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How to Evaluate a Trucking School
When you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Phoenix AZ truck driving schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are several additional things that you should research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Phoenix AZ area are accredited due to the demanding 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 plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Phoenix AZ schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Arizona licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arizona and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual attention 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 professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Phoenix AZ schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will furnish sufficient 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Phoenix AZ schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with numerous 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 choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Phoenix AZ schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Arizona, ask 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 of other schools for test times at Arizona testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Phoenix AZ school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote 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 fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Phoenix AZ employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Phoenix AZ area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.