How to Pick a Trucking School in Maryland
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school in Maryland. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it’s imperative to obtain 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 examine before making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your residence. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the ideal method to make sure you’ll receive the right training. Don’t forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
To drive commercial vehicles legally in Maryland and within the United States, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and 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 of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few of the vehicles that drivers may be able to operate 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 more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several of the vehicles that drivers may be qualified to operate 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 drive specific types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Maryland trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few additional points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few Maryland truck driver schools are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school’s course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Maryland schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school’s history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn’t hurt to get in touch with the Maryland licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Maryland and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Maryland schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously stated, it’s imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also vital that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the Maryland school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving school will furnish sufficient 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time varies among schools, a good benchmark 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 Maryland schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to obtain discounted or even free training from a number of Maryland truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just remember to find out if the schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Maryland, find out if the schools you are reviewing 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 Maryland testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it’s essential that the Maryland school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you’re having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you’re still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new profession in Maryland. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted in Maryland.
Pick the Best Trucking School
Choosing the appropriate trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. Most importantly, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Maryland.