Do you want to start a CDL training school? If YES, here’s a complete guide to starting a CDL training school with NO money and no experience.

In case you never knew, there are loads of opportunities for those who run vocational schools in the United States of America. There are countless number of people out there who are trying to acquire skills that will enable them put food on their table, pay their bills and ultimately become their own boss, and vocational school is just an ideal place they can get the journey started.

Commercial driver’s license training school which also known as CDL training school is a specialized instructional school designed to prepare a student to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL), which is required for a career as a truck driver in the United States and Canada.

You can be rest assured that your services would always be in demand not only by people who want build a career in truck driving, but by all those who would want to obtain commercial driver’s license. The truth is that if your CDL training school is well – positioned and it is government approved, then you may not have to struggle to persuade students to enroll in your school.

Just like most businesses, the CDL training school line of business is open to as many people that are interested in the business as long as you have what it takes to run an accredited CDL training school. Even if you don’t have the finance and other requirements for starting a standard CDL training school, you can start out by training people based on their terms.

So, if you have done the required feasibility studies and market research, then you might want to venture into this business. If you have been pondering on starting your own CDL training school, but do not know how to go about it, then you should consider going through this article; it will sure give you the needed guide and direction.

20 Steps on How to Start a CDL Training School Business

1. Understand the Industry

CDL training schools fall under the trade and technical schools industry, and establishments in the industry offer vocational and technical training in a wide range of technical subjects and trades. The training offered by trade and technical schools often leads to job-specific certifications.

Instruction may be provided in diverse settings such as the company’s training facilities, the workplace, the home or through distance-learning methods. Key areas in this industry include music schools and musical instrument training, cosmetology and barber schools, flight training, CDL training, apprenticeship training and other technical training.

The Trade and Technical Schools industry that CDL training school is a part of is indeed a large industry and pretty much active in countries such as United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Holland, Switzerland, Australia and Canada et al.

Statistics has it that in the United States of America alone, there are about 8,876 registered and licensed (accredited) trade and technical schools scattered all across the United States responsible for employing about 127,260 people and the industry rakes in a whooping sum of $13 billion annually.

The industry grew at -1.1 percent annual growth between 2011 and 2016. It is important to state that there are no establishments in this industry that has a lion market share.

A recent report released by IBISWorld shows that the industry exhibits a low degree of market share concentration. IBISWorld estimates that only Roadmaster is capable of garnering a noteworthy market share because they have 13 locations across the country.

Beyond Roadmaster, the industry is comprised of many small driving schools operating on a local or regional basis. Driving schools with fewer than 10 employees are estimated to account for over half of all establishments. “This figure helps illustrate the difficulty individual companies have in expanding their operations to increase market share,” says Kahn.

With only a few employees, the ability of staff to handle high volumes of students (and increase market share through increased tuition collection) is limited. Further, this type of instruction is usually handled on a one-on-one basis. With the ongoing decline in truck driving as a profession, establishments keep their costs low by hiring only necessary staff.

Due to the fact that it can be somehow stressful to get government accreditation for a standard vocational school in the United States, it will be safe to say the industry is under saturated. It is important to state that entrepreneurs who are into training people on various trades/skills such as how to drive, how to play musical instruments, how to cook and how to dance et al can easily be found without stress.

Over and above, starting a CDL training school requires professionalism and a good grasp of the skills you want to teach people. Besides, you would need to get the required certifications and license (accreditations) and also meet the standard for such business before you can be allowed to start a standard CDL training school in the United States.

One good thing about CDL training schools is that there is a readily available market for their services because people that need commercial driver’s license would always enroll in a CDL training school. So, if you are well positioned and you know how to impart driving skills to students, you will always smile to the bank.

2. Conduct Market Research and Feasibility Studies

Demographics and Psychographics

The demographic and psychographic composition of those who require the services of a CDL training school cut across people of all gender who want to learn how to drive trucks and also acquire a commercial driver’s license.

