How to Choose the Best Trucking School near Maricopa Arizona
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Maricopa AZ. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to get the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Maricopa home. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the best method to guarantee you'll get the proper training. Don't forget, your objective 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 decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Maricopa AZ, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will address 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 brief descriptions for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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 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 CDL is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
After you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Maricopa AZ truck driving schools that you are considering. As already discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few additional factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Maricopa AZ area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Maricopa AZ schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Arizona licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, 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 personalized 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 be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Maricopa AZ schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with 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.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time differs among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Maricopa AZ schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having 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 surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Maricopa AZ schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Arizona, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Arizona testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Maricopa AZ school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Maricopa AZ employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Maricopa AZ area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Maricopa AZ CDL Training
Picking the ideal trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might need to look into 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 choose an independent trucking 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 no matter how you get your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Maricopa AZ.