How to Decide on the Right CDL Driving Classes near Altadena California
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Altadena CA. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Altadena home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the ideal method to guarantee you'll obtain the proper training. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the remainder 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 Is Required?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Altadena CA, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 needed 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 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucker School
After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Altadena CA trucking schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are a few more points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Altadena CA area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace 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 caliber, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an 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 benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked 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 top Altadena CA schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the California licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in California and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Altadena CA schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out 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 find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will provide lots of 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Altadena CA schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Altadena CA schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in California, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at California testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Altadena CA school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate 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 low job placement rate or not many Altadena CA employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Altadena 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 evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Best Altadena CA CDL Training
Picking the appropriate truck driving school is a critical first step to beginning 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 many options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Altadena CA.