How to Find the Right CDL Driving School near Tucson Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Tucson AZ. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Tucson home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the ideal method to make sure you'll get the right training. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge 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 select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss 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?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Tucson AZ, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes 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 explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 operate 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 CDLs might also need endorsements to drive specific kinds 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 licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Tucson AZ trucking schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are a few more things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Tucson AZ area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Tucson AZ schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Arizona licensing authority to verify 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 talk more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher 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 look out for any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Tucson AZ schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient 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 actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Tucson AZ schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, 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 have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce 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 Tucson AZ schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Arizona, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from 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 important that the Tucson AZ school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Tucson AZ employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Tucson 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 assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Select the Right Tucson AZ CDL Training
Choosing the right truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Tucson AZ.