Blog Post |

How to get a CDL (and Get One for Free)

Dan Johnston

September 8, 2019

Good starting pay, relatively short training, and lots of job opportunities. If that sounds good, then a career in trucking could be for you. And now’s a great time to get started since there’s a  shortage of qualified truckers—around 100,000 jobs to be exact.

So what does a career as a trucker look like? For commercially licensed truckers, average salaries are around $62,752 per year. To put that in perspective, the average starting salary of a 2018 college grad was $50,390.

Not bad. Especially when you consider the fact that you can earn a CDL without paying a single dollar out of pocket. That’s right: get a CDL and get one entirely for free. Want to learn how? Read on.

semi truck driving down highway during sunrise

How to get a CDL for free

While you can pay thousands of dollars to a trucking school to get CDL training, you don’t have to. Many companies will sponsor you. That means they pay your tuition and, in return, you agree to work for them for a set period (usually a year) at the end. So you graduate with no debt and a stable job. Not bad, right?

A quick search in your area will probably pull up a choice of driving schools and companies that offer sponsored programs. But before you jump in, there are a couple things to think about.

Things to consider


Remember that if you join a company-sponsored program, you’ll probably be agreeing to work for them for a set period of time at the end. Make sure you understand the job details before you sign up as not all trucker jobs are the same. If you work hauling perishable foods to restaurants, you can expect early morning shifts since restaurants will need to stock up before they open. If you work hauling construction materials, you might be driving loads to job sites farther away.

Quality of Training

Make sure you’re not just getting classroom instruction but time behind the wheel. This is generally not an issue for companies that offer their own training programs, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.
Cost – Some company-sponsored programs will cover the entire out of pocket cost of tuition while others will pay up front but expect you to reimburse some of the costs down the road. Make sure you understand the expectations before you sign up.

Length of Program

Stay away from any program that promises you a CDL in a suspiciously short period of time. No one can learn to safely drive an 80-ft truck in 5 days. Reputable programs (even the accelerated ones) will take at least 3-4 weeks.

How to find a training program

Once you’ve decided that CDL training is for you, the next step is finding a company that will sponsor you. A quick search will likely reveal a number of long haul trucking companies in your area that offer these kinds of services. But that’s not the only option.

At WorkStep, we work with a wide range of national and regional companies that also offer free CDL training programs, such as Woodfeathers Roofing, Maletis Beverage, and UNFI. There are often pros to working with a single company versus a trucking outfitter, such as better scheduling and benefits. Some companies will even pay you a starting salary while you’re training.

If you’re considering getting a CDL, check out training options or job opportunities in your area. Have questions? Drop us a note at Our career coaches would be happy to help.

Dan Johnston

Dan Johnston, Co-Founder & CEO |