How to Decide on the Right Truck Driving School near Tucson Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Tucson AZ. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to consider before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Tucson residence. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal method to make sure you'll obtain the right 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 goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address 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 Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Tucson AZ, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind 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 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. Several 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 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. Several 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
After you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Tucson AZ truck driving schools that you are considering. As already discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are some additional points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Tucson AZ area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots 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 curriculum and training will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Tucson AZ schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple 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 additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Arizona licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Tucson AZ schools offer training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As previously stated, it's important 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 criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will provide sufficient 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 necessary training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time differs among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Tucson AZ schools you are researching and ask 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 driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific 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 maintaining associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Tucson AZ schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Arizona, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Arizona testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's important that the Tucson 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 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 obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Tucson AZ employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Tucson AZ area vocational or trade 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 must be submitted.
Select the Best Tucson AZ Truck Driving Training
Selecting the right truck driving school is an important first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to look into 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 choose an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Tucson AZ.