How to Decide on the Best Truck Driver School near Altadena California
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Altadena CA. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good income and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Altadena home. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best means to ensure you'll obtain the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick 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 CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Altadena CA, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Following are short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 more 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a CDL School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Altadena CA truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are some more things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Altadena CA area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Altadena CA schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider 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 provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the California licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in California and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction 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 train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Altadena CA schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent trucking school will furnish sufficient 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time varies among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Altadena CA schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive discounted or even free training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Altadena CA schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in California, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at California testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's important that the Altadena CA school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend 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 obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Altadena CA employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Altadena CA area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out 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 need to be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Altadena CA Truck Driver Training
Selecting the right truck driving school is an essential first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL school and have the option of driving 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 part of a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Altadena CA.