How to Decide on the Right CDL Driving School near Arcadia California
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Arcadia CA. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Arcadia home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based only on price is not the ideal means to make sure you'll receive the right education. Just remember, your objective is to master 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 decide on 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 CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Arcadia CA, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief explanations 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 more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 might also need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Arcadia CA truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. 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 equally or even more important. So following are several more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Arcadia CA area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, 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 caliber, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 training and curriculum will satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Arcadia CA schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the California licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in California and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Arcadia CA schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to check out 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.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will provide lots of 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 essential training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time varies among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Arcadia CA schools you are researching and find out 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 be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations 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 work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Arcadia CA schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in California, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at California testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's important that the Arcadia CA school you select provides 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 instructor should be prepared to commit 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 accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out 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 employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Arcadia CA employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Arcadia CA area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Right Arcadia CA CDL Training
Picking the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold 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 obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Arcadia CA.