When it comes to choosing a Class A CDL training school, there are a number of factors that should go into your decision.
Among those factors, the quality of the training you’re going to receive should be at the top of your list — even above the price.
Don’t believe that? Well, think of it like this: If you had a choice between a $1 apple with worms in it, or a $2 apple that’s fresh, which are you going to pick? The $1 apple seems cheaper up front, but really it’s just a waste of a dollar.
With that in mind, let’s look at three good ways to tell if a CDL school’s training program is quality, or if it’s just full of worms:
1. Behind-The-Wheel Time
One of the best ways to tell if a CDL training program is worth the cost is by how much behind-the-wheel time you’re going to get.
“Behind-the-wheel time” is how many hours you’re going to spend driving, as opposed to simply being in the truck while other students drive.
Now don’t get us wrong: Spending time watching others drive can be very, VERY important to your training. You’ll be able to learn from the instructor while watching the example of your fellow students, which gives you a new perspective and let’s you spend more hours in the truck than you probably could if you were driving the whole time.
But learning and practicing can be two different things, and it’s important to get a good mix of each.
Roadmaster, for example, offers a proper combination of behind-the-wheel time and valuable observation time, and any students who require additional time behind the wheel receive it until we feel that they are ready. We know that for some students it may take a little longer to get the hang of driving a truck.
Our goal isn’t to push you through the training program; it’s to make sure you’re ready to operate a commercial vehicle, safely and proficiently, as a professional truck driver.
2. Student/Instructor Ratio
Another standard to look for is in the student-to-instructor ratio, which is the number of students each instructor will be teaching at a time.
This number will make a big difference in your training because a class with fewer students per instructor will allow you more access to your trainer. That means you’ll be able to ask more questions and have more time for detailed answers.
At Roadmaster, the student-to-instructor ratio can vary depending on which school location you attend and which particular class you’re in. But, on average, our student to instructor ratio is about 4 to 1 on the training pad and 3 or 4 to 1 for the road training. By working in such small groups, you’ll be able to get a lot of attention from your instructor which will help you to learn more efficiently and effectively.
3. Equipment Quality
The third thing to look at is whether or not the school’s equipment is what’s known as “Industry standard,” meaning it is on par with most truck schools in terms of age and general repair and that it complies with the regulations of the federal Department of Transportation (DOT).
This point is important because if you practice on, say, a horse and carriage from the 1800’s, that old stagecoach probably won’t prepare you for your future job driving some very up-to-date trucks. Modern technology is constantly evolving, so you want to practice on a truck that will reasonably prepare you for the equipment you’re going to be using when you start your career.
In order to prepare our students properly, all of Roadmaster’s equipment is industry standard. Our trucks and trailers go through an annual DOT vehicle inspection by a certified mechanic, as well as a daily vehicle inspection by our instructors (as it’s our obligation to maintain vehicle condition to DOT specifications at all times). We generally teach on late-model trucks with 9- or 10-speed transmissions and 48- or 53-foot trailers.
Oh, and no stagecoaches. Definitely no stagecoaches.
So, now that you know what to look for in a CDL training school, you should be able to avoid wasting your money on a cheap, low-quality program and instead spend it wisely on a worthwhile program.