How to Choose the Right Truck Driving Classes near Tempe Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Tempe AZ. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Tempe home. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the optimal method to guarantee you'll obtain the right education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal 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 review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Tempe AZ, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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). Below are brief explanations of the 2 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 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 greater 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Tempe AZ truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are some additional points that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Tempe AZ area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common 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 recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Tempe AZ schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. 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 should be licensed in Arizona and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Tempe AZ schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Tempe AZ schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known 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 work with 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 limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Tempe 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 permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Arizona, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arizona testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Tempe AZ school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote 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 accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Tempe AZ employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Tempe AZ area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Tempe AZ CDL Training
Selecting the ideal trucking school is a critical 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 a number of options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you may 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 truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Tempe AZ.