How to Find the Right CDL Training School near Phoenix Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Phoenix AZ. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to consider before making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Phoenix residence. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the best means to make certain you'll receive the right training. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Phoenix AZ, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject 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 kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 operate specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Trucker School
When you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Phoenix AZ trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial concerns. 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 or even more important. So below are a few more factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Phoenix AZ area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount 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 satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Phoenix AZ schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Arizona licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Arizona and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal attention they will need. This is especially true concerning 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 time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Phoenix AZ schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking school will furnish lots 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 operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time differs between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. 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 Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having associations with many different 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 surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Phoenix 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 third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arizona, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Arizona testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Phoenix AZ school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain 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 fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Phoenix AZ employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Phoenix AZ area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Select the Best Phoenix AZ CDL Training
Choosing the appropriate trucking school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local 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 crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might need 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 enroll in an independent trucker school and have the option of driving 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 entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Phoenix AZ.