How to Select a Truck Driving School in New Mexico
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school in New Mexico. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it’s important to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of variables that you’ll want to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to ensure you’ll get the appropriate education. Don’t forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally in New Mexico and within the United States, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 license classes that one 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 discuss Class A and 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). Below are short explanations of 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 Commercial Drivers License 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 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 operate specific kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
After you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the New Mexico trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few additional things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few New Mexico trucking schools are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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 certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top New Mexico schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school’s history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact the New Mexico licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in New Mexico and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of New Mexico schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it’s essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the New Mexico 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 quality of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driver school will furnish lots of 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 essential 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 become. And even though driving time differs among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the New Mexico schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It’s possible to receive discounted or even free training from certain New Mexico truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the schools you are considering are captive or independent 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 trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in New Mexico, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at New Mexico testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it’s essential that the New Mexico school you choose offers 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 instructor should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have obtained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new career in New Mexico. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed in New Mexico.
Select the Best CDL School
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver’s success. Most importantly, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you may want to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It’s your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in New Mexico.