Start a truck driving school by following these 9 steps:
You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your truck driving school. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
STEP 1: Plan your Business
A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How long it will take you to break even?
- What will you name your business?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
What are the costs involved in opening a truck driving school?
Opening a school of any kind does require a significant amount of starting capital. The following should be included in your initial budget:
- Location - Your investment should have enough space for classrooms, as well as driving practice, which must be closed off from public traffic.
- Catalog - Every CDL school is required to have informational materials that are distributed to applicants and students. Requirements vary by state and accreditation.
- Educational Materials - In addition to your catalog, it’s a good idea to have a library, stocked with books and videos. This will assist students has they strive for higher learning. Visual aids, tools, and emergency equipment are also recommended. Your classrooms should also have A/V equipment, such as overhead projectors, chalkboards, and/or DVDs. Some schools choose to invest in training simulators. While this is a helpful tool, it should never replace the hands-on training one gets from driving an actual truck.
- Business software - You will need to invest in software to help manage your business. Scheduling software will assist you in scheduling driving lessons. Accounting software will help keep your books in order. It is also important that your student’s records are kept accurately and safely, and can be accessed for students quickly when needed.
- Trucks - To earn a reputation as a great driving school, you will need to keep your student to truck ratio low. This ensures each student receives the proper hands-on instruction and experience. While the vehicles don’t need to be brand new, it’s recommended that your school have well-maintained newer models.
- Teacher - You will need at least one reliable and qualified instructor.
- Advertising and marketing materials, including a website
Some school business owners report start-up capital requirements as low as $15,000, while others report spending upwards of $125,000.
What are the ongoing expenses for a truck driving school?
As indicated, it is recommended that you offer a PTDI-certified course, which will set you back almost $4,000. Additional costs include:
- Ongoing maintenance on your fleet of trucks
- Cost for printed material, both educational and marketing/advertising
- Overhead costs such as electric, phone, and Internet.
Who is the target market?
Your marketing efforts should be geared towards aspiring truck drivers across the country.
How does a truck driving school make money?
Your business will generate revenue from each student that signs up to complete your course.
How much can you charge customers?
The average tuition for a CDL school is $4,000 to $7,000. Prices vary based on region and reputation.
How much profit can a truck driving school make?
If you offer a 6 week class, with each class capped at 10 students, you will see 80 students per year. Use the standard tuition fee of $4,000 per student and you have generated $320,000 in revenue. If your ongoing expenses average $4,000 per month, you are still realizing a profit of $272,000.
How can you make your business more profitable?
As mentioned, your school will realize greater profits when you are able to offer a PTDI-certified course. In addition to a stronger reputation, the support PTDI offers will increase your school’s visibility. Once your school has built a strong reputation, many schools have found success offering franchise opportunities to other aspiring truck driving school owners. Many schools also offer continuing education programs and sell school-related products, such as hats and t-shirts.
What will you name your business?
Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.
After registering a domain name, consider setting up a professional email account (@yourcompany.com). Google's G Suite offers a business email service that comes with other useful tools, including word processing, spreadsheets, and more. Try it for free
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your truck driving school is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.
You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.
For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, and it's easy enough to form by yourself, or check out the top business formation services.
STEP 3: Register for taxes
You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.
In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!
You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.
STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card
Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.
When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.
Open a business bank account
- This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: You can get $200 when you open a Chase business checking account with qualifying activities. Learn more.
Get a business credit card
- This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
STEP 5: Set up business accounting
Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.
STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses
Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.
State & Local Business Licensing Requirements
Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a truck driving school business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.
For information about local licenses and permits:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
Certificate of Occupancy
A truck driving school business is generally run out of a place where the trucks can be stored and driven. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO). A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.
- If you plan to lease a location:
- It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
- Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a truck driving school business.
- After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
- If you plan to purchase or build a location:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your truck driving school business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.
Commercial Driver's License Requirements
It is important that your educators and curriculum meet all DMV requirements for commerical driver's license education, which can be found here.
STEP 7: Get Business Insurance
Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.
STEP 8: Define your brand
Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.
How to promote & market a truck driving school
Every business should be utilizing social media as part of their marketing strategy. This ensures you reach a larger audience, getting the word out to those you might not normally reach. Additionally, it is recommended that you advertise to trucking companies in your region, recruitment sites, and on truck driver forums.
How to keep customers coming back
Your reputation is based on word of mouth, and the recognition received through accreditation and certification. Aspiring truck drivers are investing a significant amount of money. They want to know they are getting the best possible education and have a clear shot at a job upon completion.
STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence
A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.
Start A Truck Driving School In Your State
Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.
Is this Business Right For You?
Have you spent years on the road, delivering goods from one location to another? Have you ever had the desire to share your knowledge and experience with those just starting their path in this career? Or, perhaps you’re feeling it is time for a change in career path, but you don’t want to leave the industry altogether? If so, opening a truck driving school may be exactly the change you are looking for.
What happens during a typical day at a truck driving school?
Operating a truck driving school means managing many moving parts. Your students will require both classroom and hands-on training. The curriculum must remain up-to-date, so it is critical that teachers remain abreast of emerging trends and the latest industry news. Accurate records must be maintained on every level of the business. Financials should be kept in order and student records must be organized. Many schools offer assistance with job placement upon course completion. While it is not recommended that you guarantee a job to each graduating student, a job placement program should be a part of your business plan.
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful truck driving school?
If you do not have experience working as a CDL driver, it is critical that you find someone who does have such experience and the ability to manage your business. Teachers are required to have a certain amount of experience, which varies by state. All driving instructors are also required to pass a state-approved driving instructor training class. Upon completion, they can apply for a CDL instructor license application. Check with your local DMV for more information.
Additionally, it is critical that you have strong business acumen, as managing a successful school requires a great deal of organization and the ability to make critical decisions with ease. Since interaction with students and staff is regular, strong communication skills are critical.
What is the growth potential for a truck driving school?
While there are several other methods available for transporting goods, trucks are still the preferred choice for many items. The demand for reliable and skilled truck drivers will always be high, making a truck driving school a worthy long-term investment. Entrepreneurs are urged to conduct thorough research ahead of time to ensure demand in the area is high.
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Take the Next Step
Find a business mentor
One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.
Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
What are some insider tips for jump starting a truck driving school?
Leaders in this industry offer the following advice, based on years in the field:
- Keep accurate records of everything. Understanding your sales, ongoing expenses, etc. will help you reach your goals on time and under budget.
- While some schools offer less training, it is recommended that your courses run for a minimum of 4-6 weeks of daily training.
- Reevaluate your school regularly. Failing to do so will only hinder your progress.
Strive to offer a Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI)-certified course. This will add significant value to your school. Accreditation is also recommended.
How and when to build a team
Payroll costs will be your biggest expense. Therefore, many schools trim the fat wherever possible when it comes to the team they employ. While high payroll costs stand to cut into your profit, it is critical that you have enough staff to cover your needs. Each member of your team should be educated and have a significant amount of experience in the field. They must be good communicators and have the patience to answer the multitude of questions someone just starting out may have.