How to Pick the Right Truck Driving School near Maricopa Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Maricopa AZ. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Maricopa residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to make sure 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 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 discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Maricopa AZ, a driver needs to get 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 subject 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 short explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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. A few 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 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. 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 need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Trucker School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Maricopa AZ truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are a few more things that you should research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Maricopa AZ area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 curriculum and training will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Maricopa AZ schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of 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 check with the Arizona licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Maricopa AZ schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will provide ample 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Maricopa AZ schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Maricopa AZ schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Arizona, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Arizona testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Maricopa AZ school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Maricopa AZ employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Maricopa AZ area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Right Maricopa AZ CDL Training
Picking the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation 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 several options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need 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 choose an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Maricopa AZ.