How to Find the Right Trucker School near Benicia California
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Benicia CA. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Benicia home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based only on price is not the best means to make certain you'll obtain the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Benicia CA, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type 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 summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 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. 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 CDLs might also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
When you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Benicia CA trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are some additional points 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 ? Not many trucking schools in the Benicia CA area are accredited due to the stringent 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 obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount 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 fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Benicia CA schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the California licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering 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 experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train 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. Most Benicia CA schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Benicia CA schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Benicia CA schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in California, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at California testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Benicia CA school you select 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 prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Benicia CA employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Benicia CA area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Select the Best Benicia CA Truck Driving Training
Selecting the right trucking school is an important first step to starting your new occupation 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 crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Benicia CA.