How to Decide on the Best Truck Driving School near Mesa Arizona
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Mesa AZ. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Mesa residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to make certain you'll obtain the right training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Mesa AZ, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will highlight 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 of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater 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 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. 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 CDLs might also need endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Mesa AZ truck driver schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are some additional factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Mesa AZ area are accredited because of the stringent 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. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Mesa AZ schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Arizona licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering 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 discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, 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 personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Mesa AZ schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual 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 substitute for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Mesa AZ schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive 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 relationships with a wide range of 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 work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Mesa AZ schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Arizona, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Arizona testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly noted, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Mesa 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 certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Mesa AZ employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Mesa AZ area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Mesa AZ CDL Training
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills 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 critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to look into 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 enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Mesa AZ.