How to Pick a Truck Driver School near Saint Francis South Dakota
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Saint Francis SD. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it’s imperative to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you’ll want to examine before making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Saint Francis residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to ensure you’ll obtain the proper training. Just remember, 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 objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That 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 ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Saint Francis SD, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver’s License). The 3 license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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. A few 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 CDL 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. A few 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 drive certain kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Saint Francis SD trucking schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can’t be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So below are several additional points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Saint Francis SD area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace 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 quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Saint Francis SD schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school’s history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won’t provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn’t hurt to contact the South Dakota licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in South Dakota and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it’s any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Saint Francis SD schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already stated, it’s important that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It’s also vital that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the instructors 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 ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent trucking school will provide lots of driving time to its students. After all, isn’t that what it’s all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Saint Francis SD schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It’s possible to obtain free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, 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 restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Saint Francis SD schools you are looking at are captive or independent 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 trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in South Dakota, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at South Dakota testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it’s important that the Saint Francis SD school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you’re having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you’re still holding a job while going to 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 truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Saint Francis SD employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Saint Francis SD area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enrolling in a Truck Driving School near Saint Francis SD?
If you are considering enrolling in a CDL Training School in the Saint Francis South Dakota area, following is some interesting and perhaps useful information about the location of your new school campus.
St. Francis, South Dakota
As of the census of 2010, there were 709 people, 189 households, and 139 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,969.4 inhabitants per square mile (760.4/km2). There were 211 housing units at an average density of 586.1 per square mile (226.3/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 5.1% White, 0.4% African American, 93.8% Native American, and 0.7% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.8% of the population.
There were 189 households of which 56.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 17.5% were married couples living together, 40.7% had a female householder with no husband present, 15.3% had a male householder with no wife present, and 26.5% were non-families. 19.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 2.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.75 and the average family size was 4.27.
The median age in the town was 24.1 years. 38.8% of residents were under the age of 18; 13.2% were between the ages of 18 and 24; 24.6% were from 25 to 44; 18.8% were from 45 to 64; and 4.5% were 65 years of age or older. The gender makeup of the town was 51.8% male and 48.2% female.
Select the Right CDL School Saint Francis SD
Selecting the right trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver’s success. Most importantly, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It’s your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Saint Francis SD.
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