One of the most important decisions when the student wants to become a professional truck driver is choosing which truck driving training school he should enroll. There are thousands upon thousands of truck driving training schools throughout the country. Each of these training schools come with different programs. But as with any business, there are good truck driving training schools, as well as bad ones. So the aspiring driver needs to know what to look for, in order to pick a good training school.
Getting a CDL – First of all, the aspiring truck driver needs to get a CDL, or a Commercial Driver’s License. Without a CDL, a driver can’t enroll in a truck driving training school. The process of obtaining a CDL is the same in each state. All states require aspiring truck driving students to become commercial drivers first, in order to get a CDL permit. To obtain this CDL permit, aspiring driving students need to take written exams at the state departments of motor vehicles (also known as a driver’s license bureau). These departments are found in every state. Some of the categories in this exam include a general knowledge test, a combination vehicle test, and an air brakes test. There is an optional exam about hazardous materials, double and triple trailers, and tankers. After getting a permit, the student driver can only drive a tractor if he is accompanied by a CDL-licensed driver in the passenger seat. CDL permits expire after six months. Once the student gets his permit, he needs to learn how to drive a truck, and this is where truck driving schools come in. The truck driving school requires giving the student some driving instructions, so he can maneuver a truck and pass the driving exam. The driver must also learn how to inspect the vehicle before operating it, as well as conducting air brake tests, and a basic parking test.
Types of schools – There are three different types of truck driving schools that an aspiring driver can join. A private school, a public institution, and a training program run by a motor carrier.
Certification – Certification is not similar to state licensing. Certified driving schools are ones that meet the training standards of the trucking industry. This means that an independent third party has made an inspection in the school, and certified that the training should be given to students that have enough skills to become an entry-level truck driver.
Accreditation – Only a few truck driving schools have been accredited. This is because accreditation standards are very tough, and can be quite expensive. But these accredited truck driving schools have gotten the highest standards for schools that provide truck driver training.
Training curriculum – School curriculums are very important since it gives information on what kind of classes the driving school will teach. It serves as the plan of what the student will learn about truck driving.
Costs of training – Tuition costs can depend on a different amount of factors. It is advised that students should consider the value of the training school, rather than the cost. A training program’s value is determined by the benefits that program gives the student, in relation to the cost. The value of the program increases if the benefits are given at a lower cost. When it comes to CDL training, this value is determined by amount of driving time each student gets.
School contracts – All schools require the students to sign a contract, or an enrolling agreement. This applies for any type of trade or training career school. These contracts are important if the student is enrolling in a driving school. This contract will identify what kind of school you’re enrolling in, and explain the program that the student has enrolled in, as well as info about school hours and location. Other policies such as attendance and student progresses may also be included.
Free truck driver Training – Some trucking companies have given misleading ads that claim to train students for free, or almost no money. If the course offered is free, then there should be no conditions or obligations.
Training facilities – All training facilities should have a classroom, or a driving practice area. The classroom should be well-lit, clean, and heated/air conditioned adequately. They’re also supposed to have cushy seating and a desk for each student. Some driving schools also have a student break area, vending machines, and clean bathrooms. Schools should also have libraries filled with books and videos, and training materials for reference. Visual aids may also serve as a helpful tool for students.
Truck driving school externships – An externship is a program that lets students conduct the first part of training at the school. Afterwards, they complete the rest of the program with a trucking company. This training program is given by both a school and an employer. Students attend classes to learn basic driver’s education and skills in a training environment. The student then continues practicing and training on the job in a paid position. These externships can offer a smooth transition from the facility to the workplace.
Length of course – Schools should tell students how many hours of training they will get. But sometimes, there is no set rule regarding how many hours or weeks a training program should give. Experts say that the average driving student needs around 4-6 weeks of daily training, in order to learn tons of info that can be used once they become drivers.
Student to instructor ratios – This serves as a measure of how much attention each student will get. A high student-instructor ratio is less important when the setting is in a classroom.
Awarding a diploma or a certificate – A lot of driving truck schools, as well as publicly-funded driving programs will give the student a certificate or a diploma after graduation. But a carrier-based training program or an employer-paid contract training course can’t offer a certificate. This is because the carrier is giving the training since they need a driver right away. This is not a school, but more of a quick training on the job.
Employer-paid training – Employers will claim that they will pay for the employees’ CDL training. Not a lot of employers will do this, but there are some that will. Most companies that agree to pay for these driving school fees need the employee to stay with the company for a year, or re-pay the company if the employer terminates his contract.