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How to Enroll in the Right CDL Training Classes near Berkeley California

Berkeley California tractor trailer on side of roadCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Berkeley CA. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to consider before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Berkeley home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the optimal way to make sure you'll obtain the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional 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 cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?

Berkeley California cement mixing truck

In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Berkeley CA, a driver needs to 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 subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as 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 operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater 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 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 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 required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.

How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School

Berkeley California CDL Driving school campus

Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Berkeley CA truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are some more things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Berkeley CA area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, 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 a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 curriculum and training will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Berkeley 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 track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the California licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in California and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio 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 particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Berkeley CA schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will furnish lots 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time can vary among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Berkeley CA schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.

Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, 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. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Berkeley CA schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in California, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at California testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Berkeley CA school you choose offers 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 prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Berkeley CA employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Berkeley CA area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About Berkeley CDL Training Schools

Select the Best Berkeley CA Truck Driving Training

Choosing the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success.  However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving 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 many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Berkeley CA.