How to Enroll in the Right Trucker Classes near Phoenix Arizona
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Phoenix AZ. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to examine before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Phoenix home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the best means to guarantee you'll receive the appropriate training. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Phoenix AZ, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short descriptions for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 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. 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 certain kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a CDL School
When you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Phoenix AZ truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few additional things that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Phoenix AZ area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly 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 Phoenix 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 concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Arizona licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction 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 claims it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Phoenix AZ schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's essential 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 criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best method is to visit the school and speak with 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 quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much 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 actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time differs between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Phoenix AZ schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
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 specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, 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 choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Phoenix 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 allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. 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 convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Arizona testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the Phoenix AZ school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time 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 employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen 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, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Phoenix AZ employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Phoenix AZ area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Select the Best Phoenix AZ CDL Training
Picking the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even 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 company 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 in the near future be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Phoenix AZ.