So, if you are looking towards defining the demographics for your CDL training school, then you should make it all encompassing.

3. Decide What Niche to Concentrate On

It is important to state that there is no niche area in the CDL training school line of business. This is because CDL training school is a niche area in the trade and technical schools industry.

Basically, CDL training schools are involved in running licensed CDL instruction programs, certified CDL instruction programs and accredited CDL instruction programs.

The Level of Competition in the CDL Training School Line of Business

The competition that occurs in the CDL training school line of business goes outside competitions amongst CDL training schools in your location; you are expected to compete with freelancers who also offer CDL training. Thus, it will be right to say the competition in the laser CDL training school line of business is tough.

The truth is that no matter the level of competition in an industry, if you have done your due diligence and you brand and promote your services or business properly, you will always make headway in the industry. Just ensure you are good at giving driving instruction, you can deliver excellent customer care services and you know how to attract and reach out to your target market.

But over and above, there are several CDL training schools scattered all around the United States. So, if you choose to start your own CDL training school business in the United States, you will definitely meet stiffer competitions amongst other CDL training schools. Besides, there are larger CDL training schools that determine the trends in the industry and you should be ready to compete with them for customers.

4. Know the Major Competitors in the Industry

In the real sense of it, in every industry, there are brands that achieve better or are better regarded by customers and the general public than the others. Some of these brands are those that have been in the industry for a long time, while others are best known for how they conduct their businesses and the results they have achieved over the years.

These are some of the leading CDL training schools in the United States of America and also in the globe;

  • United States Truck Driving School, Inc.
  • America Truck Driving School
  • US Truck Driver Training School
  • American Driver Training Academy
  • American Truck Training
  • Future Truckers of America
  • Driver Solutions
  • Great American Truck Driving
  • Truck America Training
  • Ohio Business College Truck Driving Academy
  • America’s Driving Force
  • Star Truck Driving School
  • SDIA: Safe Drivers Institute of America
  • CDL College, LLC
  • Allstate Commercial Driver Training School
  • Truck Driver Institute, Inc.
  • Road Warrior Truck Driving School Inc
  • Transport Training Centers of Canada

Economic Analysis

When it comes to starting a CDL training school, you just have to get your feasibility studies and market research right before venturing into the business. It is good to mention that starting a standard CDL training school is not for rookies; it is for professionals who have successfully gathered the required experience to train people and organizations on how to drive trucks.

Starting this kind of business definitely entails that you acquire the required technical skills and profession certifications, government approval/accreditation and also build good working relationship with stakeholders in the industry.

If you are already a major player in the trade and technical schools industry before venturing out to start your own CDL training school, this might not be an issue. Depending on the scale you want to start from, you might require as much as multiple thousands of dollars to strike this off and at the same time you might need far less than that if you choose to start the school on a small scale.

You will be expected to hire the services of experts that will help you with comprehensive economic and cost analysis and the profitability of the businesses within the location that you intend launching the business. If you get your economic and cost analysis right before launching the business, you may not have to stay the long before you breakeven.

5. Decide Whether to Buy a Franchise or Start from Scratch

When it comes to starting a business of this nature, it will pay you to buy the franchise of a successful and well – established CDL training school as against starting from the scratch. Even though it is relatively expensive buying the franchise of an established CDL training school brand, but it will definitely pay you in the long run.

But if you truly want to build your own brand after you must have proved your worth in the Trade and Technical Schools industry, then you might just want to start your own CDL training school business from the scratch.

The truth is that it will pay you in the long run to start your CDL training school business from the scratch. Starting from the scratch will afford you the opportunity to conduct thorough market survey and feasibility studies before choosing a location to launch the business.

Please note that most of the big and successful CDL training schools around started from the scratch and they were able to build a solid business brand. It takes dedication, hard work and determination to achieve business success.

6. Know the Possible Threats and Challenges You Will Face

If you resolve to start your own CDL training school today, one of the major challenges you are likely going to face is the presence of well – established CDL training schools and also freelancers who also teach people how to drive trucks. The only way to avoid this challenge is to create your own market.

