How to Pick a Truck Driver School near Washington District of Columbia
Best wishes on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Washington DC. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good income and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s essential to receive the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you’ll need to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Washington home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based only on price is not the ideal way to make certain you’ll obtain the proper training. Don’t forget, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on 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 review a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully in District of Columbia and within the United States, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school near Washington DC, 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 summaries for the two 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 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 greater 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Washington DC truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are a few additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many Washington DC truck driving schools are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Washington DC schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school’s history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won’t provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact the District of Columbia licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in District of Columbia and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Washington DC schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it’s imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also crucial that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the Washington DC school and speak with the teachers 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 ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving school will furnish sufficient 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between 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. Check with the Washington DC schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from certain Washington DC truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement 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 rather than maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the schools you are considering are captive or independent 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 driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in District of Columbia, ask if the Washington DC schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at District of Columbia testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it’s essential that the Washington DC school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you’re having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver’s license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new career in Washington DC. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driving 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 assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted in Washington DC.
Why Did You Choose to Become a Trucker?When getting ready to interview for a Trucking job, it's advantageous to reflect on questions you could be asked. Among the questions that interviewers frequently ask truck driving applicants is "What made you select trucking as a profession?". What the interviewer is hoping to discover is not merely the personal reasons you might have for becoming a trucking operator, but additionally what characteristics and abilities you have that make you good at your profession. You will undoubtedly be asked questions relating primarily to trucking, along with a significant number of routine interview questions, so you must ready a number of ideas about how you would like to answer them. Considering there are numerous variables that go into choosing a career, you can address this primary question in a variety of ways. When preparing an answer, aim to include the reasons the profession appeals to you along with the strengths you possess that make you an excellent truck driver and the perfiect choice for the position. Don't make an effort to memorize an answer, but write down some ideas and topics that pertain to your own strengths and experiences. Reading through sample responses can help you to develop your own concepts, and give you ideas of what to include to enthuse the interviewer.
Select the Best CDL School Washington DC
Picking the ideal truck driving school is a critical first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. Most importantly, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you may want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It’s your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Washington DC.
A Bit About Washington District of Columbia
Washington, D.C., formally the District of Columbia and commonly referred to as "Washington", "the District", or simply "D.C.", is the capital of the United States.
The signing of the Residence Act on July 16, 1790, approved the creation of a capital district located along the Potomac River on the country's East Coast. The U.S. Constitution provided for a federal district under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Congress and the District is therefore not a part of any state. The states of Maryland and Virginia each donated land to form the federal district, which included the pre-existing settlements of Georgetown and Alexandria. Named in honor of President George Washington, the City of Washington was founded in 1791 to serve as the new national capital. In 1846, Congress returned the land originally ceded by Virginia; in 1871, it created a single municipal government for the remaining portion of the District.
Washington had an estimated population of 681,170 as of July 2016. Commuters from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia suburbs raise the city's population to more than one million during the workweek. The Washington metropolitan area, of which the District is the principal city, has a population of over 6 million, the sixth-largest metropolitan statistical area in the country.
All three branches of the federal government of the United States are centered in the District - the Congress, President, and Supreme Court. Washington is home to many national monuments and museums, which are primarily situated on or around the National Mall. The city hosts 176 foreign embassies as well as the headquarters of many international organizations, trade unions, non-profit organizations, lobbying groups, and professional associations.
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