How to Pick a Trucking School in Kansas
Best wishes on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school in Kansas. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s essential to get the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of factors that you’ll need to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the ideal way to ensure you’ll obtain the right education. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully in Kansas and within the United States, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes 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 summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate 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 CDL is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Kansas truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can’t be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are several additional points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few Kansas truck driver schools are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent 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 caliber, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 curriculum and training will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Kansas schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school’s track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to check with the Kansas licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Kansas and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Kansas schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously stated, it’s essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the Kansas school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will furnish plenty of driving time to its students. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Kansas schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from certain Kansas truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement 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 maintaining affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Kansas, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Kansas testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it’s imperative that the Kansas school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you’re having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have received your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new career in Kansas. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted in Kansas.
Pick the Ideal Trucking School
Choosing the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. Most importantly, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It’s your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Kansas.