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How to Start a Driving School in Ohio: A Step-by-Step Guide

Here you’ll learn everything you need to start your Driving School in Ohio

Ohio’s system for starting and running driving schools–which are owned by driver training enterprise–is highly regulated, but the state makes the regulations and forms relatively simple to complete.

Ohio driver training schools may offer classroom instruction and behind-the-wheel training.. Schools which offer a 24-hour classroom instruction and 6-hour behind-the-wheel course may issue a Certificate of Course Completion.

How to open your driving school in Ohio

  • Driving schools in Ohio are subject to the rules of the Department of Public Safety.
  • Owners and instructors are required to be licensed.
  • You must have an office location as well as a classroom location which holds at least 10 students.
  • You must keep detailed driving school student records for three years, and provide all students with written contracts.
  • You must follow the state curriculum outlines for both the classroom and behind-the-wheel portions of your instruction.
  • CDL schools are subject to largely parallel requirements.

Driving School Licensing and Requirements

General requirements

To operate a driving school in Ohio, you will need to be licensed by the state. Licenses are valid for one year. Applications should be submitted online. The Department of Public Safety (DPS) is the governing authority for all driver training enterprises, and the forms can be found on their website. Submit a completed application form, as well as the following information and documentation:

  • State and Federal criminal background checks.
  • Current fire inspection (no more than one year old)
  • Lease agreement for your place(s) of business
  • A surety bond or escrow account of $10,000 plus $2,000 for each additional school run by the enterprise.
  • Insurance coverage for your vehicles
  • Proof of filing with the Secretary of State
  • Proof of attendance at a new school orientation session.
  • Your training manager’s certificate of training.

You and your instructors should be intimately aware of the regulations covering driver training enterprises. They are quite detailed and thorough.

Ohio requires the following minimum liability insurance coverage:

  • $100,000 bodily injury to one person
  • $300,000 bodily injury to more than one person
  • $5,000 personal injury protection–medical expenses, primarily
  • Uninsured motorist bodily injury insurance
  • $25,000 property damage

In lieu of the bodily injury liability coverage noted above, you may have a combined single limit covers of $400,000.

If you have employees, you must carry workers’ compensation insurance covering them–and potentially you–in the event of injury while on the job. You should, of course, consider higher coverages and/or an umbrella policy to cover your operations.

Driving School Owner’s License

Ohio places few personal requirements on owners of driving schools. The main bar would be conviction for a number of crimes involving fraudulent behavior or moral turpitude.

Your school license expires on December 31 of each year, and may be renewed annually. The renewal application must be filed by November 30. You should submit it before Thanksgiving, certified mail/return receipt requested.

Your school will have to designate an Authorizing Official (AO) who is responsible for the school’s operation (this person is probably you!).

A driving school in Ohio may be a full Driver Education Provider or offer the Driver Skills Development Program to new or licensed drivers on an off-road courses.

Driving Instructor’s License

While no specific requirements are set for driving school owners, instructors must demonstrate qualification before they receive a license from Ohio. Submit the application form and the $25 fee. Instructors must meet the following qualifications.

  • Be at least 21 years old. and have at least a high school diploma (or the equivalent).
  • Have at least 24 months driving experience in the license class you will be teaching.
  • Not have a suspended or revoked license.
  • Pass the state and federal criminal background checks.
  • Submit the physical examination form.
  • Pass the knowledge and skills tests.
  • Complete a basic instructor course of 52 hours.

You will need to submit a physical examination form annually to the appropriate person at the driver training enterprise which employs you. The personnel records are subject to DPS inspection.

Instructor licenses must be renewed annually. It must be postmarked no later than 365 days after the date of issuance.

The training manager must assess all new instructors within 180 days of their licensure.

Training managers must be licensed instructors.

Location

You are generally free to establish your business anywhere you see fit–meeting the requirements outlined below. You must have both an office space and classroom facility, although they do not need to be at the same location. You may not operate out of your home, and you may not share office or classroom space with any other driver training enterprise.

Your office space must meet local and state building requirements, and it must be accessible to the public during your regular business hours. The office must be big enough to maintain the required records, display the school license, and have sufficient space to meet clients. Your

Your office and classroom must be physically separated by a wall. If that is not possible, then the office must be closed during classroom instruction. Your office must be in the same county–or an adjacent one–as the school for which student paper records are stored.

You may not locate your school within 1,500 feet of any office of the Registry of Motor Vehicles, although the Registrar may waive this requirement.

Your school and instructor certificates must be conspicuously, along with any inspection reports.

Records must be maintained at your main business office.

Classroom facilities must be in a building suitable for instruction. Compliance with local and state sanitation requirements is expected. The classroom must be equipped with suitable desks, tables, chairs and other items appropriate to the setting.

Your classroom must be able to seat at least 10 students and instructor. It should be set up to avoid distractions.

Ohio requires your office to have a computer and printer, with email and internet access.

If you offer online driver education, you must have a technical support person and an online instructor available during posted, reasonable hours. Hours should be posted on your website.

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.

Vehicles

Your vehicles need to have dual controls for the brakes as well as an inside rearview mirror for the instructor. They must have passed the most recent Ohio safety and emissions inspections.

