How to Select a Truck Driving School near Westcliffe Colorado
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Westcliffe CO. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it’s imperative to receive the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you’ll want to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Westcliffe residence. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the ideal method to make certain you’ll receive the proper training. Just remember, your goal 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 objective in mind, just how do you pick 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 talk a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally in Colorado and within the USA, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school near Westcliffe CO, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind 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 descriptions for 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. 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 CDL is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Westcliffe CO truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are some more things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many Westcliffe CO truck driving schools are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, 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. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 curriculum and training will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. 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 Westcliffe CO schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school’s history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won’t share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn’t hurt to get in touch with the Colorado licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Colorado and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be getting 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 insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Westcliffe CO schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it’s important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also important that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the Westcliffe CO school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will furnish ample driving time to its students. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no replacement 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 fluctuates among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Westcliffe CO schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It’s possible to get free or discounted training from certain Westcliffe CO truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is what’s known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations 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 work 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 ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Colorado, ask if the Westcliffe CO schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Colorado testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it’s important that the Westcliffe CO school you choose provides 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 dedicate 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 fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession in Westcliffe CO. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask 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 placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driver schools are much like 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 examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed in Westcliffe CO.
Why Did You Decide to Become a Truck Driver?When preparing to interview for a Trucking job, it's a good idea to review questions you could be asked. Among the questions that recruiters typically ask truck driving applicants is "What compelled you to pick trucking as a profession?". What the interviewer is trying to uncover is not merely the private reasons you might have for being a truck driver, but also what characteristics and talents you possess that make you outstanding at what you do. You will undoubtedly be asked questions relating specifically to trucking, as well as a certain number of general interview questions, so you should ready some approaches about how you would like to respond to them. Given that there are several factors that go into selecting a career, you can answer this primary question in a multitude of ways. When formulating an answer, try to include the reasons the profession appeals to you along with the abilities you possess that make you an excellent truck driver and the ideal choice for the job. Don't make an effort to memorize an answer, but take down several ideas and talking points that pertain to your own strengths and experiences. Going over sample answers can assist you to develop your own concepts, and inspire ideas of what to discuss to wow the recruiter.
Select the Right Truck Driving School Westcliffe CO
Picking the right truck driver school is an important first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver’s success. Most importantly, you must get the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need 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 select an independent school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Westcliffe CO.
A Bit About Westcliffe Colorado
Westcliffe is a statutory town that is the county seat of Custer County, Colorado, United States. At the 2010 U.S. Census, the population was 568, up from 417 in 2000.
Westcliffe had its start in 1881 when the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad was extended to that point. The community was named after Westcliff-on-Sea, a town in England.
Westcliffe is located west of the geographic center of Custer County at 38°7′58″N 105°27′57″W / 38.13278°N 105.46583°W / 38.13278; -105.46583 (38.132874, -105.465920). It lies in the Wet Mountain Valley, between the Wet Mountains to the east and the Sangre de Cristo Range to the west. The town of Silver Cliff is immediately to the east of Westcliffe.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 1.2 square miles (3.2 km2), all of it land.
More Cities of Interest in Colorado