How to Select a CDL Training School near Sanders Montana
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Sanders MT. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it’s essential to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you’ll want to think about prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Sanders residence. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based only on price is not the ideal means to ensure you’ll get the proper education. Don’t forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Sanders MT, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The three classes of licenses that one can qualify 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 discuss Class A and Class 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 of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several 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 may also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Trucking School
Once you have decided which CDL you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Sanders MT trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are some more things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Sanders MT area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered 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 caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school’s program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Sanders MT schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school’s history is regarding 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 local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to get in touch with the Montana licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Montana and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Sanders MT schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already stated, it’s imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. 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 crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with 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.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will provide lots 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time differs between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Sanders MT schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to obtain discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Sanders MT schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Montana, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Montana testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it’s imperative that the Sanders MT school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you’re having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. 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 Provided? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Sanders MT employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Sanders MT area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Sanders MT?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Sanders Montana area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
Sanders County, Montana
It is located on the west edge of the state of Montana, with a variety of mountains – it is part of the Coeur d'Alene Mountains in the Bitterroot Range. The Clark Fork River runs through the middle of the county; Southeast to Northwest flow orientation with the Bitterroot Mountains on the Southwestern side and the Cabinet Mountains to the Northeast. Like many river systems of Western Montana, the Clark Fork is noted for broad, open plains along its banks.
It is partially arid, with the west-facing mountain slopes capturing the most rain: ranging from nearly 40 inches a year in Heron (similar to Seattle's annual precipitation) on the Western end of the county to less than 12 inches per year in Dixon on the East end.
A variety of birds and other wildlife are found in Sanders County. The Tufted duck has been observed along the Bull River. An amphibian, the Rough-skinned Newt, has a disjunctive population at Thompson Falls which is un-contiguous with the remainder of the Western United States population of this species.
Pick the Ideal Truck Driving School Sanders MT
Selecting the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver’s success. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It’s your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Sanders MT.
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