The learning curve of becoming a tractor trailer driver can be both a difficult and rewarding one. Driving truck isn’t just something you pick up in a day or so of practice - it requires discipline, patience and tenacity to handle a vehicle with such size and power.
The costs of truck driving school and other commercial driving jobs can be high as well. The differences between driving a regular passenger vehicle and a heavy commercial vehicle are vast. In this post, we’ll outline what’s required of you as a driver, and help expose some ways to help you pay for your career training programs.
What Type of Licensing and Training do you Need?
In order to become a licensed truck driver, the province of British Columbia’s licensing bureau, ICBC, dictates that you’ll first need a commercial learner’s licence. To earn your learner’s licence you’ll first have to study and pass a knowledge test. There may also be an air brake knowledge test. You’ll need to read an up-to-date version of ICBC’s Driving Commercial Vehicles guide to study for a Class 1-4 licence, and air brake endorsement or heavy trailer endorsement.
This guide is available online free of charge. Taking the test can be completed at any driver licensing office - except Cloverdale and Surrey Guildford. You will need to bring accepted identification, payment for your test and licence and a parent or legal guardian if you’re 18 and applying for a Class 3.
The test comprises 35 multiple choice questions and is only offered in English - translators are not permitted. To pass the commercial air brake knowledge test, you’ll need to first complete an air brake course with a certified driving school.
The commercial driver's road test is broken up into two sections; a pre-trip inspection process (including an Air Brake inspection) as well as a formal road test. You’ll be asked to demonstrate a full pre-trip process in detail and explain to your driver examiner what you’re doing and checking. You’ll be required to start and stop the vehicle, shift gears, turn, steer and reverse the vehicle; park it, merge with highway traffic and exit safely from highways, as well as drive confidently and safely in traffic. If you’re applying for a Class 1 licence, you’ll need to demonstrate how to couple and uncouple a tractor unit from a trailer.
What Does it Cost?
Truck driver training programs are invaluable to getting you the experience driving heavy vehicles. Programs vary, but Valley Driving School offers a Class 3 standard transmission program for $1499. A full Class 1 training program can cost over $3,600 and a Class 1 upgrade course can cost over $1,100. ICBC fees are not included in these driver training prices, meaning that many new drivers may be interested in finding programs, grants and helpful tips on how to reduce the costs associated with truck driving school. So what’s available?
Will Unemployment Pay for Truck Driving School?
In short, yes. In Canada, Unemployment (EI) can be used to pay for courses or training programs like truck driver school; however, it comes with its own rules and regulation that must be followed.
As a general rule, you must be able to show that you are unemployed, able and willing to work - and be actively looking for suitable work to be entitled to regular EI benefits. When you decide to take a truck driver's training course independently of being directed to do so by a designated authority, you must be able to prove that the course will not become an obstacle to your active job hunt or impede on your ability to accept new employment.
If you have been referred to a training program or course, you will continue to receive EI benefits because you are still considered unemployed, capable, and available to work during the period of your training course. If by chance you’re directed by a designated authority to take a course, you would be considered to be justified in leaving your position voluntarily. You must also notify the government of your participation on a course of training program.
Employment and Social Development Canada also offers its own slew of training programs that individuals can take advantage of to overcome potential obstacles in the labour market. They include training, education and jobs for Indigenous peoples, youth, and employment benefits and support measures.
Can You Get Financial Aid For Truck Driving School?
In 2014, and through the Canada-British Columbia Job Grant, the reality of insufficient truck drivers in BC has prompted the provincial government to provide full funding to eligible individuals for Class 1 Driver Training programs. To be eligible, you must be unemployed, legally entitled to work in BC, a resident of the province, and you must not be currently receiving any employment insurance, or have received it in the last three years.
Can You Claim Truck Driving School On Your Taxes?
Yes, you can. In Canada, truck driving school is eligible for deduction from approved educational institutions. The amount shown on receipts given to students may qualify for purposes under paragraph 118.5(1)(a) of the federal Income Tax Act.
Most driving schools can also provide a T2202, a special form for post-secondary training programs. These receipts and forms would simply accompany the remainder of your income tax filings to be brought to a tax accountant to be processed.
In short, truck driving school can help you advance your career in such a way that gives you some financial and occupational freedom - fortunately, the province of British Columbia and Canada can help you to make the process of achieving your licence and handling the associated costs a bit easier.