How to Pick the Best CDL Training Classes near Alhambra California
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Alhambra CA. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Alhambra home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the best way to guarantee you'll obtain the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on 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 CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Alhambra CA, a driver 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 pick a truck driver school, we will highlight 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). Following are short descriptions for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate 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 required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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 require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Trucker School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of researching the Alhambra CA trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are a few additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Alhambra CA area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. For 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 curriculum and training will satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine 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 best of Alhambra CA schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the California licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in California and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personal attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Alhambra CA schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will furnish plenty of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Alhambra CA schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. 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 benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Alhambra CA schools you are looking at are captive or independent 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 grads. If onsite testing is allowed in California, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at California testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's essential that the Alhambra CA 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 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 fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Alhambra CA employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Alhambra CA area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing 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 Alhambra CA Truck Driver Training
Choosing the right truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Alhambra CA.