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How to Choose the Right Truck Driver Classes near Berkeley California

Berkeley California truck on side of roadCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Berkeley CA. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you need to commute from your Berkeley residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the best method to ensure you'll receive the appropriate training. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations 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 cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.

Which CDL Is Required?

Berkeley California concrete mixer

To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Berkeley CA, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic 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). Following are brief summaries of the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 required 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. Several 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 CDLs might also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.

How to Assess a Trucking School

Berkeley California truck driver school campus

Once you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Berkeley CA trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are some more things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving 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 provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. 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 standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Berkeley CA schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the California licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in California and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Berkeley CA schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to visit the school and talk to 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.

Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent 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 important training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Berkeley CA schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from some 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 offer it are called captives. So rather than having associations with many different 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 surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Berkeley CA schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in California, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at California testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Berkeley CA school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Berkeley CA employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Berkeley CA area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance 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 submitted.

Learn More About Berkeley Trucking Schools

Select the Best Berkeley CA Truck Driving Training

Selecting the right truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital 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 short on funds 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 enroll in an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Berkeley CA.