How to Pick the Best CDL Training Classes near Bell Gardens California
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Bell Gardens CA. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you need to commute from your Bell Gardens residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to guarantee you'll obtain the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge 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 select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the rest 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?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Bell Gardens CA, an operator must 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. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will focus on 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). Below are brief explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 needed to drive 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. A few 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
After you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Bell Gardens CA trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier 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 considerations. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are some more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Bell Gardens CA area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get plenty of driving time. For 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 poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Bell Gardens CA schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the California licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in California and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Bell Gardens CA schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with 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 ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary 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. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Bell Gardens CA schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Bell Gardens CA schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in California, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at California testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Bell Gardens CA school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Bell Gardens CA employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Bell Gardens CA area trade or technical 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 a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Bell Gardens CA CDL Training
Choosing the ideal truck driving school is an important first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Bell Gardens CA.