How to Choose a CDL Driving School near Belleair Beach Florida
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Belleair Beach FL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it’s imperative to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of factors that you’ll want to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Belleair Beach residence. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best means to make sure you’ll get 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 goal in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver’s license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Belleair Beach FL, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver 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, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 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. 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
After you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Belleair Beach FL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are some more points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Belleair Beach FL area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. 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 Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Belleair Beach FL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school’s history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won’t supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to contact the Florida licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing 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. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Belleair Beach FL schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it’s essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although 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 important that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will furnish plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, 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 important training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Belleair Beach FL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Belleair Beach FL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Florida, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Florida testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it’s imperative that the Belleair Beach FL school you choose offers 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 spend 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 commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Belleair Beach FL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Belleair Beach FL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Belleair Beach FL?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Belleair Beach Florida area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Belleair Beach, Florida
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.7 square miles (4.5 km2), of which 0.46 square miles (1.2 km2) is land and 1.2 square miles (3.2 km2) (72.12%) is water.
The City of Belleair Beach operates under a Council-Manager form of government. The City Council is the legislative body of the city and is empowered by the charter to make policy which is then communicated to the City Manager for implementation. The City Council is composed of a mayor and six councilmembers who are elected at large on a non-partisan basis.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,751 people, 825 households, and 545 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,037.2 inhabitants per square mile (1,165.6/km²). There were 1,144 housing units at an average density of 1,984.3 per square mile (761.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 96.74% White, 0.23% African American, 0.17% Native American, 1.37% Asian, 0.11% Pacific Islander, 0.34% from other races, and 1.03% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.86% of the population.
Pick the Ideal Truck Driving School Belleair Beach FL
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to launching your new profession 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 several options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver’s success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It’s your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Belleair Beach FL.
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