How to Choose the Right CDL Driving School near Chandler Arizona
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Chandler AZ. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good income and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various variables that you'll need to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Chandler home. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the best way to make sure you'll receive the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Chandler AZ, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive with Class A licenses are:
- Interstate or Intrastate Tractor Trailers
- Trucks with Double or Triple Trailers
- Tanker Trucks
- Livestock Carriers
- Class B and Class C Vehicles
Class B CDL. A Class B CDL is required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some of the vehicles that operators may be qualified to drive with Class B licenses are:
- Tractor Trailers
- Dump Trucks
- Cement Mixers
- Large Buses
- Class C Vehicles
Both Class A and Class B CDLs may also require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Trucker School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Chandler AZ trucking schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So below are some additional factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Chandler AZ area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Chandler AZ schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Arizona licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Chandler AZ schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Chandler AZ schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Chandler AZ schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Arizona, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Arizona testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly noted, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Chandler AZ school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Chandler AZ employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Chandler AZ area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Right Chandler AZ Truck Driving Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Chandler AZ.