How to Enroll in the Right CDL Training School near Benicia California
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Benicia CA. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to obtain 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 examine before making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Benicia home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best method to guarantee you'll obtain the appropriate education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That 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?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Benicia CA, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can qualify 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 type 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 summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some of the vehicles that drivers may be able to operate 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 more 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 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 require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
When you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Benicia CA truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are a few more points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Benicia CA area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent 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. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 Operation? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. 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 top Benicia CA schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the California licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in California and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning 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 time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Benicia CA schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will provide 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time differs between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Benicia CA schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal 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.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in California, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at California testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's important that the Benicia CA school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask 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 placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Benicia CA employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Benicia CA area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Find Out More About Benicia CDL Driving Schools
Select the Right Benicia CA CDL Training
Picking the right truck driving school is an important first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may want 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 choose an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, 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 our country move as a professional trucker in Benicia CA.