How to Select a CDL Training School in Nebraska
Best wishes on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school in Nebraska. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s essential to obtain the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you’ll need to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your home. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the ideal way to make sure you’ll obtain the appropriate training. Don’t forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge 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? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally in Nebraska and within the USA, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short explanations of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 required 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. A few 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 specific types of vehicles, including passenger or school 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 Assess a CDL School
When you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Nebraska trucking schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are some more points that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few Nebraska trucking schools are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school’s program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Nebraska schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school’s history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won’t supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn’t hurt to contact the Nebraska licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Nebraska and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention 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 insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Nebraska schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it’s imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also vital that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the Nebraska school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time differs between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Nebraska schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to obtain free or discounted training from a number of Nebraska truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having associations 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 giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Nebraska, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Nebraska testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it’s essential that the Nebraska school you enroll in 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 teacher should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you’re still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have received your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to start your new profession in Nebraska. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are similar 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 reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted in Nebraska.
Choose the Ideal Trucking School
Choosing the right trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. Most importantly, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving 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 several affiliated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Nebraska.