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How to Decide on the Best Trucking Classes near Gilbert Arizona

Gilbert Arizona tractor trailer carrying payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Gilbert AZ. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to consider before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Gilbert residence. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the ideal means to make certain you'll obtain the appropriate training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?

Gilbert Arizona truck traveling down highway

To drive commercial vehicles legally within Gilbert AZ and throughout the USA, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one 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 Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short descriptions of the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.

How to Assess a Truck Driver School

Gilbert Arizona cement mixer truck with flag paint job

Once you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Gilbert AZ trucking schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are several more factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Gilbert AZ area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 training and curriculum will satisfy 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 rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Gilbert AZ schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several 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 maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Arizona licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.

How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers 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 getting the personalized attention 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 insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Gilbert AZ schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type 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. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will provide plenty 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. While 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 be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Gilbert AZ schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular 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 having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Gilbert AZ schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Arizona, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Arizona testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Classes Flexible? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Gilbert AZ school you select provides 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 spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Gilbert AZ employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Provided? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Gilbert AZ area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.

Find Out More About Gilbert CDL Schools

Choose the Right Gilbert Truck Driver Training

Choosing the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need 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 trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Gilbert Arizona.

 

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