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Best CDL Training in California

Trucking offers stable jobs because of driver shortages and a continuous need for truck drivers in the supply chain. Before you can get behind the wheel and drive for trucking companies, you will need a commercial driver’s license (CDL). You must have this license to drive heavy and large vehicles. California drivers have many CDL training choices to acquire the licensing they need.

Quicklook: Best CDL Training in California

  • Best for Evening Classes: Center for Employment Training
  • Best for Cost: Truck Nation School
  • Best for Specialized Niche Training: Western Truck School
  • Best for High Pass Rate: California Truck Driving Academy
  • Best for Financial Assistance: Dolphin Trucking School

5 Best CDL Training Programs in California

California has approximately 130 CDL training programs, but you only need one program to get the license you need. The prospect of reviewing 130 CDL training programs isn’t the best, but we have done the heavy lifting for you. Here are our top picks for the best CDL training programs in California.

Center for Employment Training

The Center for Employment Training (CET) offers a Truck Driver I accelerated course that takes 10 weeks to complete. Students partake in 300 hours of classroom and hands-on training offered in the evenings. Training is available at CET’s Soledad and El Centro schools. 

For students seeking more in-depth training in yard skills, inspections and hands-on driving, CET offers a Truck Driver program that takes an estimated 630 hours to complete. This course is also available at the El Centro and Soledad campuses. 

Cost: $5,875 for the Truck Driver I program. Tuition for the expanded Truck Driver program is $12,333 and includes books, tools, uniforms and supplies. 

Program length: The Truck Driver I course takes 300 hours to complete over a 10-week period. The Truck Driver program requires full-time attendance and can take between six and seven months to complete the 630-hour curriculum.  

Financial assistance: Students may be eligible for grants or student loans. Contact a financial aid officer at CET to find out whether you qualify for financial assistance. 

Tuition reimbursement: Students who have secured a job may be able to get partial or full tuition reimbursement from their future employer.  

Class size: 20 to 25 students

Job placement: CET offers job placement services. 

Online course: In-person only

CDL licenses: Class A  

Truck Nation School

Students who attend a Truck Nation School receive a combination of skills and classroom training across the program’s two locations. The school offers four programs that can be completed in between 48 hours and 350 hours. It offers private one-on-one training and has flexible hours throughout the week. 

Cost: Truck Nation offers four programs:

  • Basic: $2,000
  • Advanced: $2,500
  • Pro: $3,000
  • Expert: $4,000

Students who make a one-time payment of their tuition in full receive a $250 discount. 

Program length: Students enrolled in any of the four programs the school offers can take classes during the day, evening or on the weekends. 

  • Basic: 48 hours
  • Advanced: 80 hours
  • Pro: 160 hours
  • Expert: 350 hours

Financial assistance: For a minimum $500 down payment, students can set up a payment plan through the school. 

Tuition reimbursement: If you have secured a job with a trucking company, your new employer may be willing to reimburse you for part or all of your tuition. 

Class size: Not disclosed

Job placement: Truck Nation offers job placement assistance to students with the Pro or Expert programs. 

Online course: In-person only

CDL licenses: Class A 

Western Truck School

Western Truck School offers a variety of programs to students seeking their CDL. Its Class A Commercial Driver Program combines hands-on training with classroom instruction. It offers specialized programs for students seeking additional training in safety rules, mountain driving, forklift operation and other niche areas. 

Cost: Contact the school for program costs. 

Program Length: 

  • Class A Truck Driver Program: 160 hours 
  • Class A/B Truck Driver Program: 180 hours
  • Class B Truck Driver: 60 hours
  • Class B Passenger/Bus Driver: Three-week course
  • Class B/P Passenger/Bus Driver:  60 hours
  • Class C Truck Driver: One day

Financial assistance: The school does not offer financial aid services, but students should consult an admissions representative to find out whether they qualify for grants or private loans. The school may also offer a payment plan. 

Tuition reimbursement: Western Truck School does not have company-sponsored training available. If you secure a job with a trucking company, it may offer tuition reimbursement. 

Class size: Not disclosed

Job placement: Western Truck School offers job placement services before and after you complete its training course. 

Online course: In-person only

CDL licenses: 

  • Class A
  • Class B 

California Truck Driving Academy

The California Truck Driving Academy trains students to become commercial truck drivers. The academy offers a range of classes and boasts an 80% pass rate. The program is a mix of hands-on training and classroom instruction.  

Cost: Contact the school for program costs. 

Program length: 

  • Class A Commercial Driver Program runs 160 hours and can be completed in four to eight weeks.
  • Class A Commercial Driver Extended Program adds an additional 20 hours to its base CDL program.
  • Class A Advance Commercial Program takes 330 hours to complete. Students must attend day classes on a full-time basis. The course runs for eight weeks.
  • Class B Commercial Driver Program takes 40 hours to complete. Students work one-on-one with the instructor in this program.
  • Class P Passenger Commercial Driver Program requires 40 hours to complete. Similar to the Class B program, students train with instructors on a one-on-one basis.
  • Class A/P Combined Commercial Driver Program totals 180 hours and can be completed in 4 ½ to 8 ½ weeks. 
  • Class B/P Combined Commercial Driver Program spans 80 hours and may be completed in two to four weeks.

Financial assistance: Students may be eligible for tuition assistance with Vocational Rehabilitation Assistance, the Department of Rehabilitation or the Employment Development Department. 

Qualified students may be eligible for a partial scholarship or a payment plan. 

Tuition reimbursement: Your future employer may offer tuition reimbursement. 

Class size: Not disclosed

Job placement: Lifetime job placement assistance is available. 

Online course: In person

CDL licenses: 

  • Class A
  • Class B
  • Passenger licenses

Dolphin Trucking School

The Dolphin Trucking School prepares students for a career in the commercial trucking industry. The program includes classroom lectures, written materials and hands-on experience operating a tractor-trailer or bus. 

