Category Archives: South Dakota

Become a Truck Driver | Truck Driving Schools Smithwick SD

How to Find a CDL Training School near Smithwick South Dakota

Smithwick SD truck driving school campusCongratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Smithwick SD. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it’s important to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain variables that you’ll need to examine before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Smithwick home. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to ensure you’ll receive the proper training. Don’t forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select 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 review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.

Which CDL Will You Need?

long haul tractor trailer in Smithwick SDTo drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Smithwick SD, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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 2 classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed 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. 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.

How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School

Questions to ask Smithwick SD truck driving schoolsAs soon as you have decided which CDL you would like to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Smithwick SD truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can’t be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are several additional points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Smithwick SD area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Smithwick SD schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school’s track record 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 relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn’t be a bad idea to check with the South Dakota licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in South Dakota and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it’s any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Smithwick SD schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it’s essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It’s also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher’s ability to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will furnish sufficient 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time can vary between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Smithwick SD schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.

Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified 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 place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Smithwick SD schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in South Dakota, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at South Dakota testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it’s imperative that the Smithwick SD school you choose provides 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 dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.

Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Confirm 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, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Smithwick SD employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Smithwick SD area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.

Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Smithwick SD?

If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Smithwick South Dakota area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.

Smithwick, South Dakota

Select the Ideal Truck Driving School Smithwick SD

tractor trailer hauling construction materials in Smithwick SDPicking the ideal trucking school is an essential first step to launching your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several 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 America move as a professional truck driver in Smithwick SD.

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