How to Enroll in the Best CDL Training Classes near Flagstaff Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Flagstaff AZ. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Flagstaff residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the ideal method to make certain you'll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick 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 talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Flagstaff AZ, an operator must get 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 select a truck driving 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 together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short explanations 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. 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 CDL is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Trucking School
After you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Flagstaff AZ truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are several more points that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Flagstaff AZ area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common 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 caliber, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Flagstaff AZ schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Arizona licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching 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 trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction 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 professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Flagstaff AZ schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's imperative 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 successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students going through 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 good 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies 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. Contact the Flagstaff AZ schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit 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 reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be 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 some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arizona, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Arizona testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Flagstaff AZ school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared 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 accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Verify 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 local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Flagstaff AZ employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? 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 aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enroll in the Right Flagstaff AZ CDL Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Flagstaff AZ.