Some other threats that you are likely going to face as a CDL training school operating in the United States are unfavorable government policies, the arrival of a competitor within your location of operation and global economic downturn which may affect businesses such as CDL training schools. There is hardly anything you can do as regards these threats other than to be optimistic that things will continue to work for your good.

7. Choose the Most Suitable Legal Entity (LLC, C Corp, S Corp)

Best legal entity to use for this type of business

You can either choose a general partnership or limited liability company for a CDL training school. Ordinarily, general partnership should have been the ideal business structure for a small – scale CDL training school especially if you are just starting out with a moderate start – up capital.

But if your intention is to grow the business and have students both corporate and individual from all across the United States of America, then choosing general partnership is not an option for you. Limited Liability Company, LLC will cut it for you.

Setting up an LLC protects you from personal liability. If anything goes wrong in the business, it is only the money that you invested into the limited liability company that will be at risk. It is not so for general partnerships. Limited liability companies are simpler and more flexible to operate and you don’t need a board of directors, shareholders meetings and other managerial formalities.

These are some of the factors you should consider before choosing a legal entity for your CDL training school; limitation of personal liability, ease of transferability, admission of new owners, investors’ expectation and of course taxes.

If you take your time to critically study the various legal entities to use for your CDL training school, you will agree that limited liability company; an LLC is most suitable. You can start this type of business as limited liability company (LLC) and in future convert it to a ‘C’ corporation or an ‘S’ corporation especially when you have the plans of going public.

8. Choose a Catchy Business Name from the ideas Below

The general practice is that when it comes to choosing a name for a business, it is expected that you should be creative because whatever name you choose for your business will go a long way to create a perception of what the business represents. Usually it is the norm for people to follow the trend in the industry they intend operating from when naming their business.

If you are considering starting your own CDL training school, here are some catchy names that you can choose from;

  • Galloping® CDL Training School, LLC
  • Great Drivers® CDL Training School, LLC
  • Truckers Club® CDL Training College
  • Eastern Regional™ CDL Training College
  • Flourish Lads® CDL Training Center
  • Bay Path Regional CDL Training School
  • Cross-County Regional CDL Training School
  • Ron Bally and Sons CDL Training School
  • Good Life® CDL Training School
  • Libra Generation® CDL Training Academy

9. Discuss With an Agent to Know the Best Insurance Policies for You

In the United States of America and in most countries of the world, you can’t operate a business without having some of the basic insurance policy covers that are required by the industry you want to operate from.

So, it is imperative to create a budget for insurance policy cover and perhaps consult an insurance broker to guide you in choosing the best and most appropriate insurance policies for your CDL training school.

Here are some of the basic insurance policy covers that you should consider purchasing if you want to start your own CDL training school in the United States of America;

  • General insurance
  • Auto Insurance
  • Risk Insurance
  • Financial reinsurance
  • Health insurance
  • Liability insurance
  • Workers compensation
  • Overhead expense disability insurance
  • Business owner’s policy group insurance
  • Payment protection insurance

10. Protect your Intellectual Property With Trademark, Copyrights, Patents

If you are considering starting your own CDL training school, usually you are required to file for intellectual property protection/trademark. This is so because the nature of the business makes it possible for you to challenge organizations and individuals in court for illegally making use of your company’s intellectual properties (training manuals that you produce).

So also, if you want to protect your company’s logo and other documents or software that are unique to you or even jingles and media production concepts, then you can go ahead to file for intellectual property protection. If you want to register your trademark, you are expected to begin the process by filing an application with the USPTO. The final approval of your trademark is subjected to the review of attorneys as required by USPTO.

11. Get the Necessary Professional Certification

Aside from the results you produce as it relates to training your students on how to drive trucks and obtain commercial driver’s license, professional certification is one of the main reasons why some CDL training schools stand out.

