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How to Decide on the Right CDL Driving Classes near Aliso Viejo California

Aliso Viejo California tractor trailer on side of roadCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Aliso Viejo CA. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Aliso Viejo home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to guarantee you'll obtain the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose 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 rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.

Which CDL Should You Get?

Aliso Viejo California cement mixer truck

To drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Aliso Viejo CA, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries of the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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. 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 Commercial Drivers License 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 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 specific types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.

How to Research a Trucker School

Aliso Viejo California trucking school campus

Once you have determined which CDL you wish to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Aliso Viejo CA truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are a few additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Aliso Viejo CA area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost 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 a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, 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 clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Aliso Viejo CA schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the California licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in California and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, 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 personalized attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Aliso Viejo CA schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Instructors? As already stated, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no substitute for actual 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 between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Aliso Viejo CA schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.

Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Aliso Viejo CA schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in California, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer 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 believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's important that the Aliso Viejo CA school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Aliso Viejo CA employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Aliso Viejo CA area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.

Learn More About Aliso Viejo Trucking Schools

Enroll in the Right Aliso Viejo CA Truck Driver Training

Picking the appropriate truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator.  But first and foremost, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might need to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Aliso Viejo CA.