You want to get the best quality education and the most value for your money but more importantly, you want to land a truck driving job after graduation. Often times, people will pick a driving school based on the least important factors while ignoring the most important, and I’m here to ensure you know what to look for before picking a driving training school. Below are the most important features of a good truck driving school:
Quality of Training
This is the most important aspect of what to look for in a truck driving school as you need to make sure you start off on the right foot. The school you choose should have no more than 4 students for every instructor and all students should be instructed when they’re behind the wheel. When the student is driving, the instructor should be monitoring the student closely and making suggestions on how to improve their driving technique. Mistakes should be corrected, and although there is a lot to be said for teaching yourself, use your instructor – that’s what you’re paying them for.
Some schools will have several practice lots or yards going on simultaneously and instructors will walk from yard to yard to check on each student. Although it’s great you’re getting lots of time behind the wheel, if the instructor is responsible for too many students at once, there will be some oversights. There won’t be anyone to correct you on mistakes that you make and eventually, those mistakes will turn into bad habits.
Price is naturally one of the first things a prospective student will think about, though I purposefully put it second in our list of what to look out for. When comparisons are generic, it’s OK to make a decision based on price but when choosing a truck driving school, not all schools are created equal. Price should not be your ultimate decision maker as making a fast decision on your enrollment could affect the rest of your career.
Truck driving schools in close proximity to each other will have similar pricing, under a $500 difference for the most part. If one school is completely different in pricing, you’ll want to call in and ask why. If you call to inquire about rates and fees and you realize it’s more than you expected to pay then ask about financing, grants and how others pay for the class. Learn the differences between schools and at the end of the day, make a decision based on value, not just price.
Quality of the Instructors
This aspect is harder to judge but still very important. A good truck driving school will have instructors that are knowledgeable, experienced, caring and most importantly, capable of being a good teacher.
The more experience your instructor has had on the road, the better as they will know the ins and outs of the transportation industry more so than a less experienced driver. A truck driving instructor should also stay up-to-date on the latest trends in the trucking industry and with new regulations. Schools normally require instructors to keep up with news and changes in the industry and share their knowledge with their students.
Driving school instructors should also be caring: they should want to genuinely help you and want you to succeed. There are people out there just collecting a pay cheque but they shouldn’t be in this industry as it’s a hands on job.
Most importantly, a truck driver trainer should be capable of teaching. There are truckers out there who are great, safe drivers but who can’t get information across effectively which hinders their ability to teach effectively. Anyone can become a better teacher, they just need the desire to do so and educate themselves.
As it’s difficult to gauge an instructor’s abilities, you should meet with a couple to learn more about what to expect from them. Try to meet with a current student as well, just to get a better feel for the school and the instructor’s style. If you hear a student complaining about the instructors or you don’t get a good feeling after meeting one or two instructors, you may want to keep looking.
Location is a funny factor: drivers that plan on driving all around the country to make a living won’t drive the extra 20 minutes out of their way to go to a different truck driving school. As I mentioned earlier, each school is not built equally so you can’t just choose the closest one and call it a day. Again, if you were making comparisons of something generic here, for sure you could just pick the closest school but that’s not the case here.
Job Placement Services for Truckers
Some students are pleasantly surprised when their program includes job placement assistance, while others find out some schools owned and operated by trucking companies have none. Placement is a very important aspect of truck driver training and if a school isn’t willing or able to place students, you need to shop around as something isn’t right.
Although there are some students who will not find a placement in the trucking industry, a reputable school should tell you upfront that they may not find employment at all. Students with recent DUIs, felonies, accidents, moving violations, and sketchy work histories will all have a significantly harder time finding work.
The turnover rate in over the road trucking is extremely high, sometimes as high as 100%, and trucking companies are always looking for new drivers. If only a few trucking companies are recruiting from a school you are considering, you may need to think about another school.
The Best Truck Driving Schools…
… give you enough drive time on the road. Drive time does not include pre-trips, observation time or simulator time but includes the time you’re the one behind the wheel driving. Drive time is a very important factor when considering a school and although schools will vary on time, 32 hours should be the minimum. A student with a lot of drive time under their belt will definitely be a better driver and a better graduate. Again, the more drive time – the better.
You may have also heard that one-on-one training is better but this is incorrect. You are not being cheated out of drive time when you are observing, you’re actually learning more as you’re learning from other people’s mistakes and additionally, this is remedial time and does not count against your drive time. If you weren’t in a truck observing, you would probably be memorizing the pre-trip or sitting at a computer, not driving. Students that have built-in remedial observation time, end up spending more time in and around trucks than students with one-on-one training.
And sometimes you just need to step away, take a break and come back refreshed. When you do one-on-one training, there’s no one else scheduled with you so you can’t just pop in the back and have someone else drive for a while, no matter how tired and frustrated you may feel. So, the question shouldn’t be, “Will the training be one-on-one?” it should be focused on how much time you’ll actually spend driving and don’t forget that you’re still learning when you’re observing.
In the end, do your homework. Make those phone calls and send out emails for more info on each school. Evaluate each school thoroughly before signing on the dotted line and understand your priorities.
How about you? What did you look for in your school and how did things turn out? Let us know about your experiences in the comments below.