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How to Pick the Best Trucking School near Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Arizona tractor trailer hauling cargoCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Phoenix AZ. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to get the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to think about before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Phoenix home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the best method to make sure you'll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?

Phoenix Arizona truck driving down expressway

To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Phoenix AZ and throughout the USA, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short explanations for the 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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. A few 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 CDLs may also need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.

How to Assess a Truck Driving School

Phoenix Arizona concrete mixer truck with patriotic paint job

As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Phoenix AZ truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are several more points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Phoenix AZ area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 training and curriculum will satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Phoenix AZ schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Arizona licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Arizona and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal attention 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 professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Phoenix AZ schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Enough Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. 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 furnish.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Phoenix AZ schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Arizona, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Arizona testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's essential that the Phoenix AZ school you select 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 teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. 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 commitments.

Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement 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 employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Phoenix AZ employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Phoenix AZ area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.

Learn More About Phoenix Trucker Training Schools

Choose the Best Phoenix Truck Driver Training

Picking the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered 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 drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe 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 by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select 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 no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Phoenix Arizona.

 

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