How to Select a CDL Driving School in Rhode Island
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school in Rhode Island. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s important to get the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain factors that you’ll want to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly 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 obtain the right education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you choose 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 discuss a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally in Rhode Island and within the USA, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will highlight 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). Below are brief explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 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 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 operate specific kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Rhode Island truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are several additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many Rhode Island truck driving schools are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school’s program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Rhode Island schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school’s track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won’t share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t hurt to get in touch with the Rhode Island licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Rhode Island and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be getting the individual instruction 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 insists it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Rhode Island 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 stated, it’s important that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to pay a visit to the Rhode Island school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will provide ample driving time to its students. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time differs among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Rhode Island schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from some Rhode Island truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is what’s known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Rhode Island, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Rhode Island testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it’s essential that the Rhode Island 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 teacher should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new profession in Rhode Island. Make sure 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 national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other trade or technical 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 navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted in Rhode Island.
Select the Right Truck Driver School
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold 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. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may want to look into 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 choice, or one of many associated with the school. It’s your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Rhode Island.