How to Choose the Right Truck Driving School near Mesa Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Mesa AZ. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Mesa residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to ensure you'll get the proper education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest 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 operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Mesa AZ, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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 explanations of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some 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 drive certain types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Mesa AZ truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Mesa AZ area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, 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 certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. 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 standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Mesa AZ schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Arizona licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arizona and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Mesa AZ schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's important 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 requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will provide ample 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Mesa AZ schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Mesa AZ schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Arizona, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Arizona testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's important that the Mesa AZ school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing 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 accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing 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 placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Mesa AZ employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Mesa AZ area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Best Mesa AZ Truck Driving Training
Selecting the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to beginning your new occupation as a long distance or local 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 critical to a new driver's success. However, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may want 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 enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Mesa AZ.