How to Enroll in the Right Trucker School near Lake Havasu City Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Lake Havasu City AZ. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good income and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll want to examine prior to making your final choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you have to commute from your Lake Havasu City home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to ensure you'll receive the right education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Lake Havasu City 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. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 required to operate 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. A few 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 might also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Trucking School
Once you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Lake Havasu City AZ truck driver schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are several additional factors that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Lake Havasu City 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 required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Lake Havasu City AZ schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Arizona licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Lake Havasu City AZ schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will furnish ample 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 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 become. And even though driving time differs among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Lake Havasu City AZ schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Lake Havasu City AZ schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Arizona, find out if the schools you are considering 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 facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Lake Havasu City AZ school you choose offers 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 teacher should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Make sure 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 companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Lake Havasu City AZ employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Lake Havasu City AZ area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Lake Havasu City AZ CDL Training
Selecting the right truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new profession 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 available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to think about 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 driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Lake Havasu City AZ.