How to Pick a Truck Driver School near Winter Haven Florida
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Winter Haven FL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s important to obtain the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various factors that you’ll want to examine before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you need to commute from your Winter Haven home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to make sure you’ll receive the right training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully in Florida and within the United States, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school near Winter Haven FL, we will focus on 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). Following are short summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required 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 more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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 need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
After you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Winter Haven FL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can’t be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are several additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few Winter Haven FL truck driver schools are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent 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 recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 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 fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated 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 Winter Haven FL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school’s history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to get in touch with the Florida licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Florida and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Winter Haven FL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it’s imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to pay a visit to the Winter Haven FL school and speak with the teachers 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 ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will provide plenty of 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Winter Haven FL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from certain Winter Haven FL truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Florida, find out if the Winter Haven FL schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Florida testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it’s important that the Winter Haven FL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you’re having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new profession in Winter Haven FL. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed in Winter Haven FL.
Why Did You Decide to Become a Tractor Trailer Operator?When prepping to interview for a Trucking position, it's helpful to consider questions you might be asked. One of the questions that interviewers frequently ask truck driving prospects is "What drove you to choose trucking as a profession?". What the interviewer is hoping to uncover is not merely the personal reasons you might have for being a truck driver, but additionally what attributes and abilities you have that make you outstanding at your profession. You will undoubtedly be asked questions relating primarily to trucking, in addition to a significant number of standard interview questions, so you need to ready several approaches about how you want to answer them. Because there are numerous factors that go into selecting a career, you can answer this fundamental question in a variety of ways. When preparing an answer, aim to include the reasons the work interests you in addition to the talents you have that make you an outstanding truck driver and the best candidate for the job. Don't try to memorize an answer, but jot down a few ideas and topics that relate to your personal strengths and experiences. Reading through sample answers can help you to prepare your own thoughts, and give you ideas of what to include to enthuse the interviewer.
Pick the Ideal CDL School Winter Haven FL
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver’s success. Most importantly, you must get the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company 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 soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Winter Haven FL.
A Bit About Winter Haven Florida
Winter Haven, Florida
Winter Haven is a city in Polk County, Florida, United States. The population was 33,874 at the 2010 census. According to the U.S. Census Bureau's 2015 estimates, the city had a population of 37,689, making it the second most populated city in Polk County. It is a principal city of the Lakeland-Winter Haven, Florida Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The Timucua and the Calusa were the earliest known inhabitants of the land that would become Winter Haven. Both of these groups were deeply impacted, by war and disease, from the Spanish conquest of Florida in the early 1500s. The Timucua were particularly affected by the expedition of Hernando de Soto. By the 19th century, both these groups no longer existed. During these expeditions, the Spanish explorers claimed the entire peninsula of Florida for the Spanish monarchy
In the 19th century, the Creek and the Seminole were known to live and hunt in this area. During the Seminole Wars, the Seminole leader, Chipco, and his followers were known to live in the Winter Haven area. Several small skirmishes during the war were fought in and around Winter Haven.
In 1819, after the signing of the Adams-Onís Treaty, the United States gained control of Florida. The first American or European settlers in the area were encouraged to settle here by the Armed Occupation Act of 1842. This act was specifically created to increase the white population in the area as a way to weaken the Native Americans populations after the Second Seminole War. It created generous land grants and other incentives for settlers who were willing to defend themselves against the native populations, hence the name of the act.
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