How to Choose the Right CDL Training and Truck Driving Schools
For those who are considering becoming a commercial or CDL truck driver, this post will help guide you in choosing the right CDL training and truck driving schools.
Trucking is a multi-billion-dollar industry. In fact, the trucking industry is one of the biggest employers in the US alone. More than 5 percent of working Americans are employed either as a truck driver or commercial driver. More than 40 percent of these jobs are held by minorities.
Understanding the CDL Training Process
The Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) is what every trucker needs to drive large, heavy freight trucks and be employed by the industry. It is issued and regulated by the Department of Transportation (DoT). There are different endorsements or classes of CDL that you can apply for.
The classes of CDL are as follows:
- Class A – license to operate large combination vehicles such as tractor-trailers, trailer buses, tankers, carriers, and flatbeds.
- Class B – license to drive large vehicles such as large buses, straight truckers, dump trucks, and segmented buses.
- Class C – license to drive vehicles that can transport at least 16 passengers and or hazardous materials per federal guidelines.
The minimum age requirement for issuing intra-state CDL is 18 years, while inter-state CDL’s is 21 years.
Different states may also have different requirements for CDL Training, but the following steps are usually involved in the process:
- Qualification process. You need to submit the legal and physical requirements so they can determine if you qualify for a CDL.
- Issuance of CLP (Commercial Learner’s Permit). You need to take a series of written exams to get a CLP so you can practice driving commercial vehicles during CDL training.
- Passing CDL Endorsement Tests. You need to take and pass a series of written exams for CDL.
- Passing CDL Driving Tests. You need to undertake and pass a 3-part driving test to get CDL.
To earn a CDL, you must first undergo CDL training with any one of the licensed or accredited truck driving schools. During training, drivers learn about everything they need to know about the industry and the rules and regulations that govern it.
If you want to become part of this industry as a commercial truck driver, there are several things you need to consider first before jumping into any CDL training:
Your driving record or history should be clean. That means zero records of speeding over limits, careless driving, license suspensions, and road accidents. If you fail to keep a clean record for at least three years, trucking companies and employers won’t hire you. Not even if you complete and fully pay for your CDL training.
Having a criminal record will also discourage employers from hiring or even considering you. Criminal records reflect your kind of civil behavior and attitude. If you have been charged with theft or burglary before, employers may not trust you in transporting their valuable goods. If you have been charged with any form of violent crime, employers will not trust how you will behave on the road.
Alcohol and drug record
If you have a record of any DUI (driving under influence) and or failed any drug test, employers will automatically cross you out from their lists. This is because such representation of poor lifestyle choices will affect the way you deliver at work. Employers won’t be able to trust you because such choices can bring harm to people’s lives and their companies’ images.
Another important factor to consider is your medical record. A CDL truck driver must be physically fit. Trucking is a backbreaking job and anyone who has special medical conditions won’t be able to survive its daily toll on the human body. If you have any medical condition that might discourage employers from hiring you. Never try to conceal it just because you need the job. You need to be truthful and transparent about your condition.
Another thing that many employers consider when hiring truckers is their employment history. Your previous employments will reflect on how you commit yourself to your job. It also tells how you respect your employers by honoring their employment contract. If you have any negative employment record or have never held a job for more than 6 months, it may well reflect poor commitment and unprofessionalism.
Deciding Where to Get Your CDL Training
CDL training is usually provided by truck driving schools. There are three types of schools where you can get your training:
- Special programs in community colleges
- Private truck driving schools
- Trucking company-operated schools
These schools provide CDL training programs that may vary in length and scope. There are some schools that offer only a week-long training and some may take you months to complete.
However, you should know that a shorter training course doesn’t equate to a faster track to a CDL trucking career. CDL training should be taken for at least a few weeks to gain some mastery in driving a certain vehicle. In fact, the longer and more frequent you practice driving during training, the better are your chances to qualify for CDL and job opportunities.
In choosing the right truck driving school, you must consider the following:
- Level of training quality – it’s better to choose a truck driving school with a state-licensed program because these schools combine classroom and hands-on learning more efficiently so you can learn more in every session.
- Length of training – as mentioned before, the longer you train, the better. Many employers will agree that extensive training enhances one’s driving skills better than intensive yet short ones. But that doesn’t mean you need to choose the longest program. Practically, it should take you at least 3 to 4 weeks to get used to driving a large trailer truck. So it’s better to choose a program that allows for at least one month’s worth of driving experience while training.
- Cost of training – another important thing you should know is that you can’t avail of any college loan for CDL training. However, there are sponsorships that you can apply for that’ll help reduce the tuition costs. These sponsorships may be provided by trucking companies who are willing to hire and pay you while you train. Another way to cut training cost is to avail of Pell grants for education.
- Location of Training – sometimes, the nearest school isn’t the most practical choice. Since trucking involves a lot of driving on the road, traveling to school from a distance could bring some advantage.
- Job Opportunities – probably the most important thing to consider is the school’s ability to help you secure a job after getting your CDL. A lot of companies may hire you while you train, but some don’t have such an offer. Choose schools that are affiliated with some trucking companies. They can put in a good word for you and recommend you.
Being a truck driver and becoming a CDL trucker driver are different things. As a CDL truck driver, you have responsibilities that you should meet at all times. Anything reckless, no matter how small it is, can end your career in an instant.
CDL training is a requirement before CDL can be issued to any truck driver. It serves as an extension of the qualification process of CDL that only the strong-willed and strong-minded can pursue and pull off.