How to Find the Best CDL Training School near Atwater California
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Atwater CA. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Atwater home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the best means to make certain you'll get the appropriate education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Atwater CA, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries of 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 greater 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several 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 require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
Once you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Atwater CA truck driving schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are some more points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Atwater CA area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, 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 a number of 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 requires 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 benchmarks 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 poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Atwater CA schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the California licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in California and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning 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 period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Atwater CA schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will furnish plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, 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 differs between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Atwater CA schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Atwater CA schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in California, ask if the schools you are reviewing 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 believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's important that the Atwater CA school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Atwater CA employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Atwater 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 reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Best Atwater CA CDL Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Atwater CA.