Signage needs to be on the vehicle, identifying the driver as a “STUDENT DRIVER”–letters must be at least 3” high, and be visible from front and rear or the sides. You may add “Student Driver” on the sides, as well as your school name–but the letters can be no larger than 2” high.

Records and Contracts

You will need to keep records of all students and instruction for at least three years after they finish their training with you. The records you need to keep are:

  • The material taught to each student in each session
  • Student names, addresses, permit numbers, dates and times of each session, including break times.
  • Students and instructors initial  each behind-the-wheel session, and the training manager signs the final record.
  • The student record will include the number/state of issue of the Certificate of Completion.
  • Copies of the contract with each student.
  • Assessments of each instructor.

You also need to keep copies of each instructor’s license, the performance bond, certificates of insurance, and other appropriate items. The details are found in the regulations.

You must have written agreements with your students, and a copy must be held for three years. The agreements must include the following:

  • Full address of the classroom
  • The student’s date of birth if under 18.
  • All charges
  • Use (or not) of a school-owned vehicle for the road skills tests.
  • Classroom and behind-the-wheel hours covered by the agreement.
  • Signatures of the AO, training manager, or instructor
  • Signature of the student.
  • A definite ending date for the instruction.
  • The statement that “Driver training schools are licensed by the Department of Public Safety through the Ohio Traffic Safety Office, 1970 West Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43223.”
  • The refund policy or training denial policy.

The Driving School Curriculum in Ohio

Commercial driving training schools may offer both the required 24-hour classroom program and the 8 hours of behind-the-wheel education. Each hour must involve 60 minutes of instruction; thus, you should offer a two hour lesson in a 2 hour 15 minute block to allow for breaks.

Your 24-hour classroom course must be organized as follows:

  • Between 3 and 9 hours may be devoted to videos, slides or films relating to driver training.
  • All training must be completed within 6 months of the first date of instruction.
  • No student may receive more than four hours of training in one day. A break at the midpoint of a session longer than two hours is expected.
  • Students must make up missed sessions before the next one.
  • Final exams must be given, and held on to by your as a school record for 3 years.

You may not begin behind-the-wheel instruction until the student has received at least 2 hours of classroom instruction (and the student has the temporary permit). Students may not receive more than three hours of behind-the-wheel instruction per day–those 3 hours count towards the maximum of four per day total.

The modules you must teach during the 24 hour classroom course are:

  • Orientation, the Driving System, and Vehicle Familiarity
  • Basic Vehicle Control
  • Traffic Control Devices and Laws
  • Perception and Strategies in Different Environments
  • Natural Laws Affecting Vehicles and Operators
  • Handling Vehicle/Driver Emergencies
  • Adverse Conditions
  • Driver Fitness
  • Responsibilities of Owning/Maintaining a Car

Your behind-the-wheel course must ensure that each student can demonstrate ability to drive a car. You must provide as many experiences listed in the state flyer as possible.

You are expected to use the Ohio State Driver Training Curriculum

Commercial Driver’s License Instruction

Providing instruction for students pursuing a CDL in Ohio generally follow those for the regular driver’s license. In this section, we’ll note the key differences.

The forms for CDL training schools and instructors are the same as for Class D licenses.

You may offer CDL A or CDL B instruction–or both. Students must complete your courses within 270 days of the first lesson. No student may receive more than 10 hours in one day, and no more than 40% of the total classroom time may be videos, slides, or films.

CDL A courses must provide at least 40 hours of classroom education and 40 hours of behind-the-wheel instruction, with at least 10 hours being on an off-road range.

CDL B courses must provide at least 12 hours of classroom instruction, and at least 28 hours of behind-the-wheel training, 8 hours of which must be on an off-road range.

CDL schools must have written training agreements, and those agreements must include the following:

  • Full address of the classroom
  • Type of CDL license covered
  • All charges
  • Use (or not) of a school-owned vehicle for the road skills tests.
  • Classroom and behind-the-wheel hours
  • Signatures of the AO, training manager, or instructor
  • Signature of the student.
  • A definite ending date for the instruction.
  • The statement that “Driver training schools are licensed by the Department of Public Safety through the Ohio Traffic Safety Office, 1970 West Broad Street, Columbus, Ohio 43223.”
  • The refund policy or training denial policy.

The CDL school regulations begin with Section 4501-7-22 of the Administrative Code

Starting a Small Business in Ohio

Your driving school is not just subject to the requirements for driver’s education in Ohio. 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.

Business Registration

All businesses need to register in Ohio, 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.

You should also register with the Ohio Department of Revenue.

Business name

Before you get going, you’ll want to check to see if the business name you want is in fact available in Ohio. You can search the Ohio database, as well as visit the office of the county recorder.

Once you know your business name is available, you can reserve it with the Secretary of the Commonwealth’s office.

Sole Proprietorship

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 Ohio, the big step you have to take is to register your Assumed Business Name with the county or town clerk in which you have a place of business.

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 Ohio. 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 Ohio. 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 forms

  • Corporations submit Articles of Organization
  • LLCs submit a Certificate of Organization

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 Ohio, 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.

Conclusion

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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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Josh Meah

Josh Meah

Josh is the CEO of DrivingSchool.Marketing. His goal is to be the marketing and business development partner of driving schools around the world, helping them become thriving businesses while also expanding general awareness for the importance of traffic safety standards and education.

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