How to Decide on the Right Truck Driving Classes near Bakersfield California
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Bakersfield CA. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to consider before making your final choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Bakersfield residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the best means to ensure you'll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal 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 objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That 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 commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Bakersfield CA, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Following are short descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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. 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 operate specific kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
When you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Bakersfield CA truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are several more things that you should research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Bakersfield CA area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, 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. Interested students recognize 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 real 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 comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Bakersfield CA schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the California licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in California and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is especially 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 be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Bakersfield CA schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors 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.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will provide ample 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 operating a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Bakersfield CA schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular 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 rather than having 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 choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Bakersfield 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 permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in California, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at California testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Bakersfield CA school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out 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 referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Bakersfield CA employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Bakersfield CA area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Right Bakersfield CA Truck Driving Training
Picking the right truck driving school is an essential first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape 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. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Bakersfield CA.