How to Decide on the Best CDL Training School near Flagstaff Arizona
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Flagstaff AZ. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Flagstaff home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best method to make sure you'll obtain the right training. 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 purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss 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 Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Flagstaff AZ and throughout the USA, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address 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). Below are short summaries of the 2 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. Some 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Flagstaff AZ trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are some additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Flagstaff AZ area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, 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 a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked 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 top Flagstaff AZ schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Arizona licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing 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 instructors in the next section. 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 obtaining the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Flagstaff AZ schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, 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. Although driving time varies between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Flagstaff AZ schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Flagstaff AZ schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Arizona, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Arizona testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously noted, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Flagstaff AZ school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor 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 fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Flagstaff AZ employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Flagstaff AZ area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Best Flagstaff CDL Training
Picking the ideal trucking school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills 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 to a new driver's success. However, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive 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 decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Flagstaff Arizona.