How to Select the Right Trucking School near Bakersfield California
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Bakersfield CA. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Bakersfield home. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the optimal means to guarantee you'll obtain the appropriate training. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss 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 CDL Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Bakersfield CA, a driver must obtain 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 select a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class 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 for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate 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 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 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 need endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a CDL School
After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Bakersfield CA truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are several more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Bakersfield CA area are accredited due to the demanding 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 obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount 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 standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Bakersfield CA schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms 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 considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in California and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk 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 greater, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Bakersfield CA schools offer training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's essential 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 a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will furnish 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time differs among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Bakersfield CA schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known 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 work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Bakersfield CA schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. 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 competing with graduates of competing 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 earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the Bakersfield CA school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Bakersfield CA employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Bakersfield CA area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Bakersfield CA CDL Training
Choosing the right truck driver school is an essential first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the proper training in order to drive 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 in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Bakersfield CA.