How to Enroll in the Best Truck Driving Classes near Prescott Arizona
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Prescott AZ. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various variables that you'll need to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Prescott home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the best means to ensure you'll obtain the proper education. 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 purpose in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover 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 Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Prescott AZ, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes 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 driving school, we will discuss Class A and 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 brief explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 CDL is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a CDL School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Prescott AZ truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are several additional things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Prescott AZ area are accredited due to the stringent 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 a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real 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 meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Prescott AZ schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional 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 assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Arizona licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly 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 be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Prescott AZ schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method 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.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent trucking school will furnish lots 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Prescott AZ schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. 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 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 opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Prescott AZ schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arizona, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arizona testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Prescott 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 particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Prescott AZ employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Prescott AZ area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out 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.
Select the Right Prescott AZ Truck Driving Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Prescott AZ.