How to Select the Right Trucker School near Gilbert Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Gilbert AZ. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various variables that you'll need to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Gilbert home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal method to guarantee you'll obtain the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Gilbert AZ, a driver must 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 topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 needed to operate 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 require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Gilbert AZ truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are some additional things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, 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 due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, 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 certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 Operation? One clue to help determine 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 be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Gilbert AZ schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Arizona licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arizona and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Gilbert AZ schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already stated, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will provide lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time can vary among 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. Check with the Gilbert AZ schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Gilbert AZ schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Arizona, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Arizona testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Gilbert AZ school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an 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 holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Gilbert AZ employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Gilbert AZ area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are assessing 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 CDL Training
Picking the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation 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 many options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Gilbert AZ.