Starting a new career is challenging for many reasons. When specific qualifications are required, it can be costly too. While a career as a truck driver can offer a great return on the investment required to obtain a commercial license, finding the money upfront is not easy.
With many provinces requiring some form of enhanced entry-level training for drivers to obtain the license necessary to operate a highway tractor-trailer, these costs have grown dramatically in recent years. These training costs can approach a full year of college tuition.
Fortunately, there are ways for prospective truckers to receive funding for their training. In the sections below, we will describe some of these options with the hopes of showing curious individuals that a commercial license may be more affordable than they think.
If you already work for an organisation that operates commercial trucks, you may be able to secure funding through your current employer. There are several ways of doing this.
Canada Job Grant
The Canada Job Grant is a Federal program in Canada where employers in participating provinces can access government money to train their employees. Both the employer and the government contribute to the training costs.
Under this program, you need to be employed by an organisation that is willing to apply for the funding. Many organisations that operate commercial trucks are frequently looking for drivers, so if you already work for such a place they may consider training you instead of hiring externally simply because they already know you.
If external funding is not an option for your employer, you may still be able to negotiate with them directly for funding. The willingness of a company to provide paid training varies dramatically between different organisations, but, given the challenges of recruiting and retaining drivers, this may still be an attractive option for your boss if you approach the conversation properly.
No one will know your standing with your employer better than you, so we cannot offer specific advice for your situation. However, here are some guidelines for handling this negotiation:
- Be able to explain why getting your commercial license will benefit your employer;
- Offer to contribute part of the funds or extra working hours to complete the training;
- Be willing to sign an agreement stating you will repay the training costs unless you stay in your position for a specified period of time (make sure this is fair for you);
- In case they are not aware of the Canada Job Grant, see if it is an option for them.
Negotiating a training agreement with your employer can feel intimidating, but remember: what you are asking for is for them to invest in you so that you are of more value to the organisation. When framed this way, the training becomes a win-win situation.
Are you currently unemployed or recently out of school and looking to get into trucking? Perhaps you have been laid off from your industry and want to use this time to make a change. If you are out of work, there may be options for you to obtain a trucking license.
Conditional Employment Offer Programs: Manitoba Truck Driver Training
Some government-funded programs exist in different provinces to assist unemployed individuals in obtaining their commercial licenses without cost as long as they have a conditional offer of employment. This means that you may qualify for such a program if you have found a company that has agreed to hire you on the condition that you complete the necessary driver training.
A conditional employment offer program may sound odd; how can you get an offer of employment as a truck driver without having the license? While many potential employers may not be able to hire you without experience, there are companies out there in a position to do this.
In Manitoba, for example, eligible applicants with an offer of employment and letter of acceptance from a training school may be able to have their training costs covered. This program is aimed at reducing driver shortages, so if you are in Manitoba and interested, check it out.
Unemployment Retraining Assistance: Alberta Driving Back to Work Grant
Those who are unemployed may be eligible for government assistance if they want to get into the trucking industry. These types of government programs do not necessarily require a conditional offer of employment, but they may have specific conditions.
Get in touch with your local provincial government office and see what employment supports exist for you. If the government is willing to invest in your training, your career transition could be easier than you thought.
In Alberta, for example, there is a recent program called the Driving Back to Work Grant that can assist unemployed Albertans in obtaining their Class 1 license. With expensive Mandatory Entry-Level Training now required in Alberta for new Class 1 and Class 2 drivers, this grant will come as a major relief for the lucky recipients.
Underrepresented Groups: Ontario Training Funding for Women and Underrepresented Groups
The trucking industry in Canada is not as diverse as many other Canadian industries. There are initiatives to change the representation of certain demographics, though, and if you do your research you may find a program for you.
Women are tremendously underrepresented in the Canadian trucking industry, and this subject has received considerable attention in the media. In Ontario, for example, there is a program in the Waterloo region that will help fund women and other underrepresented groups so that they may obtain careers in the trucking industry.
The costs of retraining for a new career or first career are intimidating. With the trucking industry increasing entry-level training requirements in many parts of Canada, the costs of entering the industry as a driver are at all-time highs in many provinces.
We hope that this article has shown that there are options for many to receive assistance with these costs. If you want to start a new career as a professional driver, you may be able to do so without spending as much as you once thought.