How to Decide on the Best Trucker Classes near Atascadero California
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Atascadero CA. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to think about prior to making your final choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Atascadero home. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the best means to guarantee you'll get the right education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Atascadero CA, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will address 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 short summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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 needed to operate 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. Some 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 require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Trucking School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Atascadero CA truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are several more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Atascadero CA area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Atascadero CA schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the California licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker 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 talk more about the instructors in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal attention 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 professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Atascadero CA schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already mentioned, 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 criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will furnish 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 operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Atascadero CA schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different 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 be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Atascadero CA schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in California, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at California testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Atascadero CA school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty 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 holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing 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 firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Atascadero CA employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Atascadero CA area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Select the Best Atascadero CA CDL Training
Choosing the appropriate trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Atascadero CA.