How to Decide on the Right CDL Training Classes near Bakersfield California
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Bakersfield CA. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Bakersfield home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the best means to make certain you'll get the right training. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Is Required?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Bakersfield CA, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person 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 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 short descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater 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 needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Bakersfield CA truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are several more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Bakersfield CA area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally 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 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 regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the California licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in California and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual attention 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 professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Bakersfield CA schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will furnish lots of 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide 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 ? You can get free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations 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 giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Bakersfield CA schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in California, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at California testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's essential that the Bakersfield CA school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an 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 have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Bakersfield CA employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Bakersfield CA area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Bakersfield CA CDL Training
Picking the right trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught 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 if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might need to think about 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 choose an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Bakersfield CA.