How to Choose a Truck Driver School near Flagstaff Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Flagstaff AZ. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s important to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you’ll need to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Flagstaff residence. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the optimal means to guarantee you’ll receive the proper training. Don’t forget, your objective 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 purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally in Arizona and within the United States, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school near Flagstaff AZ, 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 in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short explanations of 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. Some 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 Commercial Drivers License is required 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. 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 might also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Flagstaff AZ trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So below are a few more things that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few Flagstaff AZ truck driver schools are accredited due to the stringent 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 obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Flagstaff AZ schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school’s history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won’t provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous 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 get in touch with the Arizona licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Arizona and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized instruction 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 professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Flagstaff AZ schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already stated, it’s imperative 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 be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also vital that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to visit the Flagstaff AZ school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher’s qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will furnish plenty of 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Flagstaff AZ schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from certain Flagstaff AZ truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with numerous 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 flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just remember 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 several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Arizona, ask if the Flagstaff AZ schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Arizona testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a short duration, it’s important that the Flagstaff AZ school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you’re having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver’s license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new career in Flagstaff AZ. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Trucking schools are similar to 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 evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted in Flagstaff AZ.
Why Did You Choose to Become a Truck Driver?When getting ready to interview for a Trucking position, it's a good idea to reflect on questions you may be asked. One of the questions that interviewers frequently ask truck driving applicants is "What drove you to pick trucking as a career?". What the interviewer is trying to learn is not just the personal reasons you may have for becoming a truck driver, but also what attributes and talents you have that make you good at what you do. You will probably be asked questions relating exclusively to trucking, in addition to a significant number of typical interview questions, so you should ready several strategies about how you would like to address them. Considering there are so many variables that go into selecting a career, you can address this fundamental question in a variety of ways. When readying an answer, aim to include the reasons the profession interests you as well as the strengths you have that make you an outstanding truck driver and the ideal candidate for the position. Don't make an effort to memorize a response, but write down a few ideas and topics that relate to your personal strengths and experiences. Reading through sample answers can assist you to formulate your own concepts, and inspire ideas of what to discuss to wow the recruiter.
Pick the Right CDL School Flagstaff AZ
Choosing the appropriate trucking school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation 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 many options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver’s success. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced 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 company of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It’s your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Flagstaff AZ.
A Bit About Flagstaff Arizona
Flagstaff is a city in and the county seat of Coconino County in northern Arizona, in the southwestern United States. In 2015, the city's estimated population was 70,320. Flagstaff's combined metropolitan area has an estimated population of 139,097. The city is named after a ponderosa pine flagpole made by a scouting party from Boston (known as the "Second Boston Party") to celebrate the United States Centennial on July 4, 1876.
Flagstaff lies near the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, along the western side of the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in the continental United States. Flagstaff is located adjacent to Mount Elden, just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in the state of Arizona. Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet (3,851 m), is located about 10 miles (16 km) north of Flagstaff in Kachina Peaks Wilderness.
Flagstaff's early economy was based on the lumber, railroad, and ranching industries. Today, the city remains an important distribution hub for companies such as Nestlé Purina PetCare, and is home to Lowell Observatory, The U.S. Naval Observatory, the United States Geological Survey Flagstaff Station, and Northern Arizona University. Flagstaff has a strong tourism sector, due to its proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, Oak Creek Canyon, the Arizona Snowbowl, Meteor Crater, and historic Route 66. The city is also a center for medical device manufacturing, since Flagstaff is home to W. L. Gore and Associates.
There exist several stories and legends regarding the origin of the city's name. Surveyors, prospectors, and investors had traveled through the area in the mid- to late-19th century, and the act of stripping a pine tree to fly an American flag has been attributed to several individuals over the course of a twenty-year span. It is said that, because of the flag that was raised, the area surrounding it became known as Flagstaff.
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