If you want to make an impact in the trade and technical schools industry, you should work towards acquiring all the needed certifications in your area of specialization. You are strongly encouraged to pursue professional certifications; it will go a long way to show your commitment towards the business.

Certification validates your competency and shows that you are highly skilled, committed to your career, and up-to-date in the market.

These are some of the certifications you can work towards achieving if you want to run your own CDL training school;

  • Certified Technical Skill Trainer
  • Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) Certification
  • Commercial Truck Driver Training Certification
  • Degree or Diploma in Transportation and Logistics Related Courses

Please note that you cannot successfully run a CDL training school in the United States and in most countries of the world without necessarily acquiring professional certifications and business license (accreditation from regulating bodies) even if you have adequate experience cum background in the trade and technical schools industry.

12. Get the Necessary Legal Documents You Need to Operate

The essence of having the necessary documentation in place before launching a business in the United States of America cannot be overemphasized especially a CDL training school. It is a fact that you cannot successfully run any business in the United States without the proper documentations. If you do, it won’t be too long before the long hand of the law catches up with you.

These are some of the basic legal documents that you are expected to have in place if you want to legally run your own CDL training school in the United States of America;

  • Certificate of Incorporation
  • Federal Tax Payer’s ID
  • State Permit
  • Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)
  • Accreditation Letter
  • Business License and Certification
  • Business Plan
  • Education/Training Curriculum
  • Non – disclosure Agreement
  • Employment Agreement (offer letters)
  • Operating Agreement for LLCs
  • Insurance Policy
  • Consulting contract documents
  • Online Terms of Use
  • Online Privacy Policy Document
  • Apostille (for those who intend operating beyond the United States of America)
  • Company Bylaws
  • Memorandum of Understanding (MoU)

13. Raise the Needed Startup Capital

Aside from the required certifications and hands-on experience, starting a CDL training school can be cost effective. Purchasing training trucks, equipment and tools and paying your employees are part of what will consume a large chunk of your start – up capital.

No doubt when it comes to financing a business, one of the first things you should consider is to write a good business plan. If you have a good and workable business plan document in place, you may not have to labor yourself before convincing your bank, investors and your friends to invest in your business or to partner with you.

Here are some of the options you can explore when sourcing for start – up capital for your CDL training school;

  • Raising money from personal savings and sale of personal stocks and properties
  • Raising money from investors and business partners
  • Sell of shares to interested investors
  • Applying for loan from your bank
  • Pitching your business idea and applying for business grants and seed funding from donor organizations and angel investors
  • Source for soft loans from your family members and your friends

14. Choose a Suitable Location for your Business

CDL training school and most training and educational based type of businesses require that you see physically with your clients (students) hence it must be located in a good location; a location that is prone to both human and vehicular traffic and a location that is at the epicenter of an educational environment or trucking environment if indeed you want to enroll loads of students in your CDL training school and maximize profits from the business.

The fact that you can operate your CDL training school from any part of the world does not mean that location has little influence on the success of your CDL training school. If you have taken your time to study the trade and technical schools industry, you will realize that CDL training schools and related skill acquisition centers are willing to pay expensive rents in order to stay in a busy educational district; a place where there are loads of students.

It cannot be overemphasized that the location you chose to open your CDL training school is key to the success of the business, hence entrepreneurs are willing to rent or lease a facility in a visible location; a location where the demography consists of potential truck drivers and businesses with the required purchasing power to train their staff members.

If you make the mistake of renting or leasing a facility for your CDL training school in a not too visible or hidden location simply because it is cheap, then you must be prepared to spend more in promoting the school.

It is important to note that a business facility in a good location does not come cheap hence you should be able to allocate enough fund for leasing/renting in your budget. If you are new to the dynamics of choosing a location for a business such as CDL training school, then you should feel free to talk to a business consultant or a realtor who has a full grasp of the city and perhaps country you intend starting your CDL training school.

