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How to Start a Driving School in Indiana: A Step-by-Step Guide
Here you’ll learn everything you need to start your Driving School in Indiana
Compared to many states, Indiana makes it relatively easy to establish a driving school. You still need to complete forms, and meet requirements, but the state seems to be driving-school friendly.
Indiana driving schools may offer classroom instruction, behind-the-wheel training, or both. Some driving schools may also participate in the testing waiver program, in which the school itself manages the driving tests for the state.
How to open your driving school in Indiana
- Indiana requires driving schools to be licensed, and the licenses last for two years.
- Driving instructor licenses require at least 60 semester hours of college course work, including 9 hours of driver education courses.
- You must maintain student records as well as use written contracts.
- Your classroom curriculum must last for at least 30 hours, and your behind-the-wheel course for 6 hours.
- Indiana truck driving schools are governed much the same as regular driving schools.
Driving School Licensing and Requirements
To operate a driving school in Indiana, you will need to be licensed by the state. Licenses are valid for two years, from July 1 to June 30 two years later–which means you should plan around a July 1 opening. Applications should be submitted online. Your application packet must include:
- Full information about your driving school, including all branches, owners, and partners.
- The name and contact information for each instructor.
- The make, model, VIN, and license plate number for each vehicle you’ll be using.
- Consent to a criminal background check.
- Proof of registration with the Indiana Secretary of State as well as your assumed business name certificate from your county recorder’s office.
- Copies of all contracts you have with people who conduct business with the school connected with driver education fees.
- Schedule of all tuition and fees.
- Samples of your student contracts
- Insurance of liability certificate
- Completed instructional standards worksheet demonstrating that you meet the classroom and behind-the-wheel curriculum standards.
The current regulations for driver training schools are available online, as is the Application packet.
Indiana requires the following minimum liability insurance coverage:
- $100,000 for bodily injury/death to one person in an accident.
- $300,000 for bodily injury/death to two or more persons in one accident.
- $25,000 for property damage in any one accident.
If you have employees, you must carry workers’ compensation insurance covering them–and you–in the event of injury while on the job.
Driving Instructor’s License
While no specific requirements are set for driving school owners, instructors must demonstrate qualification before they receive a license from Indiana. The process to apply is outlined by the state, and must be submitted online. Driving instructors must
- Be at least 21 years old, and either a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the US.
- Undergo a criminal background check
- Hold a valid driver’s license.
- Submit the results of a physical examination
- Have at least 60 semester hours of college credit, including 9 semester hours of driver education courses.
You are generally free to establish your business anywhere you see fit–meeting the requirements outlined below. You can choose to have classroom space, or you may conduct classroom driver education at off-site locations, including local public or private schools. Your contract with the school should be included in your license application.
You must display your license conspicuously in your office. If you are providing classroom instruction at your own site, the classroom must be at least 225 square feet in size. You must provide adequate light and heat, as well as at least 1 unisex restroom with a functioning lock.
You must post your office hours near the office entrance, and must maintain “reasonable and regular” hours of operation. You may not conduct any other business from the office. Agents of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles may inspect the office and attend classroom instruction without notice.
Your school name cannot be substantially similar to that of another driving school, and you may not use the words “State”, “Government”, “Municipal”, “City”, or “County” in the school name, and you must use your school’s name only in advertising and publicity.
Don’t ever give a student or parent the impression that your instruction guarantees receiving a driver’s license–you may mention your pass rate.
Records and Contracts
You will need to keep records of all students for at least thirty-six months after they finish their training with you. The BMV may inspect and make copies records at anytime. Indiana expects records to be kept electronically.
You need to create a student record which contains the following information:
- All payments from the student
- A copy of the contract/registration form.
- Full name, address, and driver’s license number
- Phone number and email address.
- Dates, times, and grades from classroom instruction.
- Dates, times, and grades from behind-the-wheel instruction.
- Date of course completion.
- The official skills test score sheets for any tests the student took, if you are a participant in the Bureau-approved waiver program.
You must have written contracts with your students. The contract must state the agreed price per hour, lesson, or course. In addition, it must state any other charges. Each each student must provide each student with the “Bill of Rights and Code of Responsibilities for Driver Education Students”. You may provide them a copy, or post it on your website (or both–and you might want to note its presence on the website as part of the contract).
The Driving School Curriculum in Indiana
Indiana mandates the specific topics covered by the curriculum for every driving school, both for the in-class as well as the behind-the-wheel portions of driver’s education. You are, of course, free to add information.
Your classroom course must last for at least 30 hours, and the behind-the-wheel course must last for 6 hours. You must plan around the following time constraints:
- The total course must last for at least 16 days, but for no more than 120 days.
- No more than 3 classroom and 1 hour of behind-the-wheel instruction may be completed in a 24 hour period.
- No more than 5 3-hour class sessions and 3 1-hour behind the wheel sessions may take place in 7 consecutive days.
- You may not allow more than 2 5 minute breaks in the first 45 minutes of each hour of instruction (we’d recommend taking 1 10 minute break at 50 minutes into each hour).
