How to Pick the Best Truck Driving School near Tucson Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Tucson AZ. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various factors that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Tucson home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the optimal method to make certain you'll get the right training. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow 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 address in the remainder 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 Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Tucson AZ, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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 greater 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 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 might also need endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
After you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can start the undertaking of researching the Tucson AZ truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are a few additional things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Tucson AZ area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, 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 know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 training and curriculum will satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Tucson AZ schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Arizona licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is particularly 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 relatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Tucson AZ schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best 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.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will provide plenty 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Tucson AZ schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Tucson AZ schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arizona, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Arizona testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's essential that the Tucson AZ school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Tucson AZ employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Tucson AZ area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Right Tucson AZ Truck Driver Training
Selecting the right truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Tucson AZ.