How to Select the Right CDL Driving School near Maricopa Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Maricopa AZ. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Maricopa residence. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based only on price is not the best means to make certain you'll receive the appropriate training. Don't forget, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Maricopa AZ, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick 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 for the two 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Maricopa AZ truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are a few more things that you should research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly 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 demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive 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 course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Maricopa AZ schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. 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 share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Arizona licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss 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 receiving the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Maricopa AZ schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's essential 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 prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs between 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. Contact the Maricopa AZ schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to get 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 Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arizona, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arizona testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously mentioned, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative 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 a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Maricopa AZ employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Maricopa AZ area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Right Maricopa AZ CDL Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Maricopa AZ.