If you’re thinking about changing careers into truck driving, or other jobs that involve operating heavy machinery, you’ve picked a good time. Demand for people with Commercial Driver’s Licenses (CDLs) is at an all-time high, which makes it relatively easy to find a job in anything from school bus driving to trucking, to operating heavy construction equipment.
However, there’s still the financial side of things. No matter how you go about getting your CDL, such as on-the-job training or taking CDL classes, you’ll need to make sure your budget is prepared to keep you afloat. At 5th Wheel Training Institute, we want to see all our students succeed, so here are some things to know ahead of time.
I. Costs of training/on-the-job vs CDL classes
Without a doubt, going to an Ontario trucking school will be the more expensive option – but it also brings benefits over on-the-job training.
If you get hired directly, to be trained by your employer, you typically don’t pay for training. However, you will probably see reduced wages during your training period, and you’ll be truly starting ‘from the bottom.’ It could take you a while to work your way up to a decent paycheck, and that can make it challenging to make ends meet in the meantime.
Also, in these cases, you’ll almost certainly be locked into a long-term contract with your employer. After all, they want to get a return on the money they invest into your training. If you aren’t happy with that employer or they aren’t paying enough, you won’t have many options aside from toughing it out until your contract is up, which could take years.
On the other hand, taking CDL classes from an Ontario trucking school will typically require a few thousand dollars up-front. This actually isn’t bad, considering that you’ll come out of the school in an excellent position to get a good job – and good wages – very quickly. Many schools will offer payment programs to help you afford the training.
Also, some employers will pay for you to take professional classes, although this still comes with the caveat of being locked into a contract with them.
The other issue here is that going to truck driving school is full-time work, although it can be completed part-time it is far less effective training. You will not typically be able to maintain another job while attending school, so you also need to ensure you have money on-hand to keep yourself afloat for a few weeks during training.
Let’s dig into that aspect more.
II. Making Arrangements Before Attending CDL Classes
You’ll want to contact people you will owe money to, particularly your landlord and/or bank. Many Ontario trucking schools have residency requirements, so you’ll be moving away from home for a month or so, depending on the exact length of the program. Either way, you’ll want to let people know you’ll be away, and make proper payment arrangements ahead of time. You may also want to put a hold on utilities, such as water, electric, and Internet, for the time you’ll be away.
Either way, if you have enough money in the bank to handle all these obligations, that’s great – but not everyone is in that situation.
Should you already have overdue debts, we strongly encourage you to be upfront and tell your creditors about your plan to start a new career. Most creditors and collections agencies will actually be glad to know you’re moving into a field with good career prospects and high payouts. This increases their own chances of getting paid. They may want to see proof that you’re attending CDL classes, but otherwise, they should be reasonable about working with you during this period.
The same goes for other obligations such as car payments, credit card payments, and so forth. Fundamentally, it’s cheaper for them to give you leeway on payments, or temporarily reduce your monthly charges, than it is to initiate legal action. However, you should always be polite and respectful. Even if working with you is in everyone’s best interests, they’re still doing you a favor – and acting entitled will reduce the chances of them being reasonable.
Once you’ve completed your CDL classes and training, you’ll be past the worst of it. It won’t be long until you’re getting regular paychecks again. However, you still want to be smart about your money and budgeting once you’re on the road!
III. Reducing Your Operating Costs Once You Begin Working
There are a lot of ways you can keep your costs in check, once you begin work as a commercial driver.
1. Prioritize your in-truck purchases
You probably aren’t going to have enough money for all the items and upgrades you’d like, so be smart about what you buy. For example, a physical atlas is a lot cheaper than a dedicated GPS unit – that’s a few hundred dollars you can put towards other things. Likewise, luxuries such as an in-cab TV should be put off until later. Focus on buying practical items such as repair tools, a good flashlight, winter clothes, toiletries, etc.
2. Reduce your food spending
One in-cab item that we’d strongly recommend you buy early is a small refrigerator and some type of cooking appliance like a small toaster oven. It’s costly, but here’s the thing: making food for yourself is going to be much cheaper than eating out for every meal on the road. It’s healthier too. Just keeping a stock of sandwich-makings on hand can do a lot to reduce what you spend on food. This will pay for itself quickly, in numerous ways.
3. Use reward points whenever you can
If you’ve never bothered with rewards programs in the past, now is the time to pay attention. These can be a godsend for commercial drivers, especially programs based around rewarding you for fuel purchases. At the least, you should be able to get some free showers and maybe some free food. At best, you’ll be able to lower your fuel costs too.
4. Research purchases and stops ahead of time
Avoid impulse buys, like upgrades. Always do plenty of comparison shopping before you buy. This also goes for roadside stops. If you don’t have a sleeper compartment in your truck, you don’t want to get stuck sleeping at pricey hotels. A little time spent in the morning planning your route and looking at your sleeping options can save you a lot.
Of course, sleeping in your cab is also an option, even if you don’t have a bed. Those driver’s seats recline quite nicely in a pinch.
5 . Use credit repair services
Do you have a lot of outstanding debts? Those “credit consolidation” programs can actually do a lot to reduce your monthly bills, while also helping to rehabilitate your credit. However, this should be a one-and-done solution. Consolidate your debt, then pay it off. Don’t use this as an excuse to open up new lines of credit until that debt is mostly or entirely paid, or else you can just get trapped in a new cycle of debt.
Reach Out to Us for CDL Classes
One of the reasons 5th Wheel Training Institute is a premier Ontario trucking school is that we offer substantial resources to help our students succeed after graduation. Click here to learn more about all the services we offer!