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How to Select the Right Trucking School near El Mirage Arizona

El Mirage Arizona tractor trailer on side of interstate highwayCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near El Mirage AZ. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to think about before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your El Mirage home. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the ideal means to guarantee you'll obtain the proper education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?

El Mirage Arizona concrete mixer truck

In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and El Mirage AZ, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short summaries 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. A few of the vehicles that drivers may be able to operate 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 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 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 might also require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.

How to Assess a Truck Driving School

El Mirage Arizona CDL school campus

After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the El Mirage AZ truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few additional points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the El Mirage AZ area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly 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 top El Mirage AZ schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Arizona licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arizona and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention 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 insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of El Mirage AZ schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will provide ample driving time to its students. After all, 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the El Mirage AZ schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with 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 reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the El Mirage 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 permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available 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 from other schools for test times at Arizona testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Classes Accessible? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the El Mirage AZ school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many El Mirage AZ employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other El Mirage AZ area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About El Mirage Trucking Schools

Choose the Best El Mirage AZ CDL Driver Training

Selecting the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success.  However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a large 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 even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many 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 America move as a professional truck driver in El Mirage AZ.