How to Decide on the Right CDL Training School near Prescott Valley Arizona
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Prescott Valley AZ. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several variables that you'll want to think about prior to making your final choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you have to commute from your Prescott Valley residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the best way to ensure you'll obtain the right training. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge 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 decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Prescott Valley AZ, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one 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 address Class A and Class 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 brief summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive 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 operators may be able to drive 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 Commercial Drivers License is required 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. Several 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 specific kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Prescott Valley AZ truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are some additional factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Prescott Valley AZ area are accredited due to the demanding 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 obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Prescott Valley AZ schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Arizona licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arizona and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual 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 professes it can teach 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. Most Prescott Valley AZ schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some 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.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver 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 operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time varies between 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 Prescott Valley AZ schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as 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 refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Prescott Valley AZ schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Arizona, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Arizona testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Prescott Valley AZ school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Prescott Valley AZ employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Prescott Valley 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 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 Prescott Valley AZ CDL Training
Picking the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Prescott Valley AZ.