Cost: Tuition costs vary based on the program and may include relevant CDL application and testing fees.

  • Class A: $4,827
  • Class A w/ Passenger Endorsement: $6,480
  • Class B: $3,584
  • Commercial Driver Advanced Course: $3,150

Program length: Dolphin offers multiple training programs.

  • Class A: 168 hours
  • Class A w/ Passenger Endorsement: 240 hours
  • Class B w/ Passenger Endorsement: 120 hours
  • Commercial Driver’s License Advanced Course: 80 hours

Financial assistance: Students who are unemployed or have been laid off may be eligible for grants or other funding. The school offers scholarships to students who qualify, as well as payment plans. 

Tuition reimbursement: Tuition reimbursement may be available through your future employer.  

Class size: The school offers individual and group training. 

Job placement: Lifetime job placement assistance is available to help students get interviews with local and national trucking companies. 

Online course: In-person only 

CDL licenses: 

  • Class A
  • Class B

How Does CDL Training in California Work?

California requires a specialized license to operate a commercial motor vehicle (CMV). Vehicles are considered to be CMVs if they meet any of the following criteria:

  • A single vehicle or combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) of 26,001 pounds or more. 
  • A three-axle vehicle that weighs more than 6,000 pounds
  • A vehicle that transports hazardous materials that require placards. 
  • A vehicle designed to carry more than 10 passengers, including the driver

The specialized commercial driving license (CDL) requirement is based on the weight of the vehicle. But the type of license varies depending on the vehicle’s weight and its purpose. 

  • Commercial Class A: This specialized license is required when operating a commercial vehicle (or multiple vehicles) with a GVWR of 26,001 pounds or more, with the vehicle being towed having a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or more. 
  • Commercial Class B: This license is required when operating a single vehicle with a GVWR of 26,000 pounds or more. The vehicle being towed cannot weigh over 10,000 GVWR. For towed vehicles with three axles, a Commercial B license is necessary if it weighs over 6,000 pounds.  
  • Commercial Class C: Vehicles that meet a Class C definition have one or more of the following endorsements:
    • Passenger vehicle (PV)
    • Tank vehicle (TV)
    • Hazardous materials (HazMat)

In California, you may only have one type of CDL. So, if you have a Class A license, you are authorized to operate vehicles with a Class B or Class C rating. Should you have a Class B license, you may also operate a Class C vehicle.  Those with Class C licenses may only operate vehicles that meet this criterion. 

To obtain a CDL in California, you must: 

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be at least 21 years old to drive over state lines or transport hazardous materials 
  • Have a valid California driver’s license that allows the applicant to operate a noncommercial Class C vehicle 
  • Apply for and receive a temporary Commercial Learner’s Permit (CLP), which is valid for 180 days and may be renewed for a period that does not exceed one year from the initial application date 
  • Take the skills test after passing the knowledge test and waiting 14 days after the CLP has been issued.  The skills test includes;
    • Vehicle inspection
    • Basic control skills
    • Road test
  • Submit all required paperwork and requested documents
  • Pay your license fee

California Trucking School Facts and Figures

California offers various CDL training programs throughout the state. In addition to training, many schools offer tuition assistance and job placement services to help their graduates find jobs.  

Number of Schools

California has approximately 130 CDL training programs. You can find CDL training programs at trade schools, private teaching facilities and colleges throughout California.

Number of Students per Class

The average class size is 27 students. If you don’t want to be in a large class, you have choices. Many CDL schools offer one-on-one training or smaller group settings. 

Tuition Rates

Tuition rates vary based on the program selected and available financial assistance. The average tuition paid by students for CDL training in California is $2,561. 

Average Loan Amount

Not every student qualifies for a grant, but you can get financing to cover tuition costs if you can’t pay on your own. The average loan for a student attending a CDL training program in California is $5,254.


Schools that offer scholarship programs award an average of $1,897 to students enrolled in CDL training programs.  

Job Placement

Most CDL training schools offer job placement assistance to their students. Not only is this service available to current students, but many schools also offer lifetime assistance to graduates of their programs. A single job placement can provide a return on your investment and a stable income.

California Trucking Employment Facts and Figures

CDL truck drivers in California have numerous career opportunities. The state has the second-highest employment for heavy and tractor-trailer drivers in the nation, and continued driver shortages give employed drivers an edge. California drivers also make more money than the average driver. California heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers enjoy an average salary that is approximately 5% higher than the national average.


The state of California has plenty of employment opportunities for CDL drivers. You’ll find over 14,000 CDL truck driving jobs based in California. These positions range from local delivery routes, multistate transport and bus drivers.  

Biggest EmployerAverage SalaryCompany Size
Swift Transportation$43,72610,000+
Werner Enterprises Inc.$58,91710,000 +
CRST The Transportation Solution Inc.$299 per day5,001 – 10,000
Schneider National Inc.$44,83710,000 +
Covenant Logistics Group Inc.$1,226 per week1001 – 5000


Salaries vary across companies and industries, but the average salary serves as a useful gauge. The average salary for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in California is:

Weekly: $988

Monthly: $4,283

Yearly: $51,400

Get the Education You Need to Get a Good Salary

A CDL license opens new doors and lets you tap into more career opportunities. Truck drivers are in strong demand, and receiving an education through the right program can help you get a good salary. Some CDL programs help students get jobs in the trucking industry, making the path to a stable career easier.


How much does CDL training cost in California?

Costs vary for CDL training programs, but most are more than $5,000.

How many questions are on the CDL permit test in California?

California’s CDL permit test has 50 questions.

How long is CDL school in California?

Most CDL schools in California have six- to eight-week training programs.

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