How to Decide on the Right Trucking School near Atascadero California
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Atascadero CA. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you'll want to consider before making your final choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Atascadero home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal way to make certain you'll obtain the proper education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick 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 talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Atascadero CA, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and Class 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 short explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Trucking School
When you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Atascadero CA trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are a few additional factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Atascadero CA area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive lots 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 comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed 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 Atascadero CA schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the California licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in California and hire instructors 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 higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Atascadero CA schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will provide plenty 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. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time differs among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Atascadero CA schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, 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 have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember 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 CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in California, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at California testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Atascadero 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 teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Atascadero CA employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Atascadero CA area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. 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 must be submitted.
Select the Best Atascadero CA Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to launching your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may 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 enroll in an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Atascadero CA.