How to Decide on the Right CDL Training School near Drexel Heights Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Drexel Heights AZ. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to consider before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Drexel Heights residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the best way to ensure you'll obtain the appropriate education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Drexel Heights AZ, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 drivers may be qualified to operate with Class B licenses are:
- Tractor Trailers
- Dump Trucks
- Cement Mixers
- Large Buses
- Class C Vehicles
Both Class A and Class B CDLs might also need endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Trucking School
After you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Drexel Heights AZ trucking schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are a few additional factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Drexel Heights AZ area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 curriculum and training will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Drexel Heights AZ schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Arizona licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding 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 relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Drexel Heights AZ schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already 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 be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will provide lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Drexel Heights AZ schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Drexel Heights AZ schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Arizona, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Arizona testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously noted, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Drexel Heights AZ school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Drexel Heights AZ employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Drexel Heights AZ area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Drexel Heights AZ CDL Training
Selecting the ideal truck driving school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Drexel Heights AZ.