How to Decide on the Right Truck Driver Classes near Gilbert Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Gilbert AZ. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Gilbert home. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal method to make certain you'll receive the right training. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target 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 remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Gilbert AZ, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can qualify 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 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). Following are short explanations of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Some 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. 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 may also require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Gilbert AZ truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are some more points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Gilbert AZ area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. 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 best of Gilbert AZ schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Arizona licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no 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 concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Gilbert AZ schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will furnish plenty 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time differs between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Gilbert AZ schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining 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 have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Gilbert AZ schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of 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 reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arizona testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Gilbert AZ school you choose provides 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 willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Gilbert AZ employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Gilbert AZ area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Right Gilbert AZ Truck Driving Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills 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 crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases 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 company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Gilbert AZ.