How to Pick the Best Trucker School near Prescott Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Prescott AZ. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Prescott home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to guarantee you'll receive the appropriate education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable 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? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Prescott AZ, a driver 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 topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes 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 explanations for the two 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 more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 CDL is required 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. Some 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 may also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a Trucker School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Prescott AZ truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few more things 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 ? Not many truck driver schools in the Prescott AZ area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For 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 curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively 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 AZ schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Arizona licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arizona and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the individual 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 claims it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Prescott AZ schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already 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 successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time differs between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Prescott AZ schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Prescott AZ schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Arizona, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arizona testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Prescott AZ school you select 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 prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Prescott AZ employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Prescott AZ area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Prescott AZ CDL Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate trucking school is an essential first step to beginning your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. 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 short on funds or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Prescott AZ.