How to Decide on the Best Truck Driver School near Prescott Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver 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 conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Prescott Valley residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the best method to ensure you'll obtain the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss 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 Is Required?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Prescott Valley AZ, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will discuss 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 explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate 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 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 required 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. 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, for example 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 authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
When you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Prescott Valley AZ trucking schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are some additional things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Prescott Valley AZ area are accredited due to the demanding 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. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed 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 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 relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Arizona licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arizona and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction 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 professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Prescott Valley AZ schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As previously stated, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Prescott Valley AZ schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific 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 a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Prescott Valley AZ schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. 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 contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Arizona testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously mentioned, CDL 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 scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing 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 must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Prescott Valley AZ employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? 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 assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Prescott Valley AZ CDL Driver Training
Selecting the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on money or financing, you might need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Prescott Valley AZ.