How to Choose a CDL Driving School in Missouri
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school in Missouri. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s imperative to receive the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various variables that you’ll need to examine before making your final choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your home. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based only on price is not the best means to guarantee you’ll obtain the appropriate training. Don’t forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally in Missouri and within the United States, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and 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). Following are short explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required 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 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 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Missouri trucking schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are a few more things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many Missouri trucking schools are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 training and curriculum will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Missouri schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school’s track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to get in touch with the Missouri licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Missouri and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Missouri schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously stated, it’s essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also vital that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the Missouri school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time differs among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Missouri schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some Missouri truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with many different 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 surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Missouri, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Missouri testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it’s imperative that the Missouri school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you’re having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have attained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new career in Missouri. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted in Missouri.
Pick the Best Truck Driver School
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver’s success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Missouri.