How to Select the Best CDL Driving School near Phoenix Arizona
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Phoenix AZ. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Phoenix residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the best means to make certain you'll get the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations 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 address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Phoenix AZ, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Below are brief explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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. 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 operate 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. 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Phoenix AZ truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are several more points that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Phoenix AZ area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated 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 begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Arizona licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Phoenix AZ schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already stated, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will furnish plenty of 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time varies among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Phoenix AZ schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Phoenix AZ schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Arizona, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Arizona testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Phoenix 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 certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Phoenix AZ employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Phoenix AZ area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Select the Right Phoenix AZ Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driving school is an essential first step to beginning your new occupation 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 several options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking 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 choose an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Phoenix AZ.