Facts for Consumers from the Federal Trade Commission

Truck-Driving Schools -- April 1993

When you see recruitment ads for truck-driving schools, you should know that advertising claims made by some schools may not be true. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has brought charges against several truck-driving schools for false advertising. This fact sheet describes what deceptive practices the FTC has found, suggests questions to ask when talking to a sales agent or visiting a truck-driving school, mentions alternatives to private truck-driver training, and recommends precautions to take before applying.

Common Deceptive Practices

The FTC has investigated complaints and ordered some private truck-driving schools to correct the way they represent training and employment opportunities in their ads. For example: Some schools misrepresented the thoroughness of the job training. The FTC found that some courses did not provide enough hours of road instruction or driving experience to qualify students for a truck-driving job.

Some schools failed to tell students about cancellation and refund policies or failed to make refunds in keeping with their policies.

Many students who paid substantially for a course, sometimes more than $2,000, received no tuition refund when they dropped out of training.

Some schools misrepresented chances of future employment in the industry.

These schools misled students into believing there was a demand for their graduates as well-trained truck drivers -- that there would be jobs when they completed the course. But most schools provided only basic training and could not assure jobs, nor offer employment.

Some schools misrepresented their business connections with the industry.

They claimed to have special ties with trucking companies when, in fact, they did not.

Questions to Ask School Representatives

After answering an ad for a truck-driving school, you may be invited to see a school representative, a sales agent, or an instructor. Use the school's advertising claims as the basis for your questions and call others to verify the information. Below are six claims frequently made by truck-driving school representatives.

"Fast training -- only four weeks."

Ask the school's representative how much on-the-road training you get in the course and if that amount of time meets state licensing requirements. Then call the state trucking authority where you want to be licensed and ask if the state has any basic requirements. Compare whether the course meets the licensing requirements of the state. Often the first half of the training course consists of a home-study program of reading materials and "tests" that cost hundreds of dollars. Only the last half of the course -- 10 days to 2 weeks -- is the "hands-on" or "resident training." That part of the course may be too short and inadequate to qualify a student for an entry-level job as a truck driver.

"No previous driving experience necessary."

Ask the school's representative how many of their former students go directly from training school to truck-driving jobs. Then call local people in the trucking industry to find out their hiring requirements for newly-trained drivers. Many times, newcomers start out as dockworkers and freight loaders until a driver position opens up in a company.

"Earn high wages."

Ask the school's representative about starting salaries for newly-trained truck drivers the school has helped place. You can verify these entry-level salaries by calling your state trucking association or a local trucking business.

"Receive placement assistance."

Ask the school's representative how their job placement works. Ask where the school has placed drivers after training. Sometimes "placement services" amount to little more than providing you with clippings from newspaper "Help Wanted" ads.

''Financial Assistance Available.''

Ask the school's representative for a written list of all the fees and costs. If you need financial assistance, find out what costs will be covered by your loan and whether refunds are available if you cancel.

''Anyone Can Qualify.''

Ask the representative what qualifications are needed to become a truck driver. Requirements may vary according to the type of truck and the nature of the company's business. You may have to be at least 18 years of age and, under most state laws, have a chauffeur's license.

You can call your state motor vehicle department to find out what is required to get this license. You also can consult the Occupational Outlook Handbook, published by the U.S. Department of Labor, found in any library. The handbook provides current information about industry employment trends, training requirements, and qualifications necessary to enter any industry, including truck-driving.

State-Supported Truck-Driver Training

As an alternative to a relatively expensive truck-driving school, you may be able to attend truck-driving courses offered through tax-supported community colleges, technical institutes, or vocational schools in your state. These schools also can qualify you for job opportunities in the trucking industry.

To find the names of such schools, contact a state educational authority, a state trucking association, local trucking companies, or nationally recognized accrediting organization, such as the Career College Association (CCA). You can write to CCA at 750 First Street, N.E., Washington, DC 20002, or call (202) 336-6700.

Some Suggestions

Before signing up for truck-driver training, ask several schools for written information about their programs. This will help you choose the best school for you and save both time and money in the long run. The following suggestions also might be helpful.

Talk to the management of local trucking firms about the school you are interested in attending. Find out if they hire graduates from that school.

Ask counselors at your high school, community college, vocational school, or technical institute if your state offers training for truck drivers.

Inquire whether a truck-driving school is accredited by your state's accrediting or licensing board before you apply. Each state is different, so call your state government's general information operator, who can direct you to the state agency with that information.

Check with the Professional Truck Driving Institute of America (PTDIA) to see if the truck-driving course meets the U.S. Department of Transportation's (DOT) voluntary standards. Not all truck-driving courses have volunteered to be evaluated by PTDIA. But if a course has undergone evaluation, PTDIA can tell you if it meets, exceeds, or does not meet DOT's standards. You can contact PTDIA at 2200 Mill Road, Alexandria, VA 22314, (703) 838-8842, Fax: (703) 838-6610.

Read any school's application carefully before you sign it. Understand your rights and responsibilities under the contract. Make sure all promises are in writing.

Know the tuition costs and your cancellation and refund rights in case you do not finish the training.

Get a loan, if you need it for tuition, through a reliable source and understand the terms. Financial aid may be available to you through the U.S. Department of Education. This agency can provide you with information about Federal student financial-aid programs and help you complete a financial-aid application. Their toll-free number is (800) 433-3243.

Be wary of truck-driving schools that claim immediate employment upon graduation.

Contact your local or state consumer protection office and Better Business Bureau to learn if any complaints have been made against the school you are considering.

To Report Problems

If you enroll in a truck-driving course and a problem occurs that you cannot resolve with the school, send a letter describing your problem to your local or state consumer protection office. Send a copy of your letter to: Correspondence Branch, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, D.C. 20580. Although the FTC cannot represent you directly in a dispute with a company, it can act if there is evidence of a pattern of deceptive or unfair sales practices.

If you borrowed Federal funds to pay for truck-driver training, you can also call the Department of Education to report your problem. The toll-free number is: (800) MIS-USED, or in Washington, D.C., call 205-5770.


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