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How to Enroll in the Right Truck Driving Classes near Phoenix Arizona

Phoenix Arizona tractor trailer hauling payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Phoenix AZ. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done 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 important to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to consider prior to making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Phoenix residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal way to make sure you'll receive the proper 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 target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.

Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?

Phoenix Arizona truck traveling down highway

To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Phoenix AZ and throughout the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries of the two 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 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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 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 might also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.

How to Evaluate a CDL School

Phoenix Arizona concrete truck with flag paint job

When you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Phoenix AZ truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are some additional points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Phoenix AZ area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real 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 fulfill 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 negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Phoenix AZ schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Arizona licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.

How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Phoenix AZ schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will furnish lots of 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no substitute 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 fluctuates between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Phoenix AZ schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called 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 tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Phoenix AZ schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted 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 of other schools for test times at Arizona testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly noted, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's important that the Phoenix AZ school you enroll in offers 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 dedicate 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 needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Phoenix AZ employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Phoenix 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 a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.

Find Out More About Phoenix Truck Driver Schools

Enroll in the Best Phoenix CDL Training

Choosing the appropriate trucking school is an essential first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may want to consider 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 enroll in an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive 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 soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Phoenix Arizona.

 

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