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How to Choose the Right Truck Driving School near Cottonwood Arizona

Cottonwood Arizona tractor trailer carrying cargoCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Cottonwood AZ. Maybe it has always been your goal 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 work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various factors that you'll want to examine before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Cottonwood home. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the ideal way to make certain you'll receive the proper training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question 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 ultimately need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?

Cottonwood Arizona truck driving down highway

In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Cottonwood AZ and throughout the United States, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short descriptions of the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 CDL 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.

How to Assess a Truck Driver School

Cottonwood Arizona cement mixer truck with flag paint job

Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Cottonwood AZ truck driving schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are a few more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Cottonwood AZ area are accredited due to the stringent 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 several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated 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 Cottonwood AZ schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Arizona licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arizona and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Cottonwood AZ schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will provide ample 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time differs 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. Contact the Cottonwood AZ schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Cottonwood AZ schools you are looking at 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 graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Arizona, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arizona testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier noted, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Cottonwood AZ school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Cottonwood AZ employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Cottonwood AZ 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 assessing 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 Cottonwood Trucker Schools

Choose the Right Cottonwood CDL Training

Choosing the appropriate trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you may need to look into 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 truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Cottonwood Arizona.

 

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