How to Select the Right Trucking School near Altadena California
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Altadena CA. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you'll need to think about before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Altadena residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal means to guarantee you'll obtain the appropriate education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills 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 decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Altadena 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 topic 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 kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required 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 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 drive 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. Some 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 CDLs may also need endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
When you have decided which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Altadena CA trucking schools that you are considering. As already discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So below are several additional points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Altadena CA area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Altadena CA schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the California licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
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 teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual instruction 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 insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Altadena CA schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking school will furnish plenty 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 actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Altadena CA schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Altadena CA schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in California, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at California testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Altadena 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 teacher should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Verify 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, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Altadena CA employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? 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 assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Right Altadena CA CDL Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to launching your new vocation 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 available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to look into 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 select an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Altadena CA.