How to Find the Right Trucking School near Maricopa Arizona
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Maricopa AZ. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Maricopa home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal way to ensure you'll receive the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Maricopa AZ, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Below are short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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 required 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 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 might also need endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Maricopa AZ truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few additional points that you should research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Maricopa AZ area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. 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 benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed 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 top Maricopa AZ schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Arizona licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. 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 getting the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists 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. Most Maricopa AZ schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking 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 operating a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time differs among schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Maricopa AZ schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Maricopa AZ schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Arizona, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arizona testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Maricopa AZ school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Maricopa AZ employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Maricopa AZ area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enroll in the Right Maricopa AZ CDL Training
Selecting the appropriate trucking school is an important first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Maricopa AZ.