Indiana expects the classroom portion of the course will cover the following topics; you will have to provide an outline of your curriculum as part of your application.
- Knowledge of the Indiana motor vehicle and traffic laws as well as organ donation
- Safe driving practices, including avoiding aggressive drivers
- Driving on different surfaces and in different kinds of traffic.
- Driver responsibility and accident reporting
- Defensive driving
- Drugs, alcohol, and mental attitudes
- Distracted driving
- Maintenance and emergencies
- Basic driving skills
Your behind-the-wheel course must ensure that each student can demonstrate ability in the following skills:
- Stopping, starting, and shifting
- Turning, lane changing, and lane positioning
- Signaling and merging
- Backing, parallel parking, and steering
In Indiana, new drivers have to complete 50 hours of supervised driving in addition to time driving as part of driver’s education. Supervised driving requires a licensed driver to be in the front seat next to the driver. The supervising drivers may be driving instructors, parents, guardians, and others. To count as a supervising driver in Indiana, the person must either be a driving instructor, or
- A licensed driver who is a member of the family and over the age of 25 years
- A spouse of at least 21 years old
At least 10 of the 50 hours must be completed at night. Use the state’s Log of Supervised Driving Practice to track your time.
Commercial Driver’s License Instruction
Providing instruction for students pursuing a CDL in Indiana generally follow those for the regular driver’s license. In this section, we’ll note the key differences.
You have to file a surety bond with the state in an amount equal to the average tuition income.
You must provide at least 120 hours of instruction for a Class A CDL course, and 80 hours for a class B CDL.
Some truck driving training schools may also become testing sites for the Indiana BMV.
Starting a Small Business in Indiana
Your driving school is not just subject to the requirements for driver’s education in Indiana. You also need to establish your Driving School as a small business, and have to consider a number of factors. The form of business you take up, as well as the procedures, are appropriate topics of conversation with your lawyer and accountant. The considerations we offer here are not legal advice, but should provide you with things to think about as you set up your business.
All businesses need to register in Indiana, especially the business name—the “doing business as” certificate. Banks may not be willing to set up your account until you have that DBA form. We’ll include where to register in the business structures below.
You will also need to obtain a Federal Employer Identification Number. Banks may need it for your business accounts, and you may be wanting to employ people. To obtain an EIN, go to the IRS website and complete the application form you find linked there.
Before you get going, you’ll want to check to see if the business name you want is in fact available in Indiana. You can search the Indiana database, as well as visit the office of the county recorder.
Once you know your business name is available, you can reserve it online with the Secretary of State–if you’re forming a corporation or LLC.
Owning your own business is the easiest one to set up, but also may open you to liability concerns. As a sole proprietor, your business is simply part of your life. You keep a separate set of books, and complete a Schedule C for your 1040 form every April.
Sole proprietorships can expose the proprietor for full liability, even with insurance. That may mean that if you are sued, you may lose your home and property, as well as your personal bank accounts and other assets. This risk may not be worth the ease and independence.
In Indiana, the big step you have to take is to register your Assumed Business Name with the recorder of each county in which you have a place of interest.
Corporations and LLCs
You may set up a full corporation (“Inc.”) as your business structure. Corporations limit your liability for loss to your investment in it, as a general rule (although banks may require you to be obligated personally if you take out a loan to get your business going). This form of business keeps your personal assets safe.
As an owner of a corporation, you’ll have to set up your driving school consistently with the rules for corporations in Indiana–those rules can be found at <this state run website>. You’ll also have to decide whether to be an S Corporation or a C Corporation. Generally, the S Corporation form is set up for small businesses. It allows income and taxes to pass through to the owners. You will want to discuss these forms with your attorney and accountant.
You may be able to set your driving school up as an LLC in Indiana. The LLC form provides the same limited liability as a Corporation, but do not have to comply with the corporate formalities most states require, including items like bylaws, required stockholder meetings, and minutes (although minutes of meetings are probably a good idea).
You’ll have to discuss the advantages and disadvantages for the LLC with your attorney and accountant.
Both Corporations and LLCs file with the Secretary of State. In addition to name reservation, you’ll need to submit the following.
Now What Do I Do?
Once you’ve complied with all the legal requirements to be both a driving school and a small business in Indiana, you need to get students.
Getting students requires marketing—largely on the internet. You will need the following systems set up to obtain students:
- A website—focused on the types of students you want to attract, and aimed at your locality.
- The website should also include a blog, which allows you write about a variety topics and engage in Search Engine Optimization—which will drive traffic to your site.
- A Facebook page, linked to your website, to become noticed and drive traffic.
- Getting testimonials from successful students.
Marketing is something you will have to devote time to. DrivingSchool.Marketing can help you get the best bang for your marketing buck.
Disclaimer: This page is part of DrivingSchool.Marketing’s series of state and provincial pages designed to help entrepreneurs like you start driving schools. States change their regulations, or the web pages they host their forms. While we believe these rules are accurate as of the date of publication, we cannot guarantee full accuracy. Please let us know if you spot any problems.
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