $85 for urine testing and bloodwork.

Study Materials, Supplies, and Miscellaneous Items

Other variable costs to account for include:

  • CDL handbook, test prep books/apps – Budget $10 to $50.
  • Basic school supplies – Notebooks, pens, highlighters, calculators.
  • Uniforms or work clothes for training yard.
  • Transportation for road instruction.
  • Food and housing costs if relocating temporarily.

The Total Price – taken together, the average cost to earn a CDL ranges from $1,500 to $10,000+ depending on the above factors. Significant investments that bring long-term benefits.

According to Prime, Inc., CDL training programs can cost between $3,000 to $7,000, with company-sponsored programs like the Prime Student Driver (PSD) Program offering training at a fraction of the cost, with additional benefits like job placement and tuition reimbursement.

Schneider Jobs writes that the cost of obtaining a CDL typically ranges from $4,000 to $12,000, influenced by factors like location and the driving school attended. Schneider offers company-paid CDL training options to help new drivers start their careers.

Source One Transportation says that CDL training costs can vary from $3,000 to $7,000, with private CDL schools potentially costing more, nearing $10,000. Financial aid options like scholarships, grants, and tuition reimbursement from trucking companies can help offset these costs.

Discussions on Reddit on CDL training costs mention a wide range from $1,000 to $8,000, with various payment structures and reimbursement options offered by different companies and programs.

Salt Lake Community College (SLCC) notes that associated costs not payable to the college for CDL training include a CDL Learner’s Permit for $40.00, DOT Physical for $40.00 to $50.00, Driving Record (MVR) for $6.00, and Drug Screening for $35.00.

What is a CDL and Why is it Important?

First, a quick introduction to what a CDL is and why it’s mandatory for operating larger vehicles:

A Commercial Driver’s License is legally required in the United States for drivers operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) like a freight truck, bus, or other specialized transport vehicles. Certain vocations require a CDL to move goods, people, and hazardous materials safely and legally across many miles of roads.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), state Departments of Transportation, and Transport Canada regulate CDL certifications and licensing in North America. CDL requirements include:

  • Proof of residency and identity
  • Commercial learner’s permit
  • DOT medical exam
  • Drug and alcohol screening
  • Entry-level driver training
  • CDL knowledge and skills exams

Failure to obtain and maintain a valid CDL for driving a qualified CMV can incur significant fines and license suspension. That’s why paying the costs to earn your CDL properly is important. Now let’s look at the classes of commercial licenses.

Types of Commercial Driver’s Licenses

There are three primary classes of CDLs in most jurisdictions:

Class A CDL

A Class A CDL enables drivers to operate a combination of commercial motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 pounds or more, provided the gross vehicle weight rating of the towed unit exceeds 10,000 pounds. With a Class A CDL, you can drive most large tractor-trailers, dump trucks with multiple trailers, livestock transporters, and other large combination vehicles.

Acquiring a Class A CDL requires the most extensive training of all license classes. Programs range from 4-6 weeks full-time.

Class B CDL

A Class B commercial license allows you to drive a single vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating exceeding 26,001 pounds. This includes straight trucks like cement mixers, dump trucks, and box trucks.

The key distinction is that with a Class B CDL, any trailer being towed must not exceed 10,000 pounds gross vehicle weight rating. Class B training is typically shorter at 2-4 weeks full time.

Class C CDL

Class C is designated for vehicles designed to transport 16 or more passengers (buses), or vehicles used to transport hazardous materials in quantities requiring hazardous materials placards by law. This includes public transit buses, school buses, and fuel tanker trucks.

Earning a passenger endorsement (P) or hazmat endorsement (H) necessitates additional background checks and fees. Class C training length also varies based on the specialization.

Now that we’ve reviewed the classes, let’s look at what impacts the costs.

Factors That Influence CDL Training Costs

Multiple variables affect what an individual can expect to spend to earn their commercial driver’s license:

CDL Class and Specialty – Class A licenses require the most comprehensive training, while Class C skills-focused programs are shorter. Additional endorsements like passenger transport and hazardous materials handling mean added fees.

Training Option – Options include private CDL schools, community college programs, and company-sponsored training. Each has major pricing differences.

Location – The cost of living for where your school is located determines their tuition rates. Big cities are most expensive.

Fuel Costs – With the rise in diesel prices, hands-on yard training costs schools more so some may raise rates.

