How to Select the Best Trucking School near Prescott Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Prescott Valley AZ. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Prescott Valley residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based only on price is not the optimal way to make certain you'll get the appropriate training. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Prescott Valley AZ, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will focus on 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). Following are short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 may also require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
After you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Prescott Valley AZ truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So below are a few more things that you should research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver 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 several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 clue to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Prescott Valley AZ schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Arizona licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists 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 offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors 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.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish plenty of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary 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. Although driving time differs between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. 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 researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different 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 giving up 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 some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Prescott Valley AZ schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Arizona, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Arizona testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Prescott Valley AZ school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are reviewing 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 referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Prescott Valley AZ employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Prescott Valley AZ area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Prescott Valley AZ Truck Driver Training
Picking the ideal trucking school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might want to think about 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 enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Prescott Valley AZ.