So, if you are looking for a location for your CDL training school, ensure that it is a place that is located in an educational hub in your city, a place that is visible and easily accessible. Of course, you would not want to locate this type of business in the outskirts of town. Your students should be able to drive down and locate your school facility with little or no difficulty.

15. Hire Employees for your Technical and Manpower Needs

On the average, there are no special technologies or equipment needed to run a CDL training school. All you would need is a functional truck for students to practice with, and road signs/tools.

In order to run a small administrative office, you will definitely need computers, internet facility, telephone, fax machine and office furniture (chairs, tables, and shelves). These equipment, tools and instruments can be purchased as fairly used especially if you have limited finance to meet your budget.

When it comes to choosing between renting and leasing a facility for a CDL training school, the size of the CDL training school you want to build, and your entire budget for the CDL training school should influence your choice. If you have enough capital to run a standard CDL training school, then you should consider the option of leasing a facility for your CDL training school.

As regards the number of employees that you are expected to kick start the business with, you would need to consider your finance before making the decision. Averagely, you would need a Chief Executive Officer/Principal Partner, School Administrator, Teachers/Instructors/Coaches, Business Developer, Accountant (Bursar), Customer Service Executive/Front Desk Officer.

Over and above, you would need a minimum of 5 to 10 key staff to effectively run a medium scale but standard CDL training school. Please note that there will be times when you are expected to go out of your way to hire experts to help you handle some high – profile students especially from big corporations. If you are just starting out, you may not have the financial capacity or required business structure to retain all the professionals that are expected to work with you.

Service Delivery Process of a CDL Training School

CDL training schools and skill acquisition centers are established with the aim of teaching students technical and trade skill set. In essence, a student is expected to enroll in a CDL training school if they have the trade or technical skills he or she wants to acquire in the list of their courses.

As it relates to CDL training school, any student that enrols has two basic aim for enrolling in the school. Firstly, they want to learn how to drive trucks and secondly, they to be able to obtain their commercial driver’s license. So, when a student pays for the training, they are expected to achieve the above within a stated period.

Please note that a CDL training school may decide to improvise or adopt any business process and structure that will guarantee them efficiency and flexibility; the above stated CDL training school business process is not cast on stone.

16. Write a Marketing Plan Packed With ideas & Strategies

Marketing ideas and strategies for this particular business

As a CDL training school owner, you would have to prove your worth over and over again before attracting clients from corporate organizations and individuals to enroll in your CDL training school. So, if you have plans to start your own CDL training school, it will pay you to build first build a successful career as a commercial truck driver.

People and organizations will only enroll in your school or hire your services if they know that they are going to get the required skills they want to get.

So, when you are drafting your marketing plans and strategies for your CDL training school, make sure that you create a compelling personal and company profile. Asides from your qualifications and experience, it is important to clearly state in practical terms what you have been able to achieve in time past as it relates to commercial truck driving and the trade and technical schools industry and the organizations you have trained in time past. This will help boost your chances in the market place when sourcing for students and corporate clients.

Here are some of the platforms you can utilize to market your CDL training school;

  • Introduce your business by sending introductory letters alongside your brochure to all the corporate organizations, haulage companies, transport and logistics companies, trucking companies, high school leavers, churches and other religious centers, local community, aspiring entrepreneurs, and households within and outside the city you are operating in who have the capacity to pay for your services
  • Advertise your CDL training school in relevant magazines, radio and TV stations (make yourself available for commercial truck driving skills related talk shows and interactive sessions on TV and radio)
  • List your CDL training school on local directories/yellow pages
  • Attend international vocational education expos, seminars, and business fairs et al
  • Create different packages for different category of students and clients in order to work with their budget
  • Leverage on the internet to promote your CDL training school
  • Join local chambers of commerce and industries around you with the main aim of networking and marketing your services; you are likely going to get referrals from such networks
  • Engage the services of marketing executives and business developers to carry out direct marketing

17. Work Out a Reasonable Pricing for your Services & Products

One key factor that will help you offer your CDL training services at a price that is highly attractive is to ensure that you source your start – up capital from sources that won’t put pressure on you or give you high interest rate.

