How to Pick a CDL Training School in Louisiana
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school in Louisiana. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s essential to get the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you’ll want to consider prior to making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the best way to ensure you’ll receive the right training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover 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 Require?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully in Louisiana and within the USA, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that 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 together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
After you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of researching the Louisiana truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are a few more points that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many Louisiana trucking schools are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount 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 meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Louisiana schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school’s track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won’t supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking firms. 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 get in touch with the Louisiana licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Louisiana 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 higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Louisiana schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it’s important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to visit the Louisiana school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will furnish ample 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 driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time differs among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Louisiana schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain Louisiana truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Louisiana, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Louisiana testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short term, it’s imperative that the Louisiana school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you’re having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to devote 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 must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have attained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession in Louisiana. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted in Louisiana.
Choose the Right Truck Driving School
Choosing the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. Most importantly, you must get the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated 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 America move as a professional truck driver in Louisiana.