How to Decide on the Right CDL Driving School near Atwater California
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Atwater CA. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your final choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Atwater residence. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based only on price is not the best means to guarantee you'll get the proper training. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose 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 discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Atwater CA, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief descriptions for 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 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 required 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 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 instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Research a CDL School
As soon as 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 looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are some more points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Atwater CA area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 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 negatively 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 best of Atwater CA schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several 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 also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the California licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in California and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personal attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Atwater CA schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified 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 successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great 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 operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark 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 Atwater CA schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out 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 a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in California, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at California testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Atwater CA school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Atwater CA employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Atwater 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 evaluating 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 Best Atwater CA CDL Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is an essential first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local 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 vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Atwater CA.