How to Choose the Best CDL Driving Classes near Flagstaff Arizona
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Flagstaff AZ. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to receive the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your final choice. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Flagstaff residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the best means to ensure you'll obtain the appropriate education. Just remember, 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 goal in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the balance 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 Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Flagstaff AZ, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief explanations of the 2 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 greater than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 Commercial Drivers License 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. Several 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Trucker School
Once you have determined which CDL you wish to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Flagstaff AZ truck driver 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 must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are a few more factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Flagstaff AZ area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Flagstaff AZ schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior 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 department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Flagstaff AZ schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will furnish 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 operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time fluctuates between 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. Get in touch with the Flagstaff AZ schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Flagstaff AZ schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Arizona, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arizona testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's important that the Flagstaff AZ school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement 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 placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Flagstaff AZ employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Flagstaff AZ area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Flagstaff AZ Truck Driver Training
Picking the right truck driver school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Flagstaff AZ.