How to Find the Best Trucking 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 monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Prescott Valley home. 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 goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That 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 commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Prescott Valley AZ, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will address 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 summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate 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 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 require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of researching the Prescott Valley AZ truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are some additional factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Prescott Valley AZ area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount 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 Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Prescott Valley AZ schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Arizona licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk 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 personal attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Prescott Valley AZ schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will provide 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. While 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 receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Prescott Valley AZ schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Prescott Valley 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 truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Arizona, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other 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 Class Times Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Prescott Valley AZ school you select provides 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 commit 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 Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Prescott Valley AZ employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Prescott Valley AZ area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Select the Best Prescott Valley AZ Truck Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to launching your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select 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 part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Prescott Valley AZ.