How to Choose a Truck Driving School in Vermont
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school in Vermont. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s important to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you’ll need to examine prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your home. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based only on price is not the ideal means to make certain you’ll get the right training. Don’t forget, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That 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 commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally in Vermont and within the USA, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three 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 choose a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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). Following are short summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate 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 CDL is needed 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. Some 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 may also need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for instance 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 drive.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Vermont truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are some more points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few Vermont truck driver schools are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, 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 satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Vermont schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school’s track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn’t hurt to check with the Vermont licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Vermont and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. 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 instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Vermont schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it’s essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the Vermont school and talk to the instructors in person. 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 qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide plenty 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. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets 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 furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Vermont schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from some Vermont truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is what’s known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than 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 free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to obtain 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.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Vermont, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Vermont testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly noted, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it’s essential that the Vermont school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you’re having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you’re still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have obtained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession in Vermont. Make sure that the schools you are considering 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 companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver 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 examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed in Vermont.
Pick the Right Truck Driver School
Choosing the right trucking school is a critical first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge 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 get the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced 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 company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Vermont.