How to Select the Best Truck Driver School near Atascadero California
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Atascadero CA. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to examine prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Atascadero residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the best method to make certain you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover 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 Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Atascadero CA, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates 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). Below are short explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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. 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 Commercial Drivers License 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. 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Trucker School
When you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Atascadero CA truck driver schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few additional factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Atascadero CA area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical 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 get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Atascadero CA schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the California licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in California and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Atascadero CA schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already stated, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will furnish plenty of driving time to its students. After all, 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 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 between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Atascadero CA schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted 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 rather than maintaining associations 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 giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Atascadero CA schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving 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 accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at California testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Atascadero CA school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Atascadero CA employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Atascadero CA area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Atascadero CA CDL Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is an important 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 several options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Atascadero CA.