How to Decide on the Right Truck Driving School near El Mirage Arizona
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near El Mirage AZ. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to examine before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your El Mirage home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based only on price is not the best way to guarantee you'll obtain the proper education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and El Mirage AZ, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Following are short summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate 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 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 needed 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 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 operate specific types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the El Mirage AZ truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are several additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the El Mirage AZ area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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 get lots of driving time. As an 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 training and curriculum will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of El Mirage AZ schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement 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 good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arizona and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most El Mirage AZ schools offer training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will furnish 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 operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the El Mirage AZ schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the El Mirage AZ schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some 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 reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Arizona testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously mentioned, CDL training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative 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 difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many El Mirage AZ employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other El Mirage AZ area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Best El Mirage AZ CDL Training
Picking the right truck driver school is an important first step to launching your new occupation 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 many options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive 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 choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in El Mirage AZ.