How to Choose the Right Truck Driver Classes near Flagstaff Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Flagstaff AZ. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll want to examine before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Flagstaff residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the optimal method to ensure you'll receive the right training. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Flagstaff AZ, an operator needs to attain 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 driving school, we will address 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 short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive 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 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. 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 need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Flagstaff AZ truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are some more things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before 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 cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will measure up to the very high standards 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 operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Flagstaff AZ schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Arizona licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Flagstaff AZ schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no substitute 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 reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide 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 provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from a number of 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 offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with numerous 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 giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Flagstaff AZ schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver 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 convenient than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Arizona testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's important that the Flagstaff AZ school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing 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 accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious 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 low job placement rate or not many Flagstaff AZ employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Flagstaff AZ area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Select the Right Flagstaff AZ Truck Driving Training
Picking the ideal trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may 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 select an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Flagstaff AZ.