How to Decide on the Right Truck Driver Classes near Atwater California
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Atwater CA. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to examine prior to making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Atwater home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the best means to make certain you'll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Atwater CA, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 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 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 may also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucker School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Atwater CA truck driving schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are a few additional factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Atwater CA area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost 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 a number of advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real 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 satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Atwater CA schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality 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 make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in California and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Atwater CA schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driver school will provide sufficient 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Atwater CA schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having associations with numerous 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 limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Atwater CA schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in California, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at California testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's essential 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 instructor should be willing to devote 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 must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Make sure 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, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Atwater CA employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Atwater CA area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Select the Best Atwater CA Truck Driving Training
Picking the right truck driver school is a critical first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several 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 operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking 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 regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Atwater CA.