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How to Enroll in the Right Trucker Classes near Cottonwood Arizona

Cottonwood Arizona truck carrying cargoCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Cottonwood AZ. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get 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 need to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Cottonwood residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best method to ensure you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn 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 pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?

Cottonwood Arizona truck driving down road

In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Cottonwood AZ and throughout the USA, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short descriptions of the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate 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 CDL is needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 drive certain types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.

How to Research a Truck Driver School

Cottonwood Arizona concrete truck with patriotic paint job

As soon as you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Cottonwood AZ truck driver schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are several more things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Cottonwood AZ area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate 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 top Cottonwood AZ schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Arizona licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.

How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, 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 look out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Cottonwood AZ schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to visit the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking school will provide ample driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies between schools, a reasonable standard 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 Cottonwood AZ schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Cottonwood AZ schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Arizona, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Arizona testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Cottonwood AZ school you select 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 willing to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Cottonwood AZ employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Cottonwood AZ area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About Cottonwood Truck Driving Schools

Enroll in the Best Cottonwood Truck Driver Training

Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Cottonwood Arizona.

 

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