Customized Training – Individualized programs to fit your schedule or needs often cost more.

Financing – How you pay impacts costs. Cash, loans, grants? Interest rates on financing must be accounted for.

These factors lead to pricing variance. Now let’s break down costs in detail.

You might also like our articles about the cost of a truck cap, wrapping a truck, or truck stop showers.

Creative Ways to Reduce CDL Training Costs

Here are some tips to lower the overall bill for obtaining your Commercial Driver’s License:

Consider Company-Sponsored Training

Large carriers like C.R. England, Werner, J.B. Hunt, TMC Transport, and others offer tuition-free CDL training (valued around $3,000 – $5,000) in exchange for signing a work contract afterward, usually 9-12 months. This saves tremendously upfront. Requirements and contracts vary between programs.

Research company-sponsored CDL training programs on carrier websites for eligibility terms and commitments required.

Apply for Grants and Scholarships

Many organizations offer financial assistance in the form of grants and scholarships to help offset CDL tuition costs:

  • The CDL Training Association awards $1,000 tuition scholarships annually.
  • The Women in Trucking Association offers $1,000-2,500 scholarships for qualified women pursuing trucking careers.
  • State and local workforce development agencies provide CDL grants in some areas. Research options in your state.

Look Into State and Federal Programs

Inquiry into state and government programs can uncover additional money for training:

  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) funding helps pay for vocational programs like truck driving. Check your state’s offerings.
  • State “Driving Jobs” programs exist in some locations, like the Driving Opportunity Scholarship in Wisconsin which awards up to $7,500 in tuition assistance.
  • Veterans can potentially utilize GI Bill benefits to cover a portion of CDL training expenses.

Choose Community College Programs

Completing CDL training at local community colleges can save thousands compared to private schools. In-state tuition rates apply, bringing costs down. Programs range from $1,500 – $4,000 generally.

Take Advantage of Employer Tuition Reimbursement

Some companies outside of the trucking industry offer CDL school tuition reimbursement for employees to cover career development. UPS, for example, offers $5,250 in reimbursement. Check your company’s policy.

Using strategies like these helps reduce the costs of CDL training programs significantly.

Is it Worth the Investment to Get a CDL?

Truck Driving SchoolGiven that prime earning potential in the first year after receiving a Class A CDL can reach $60,000 and beyond, the return on investment for the initial licensing costs becomes clear. With experience, six-figure salaries in trucking are attainable.

And the demand for truck drivers is projected to grow substantially over the next decade – so job security is strong. Once endorsed, a CDL credential opens up career mobility options across the trucking, logistics, and transportation industries as well.

While earning a Commercial Driver’s License requires thorough training and testing, the financial investment pays off with family-sustaining wages and opportunities for advancement in essential roles that keep supply chains running smoothly across North America.

Final Words

The costs involved in obtaining your Commercial Driver’s License can seem daunting. Private trucking schools charge $3,000 to $7,000 for comprehensive CDL training. Added fees for state testing, licensing, medical exams, and more put the total price between $1,500 to $10,000+, depending on your state and CDL class.

But company-sponsored programs, grants, scholarships, and other creative cost-saving approaches can help significantly defray the investment. And the long-term career potential provided by a CDL makes the upfront costs worthwhile for many.

If you’re considering a stable career change to professional trucking, don’t let the pricing deter you. With smart planning, you can earn your CDL in the most affordable manner possible and be on your way to an open road of possibilities.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the typical cost for a private CDL school program?

For a Class A CDL program at a private trucking school, expect to pay an average of $3,000 to $7,000 in tuition. Rates vary based on location, program length, financing options, and additional fees. Accelerated 4-week intensive training tends to fall at the higher end, around $6,000-$7,000.

How much do all the required state CDL testing fees cost?

You can expect to spend $100-$300 cumulatively on the required CDL permitting, written tests, road skills tests, and license fees. These state fees vary but generally total $200-$300. Additional costs come for hazmat/passenger endorsements. Retesting due to failures adds costs.

What are some hidden costs to be aware of with CDL training?

Hidden costs that add up include uniforms, training materials/books, DOT medical exams, drug testing, transportation, and living expenses if relocating temporarily for training. Taking out high-interest loans to pay tuition can also increase total costs substantially. Do your homework to avoid surprises.

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