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How to Decide on the Right Trucker School near Benicia California

Benicia California tractor trailer on side of interstate highwayCongratulations 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 highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to receive the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Benicia residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to ensure you'll get the right training. Don't forget, your objective is to master 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 cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.

Which CDL Will You Need?

Benicia California cement mixer truck

To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Benicia CA, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick 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 as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short descriptions for the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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. 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. 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, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.

How to Assess a Trucking School

Benicia California truck driving school campus

After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Benicia CA truck driver schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are a few additional factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Benicia CA area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, 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 Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay 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 use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the California licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in California and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors 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 instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Benicia CA schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach 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 satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will provide sufficient 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time varies among schools, a reasonable benchmark 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 Benicia CA schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Benicia CA schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in California, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at California testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Benicia CA school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit 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 obligations.

Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Benicia CA employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Benicia CA area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.

Learn More About Benicia Truck Driving Schools

Select the Right Benicia CA CDL Training

Picking the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success.  But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may 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 enroll in an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm 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 part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Benicia CA.