How to Decide on the Right CDL Driving School near Alameda California
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Alameda CA. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to receive the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you'll want to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Alameda residence. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based only on price is not the ideal way to make certain you'll get the proper training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn 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? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Alameda CA, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and 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 short summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 required 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 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 operate certain kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required 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 determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Alameda CA truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are several additional points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Alameda CA 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 obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked 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 Alameda CA schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the California licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in California and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Alameda CA schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will provide lots 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Alameda CA schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Alameda CA schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in California, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at California testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Alameda CA school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Alameda CA employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Alameda CA area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Alameda CA CDL Training
Selecting the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance 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 to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might need 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 select an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Alameda CA.