So also, it is important that you purchase your training equipment, tools, instruments and materials directly from the manufacturers or from wholesale distributors. If need be, you can purchase these equipment, tools, machines and instruments from fairly used market. It will still save you some bucks.

Another strategy that will help you offer your CDL training services at the right price is to ensure that you cut operational cost to the barest minimum, and channel your efforts towards marketing and promoting your brand name. Aside from the fact that this strategy will help you save cost, it will also help you get the right pricing for your products and services.

You can also try as much as possible to work with independent contractors and marketers; it will help you save cost for paying sales and marketing executives.

18. Develop Iron-clad Competitive Strategies to Help You Win

The trade and technical schools industry is a competitive industry, and you must come up with a unique and highly creative strategy to be able to outsmart your competitors in the industry. Part of what you need to do in order to stay competitive in the industry is to continue to churn out students who will go out there to become professional and licensed commercial truck drivers.

Organizations and people will always run to you if they know that you have a better option especially as it relates to training them on how to drive trucks and easily obtaining commercial driver’s license from the issuing authority.

Another strategy that you can adopt is to ensure that your organization is well positioned, key members of your team are highly qualified and certified as it relates to their job roles.

19. Brainstorm Possible Ways to Retain Clients & Customers

When it comes to business, no matter the industry that you choose to pitch your tent in, one of the easiest ways to increase customer retention and perhaps attract new customers is to produce results and satisfy your customers always. If your customers are satisfied with your services delivery, they can hardly source for alternative service providers or products.

If you can continue to churn out students who are considered professional commercial truck drivers and your training service delivery is excellent, then you won’t struggle to maintain loyal students and clientele base.

Ensure that you offer your customers incentives if you want to retain them and of course continue to generate repeated sales from them and also to attract new customers.

Part of what you need to do to achieve this is to track progress, results or outputs with the aim of improving on them quickly as the case demands. When it comes to managing your customers, and building a loyal clientele base, you should purchase a customized CRM software.

With a customized CRM system, you can easily stay in touch with your clients (you can carry out quick surveys, you can introduce new products and prices to them without any hitch, you can felicitate with them on their birthdays and other anniversaries, you can keep track of their progress, you can send bulk sms and customized e – mails and above all, you can easily receive compliant and feedback from them).

20. Develop Strategies to Boost Brand Awareness and Create a Corporate Identity

If your intention of starting a CDL training school is to grow the school beyond the city where you are going to be operating from to become a national and international brand, then you must be ready to spend money on promotion and advertisement of your brand.

In promoting your brand and corporate identity, you should leverage on both print and electronic media and also social media (the internet). As a matter of fact, it is cost effective to use the internet and social media platforms to promote your brand, besides it is pretty much effective and wide reaching.

Another strategy is to sponsor relevant community based programs, TV and radio programs, advertise your business in relevant magazines and newspapers.

Below are the platforms you can leverage on to boost your brand and to promote and advertise your CDL training school;

  • Place adverts on educational related magazines and newspapers, radio and TV stations
  • Encourage the use of word of mouth publicity from your loyal customers
  • Leverage on the internet and social media platforms like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Google+ and other platforms to promote your CDL training school
  • Ensure that you position your banners and billboards in strategic positions all around your city
  • Distribute your fliers and handbills in target areas in and around your neighborhood
  • Contact corporate organizations, high school leavers, churches and other religious centers, local community, haulage companies, transport and logistics companies, trucking companies, aspiring commercial truck drivers, and households within and outside the city you are operating in who have the capacity to pay for your services by calling them up and informing them of your CDL training school and the services you offer
  • Advertise your CDL training school in your official website and employ strategies that will help you pull traffic to the site
  • Brand all your official cars and trucks and ensure that all your staff members and management staff wear your branded shirt or cap at regular intervals
Ajaero Tony Martins