The purpose of truck driving lessons is to prepare you to pass the CDL skills test. To meet that goal, you will spend time both in a classroom and behind the wheel. You will probably spend about two-thirds of your training time in a classroom setting. For some people, the classroom time may seem boring, but it is a required part of the process and it should get you ready to make better use of your behind-the-wheel time.
One thing that can destroy a classroom experience is a disorganized program or instructor. When selecting your training program, make sure the school has a clearly defined curriculum, schedule and lesson plan for each class. If not, you run the risk of getting a teacher who likes to “wing it” every day. A well-organized instructor with a clear schedule and objectives will make the best use of your time and prepare you for the job ahead.
Behind-the-wheel is the part of driving school that everyone looks forward to. After all, this is what you came for. Your school should provide at least 44 hours of time where your hands are actually on the wheel of the truck. This time should not include waiting or watching time. However, you are likely to spend some time as a passenger in the cab while another student drives.
Some schools may offer day or evening classes on a part-time or full-time basis. You can finish a full-time program much faster than a part-time one and start your new career much sooner, but the down side is that you have to quit your old job first. Attending school part-time after a full day’s work can be exhausting, but it does give you the opportunity to keep earning a paycheck during your career transition without committing to company-paid training.
Computer-based training is on the rise. Some truck driving schools offer a portion of the classroom training component online. This can be a good option for certain people, but it is not for everyone. If you don’t have reliable Internet access, if your computer is outdated and slow, if you find computers frustrating, or if you have a hard time reading off a computer screen for long periods of time, do not choose a class with a large online component.
The equipment you use in the behind-the-wheel portion of your class should be similar age and type to the equipment large carriers use. Make sure your school has the right equipment to help you get all the endorsements you need, including tankers. The vehicles should be modern and well-maintained.
Every school designs their own tuition policies. Some schools require total payment up-front. Others have pay-as-you-go options. If you train through your employer, you might pay nothing in the beginning, but have tuition deducted out of your pay once you start working full-time. Some companies also pay their trainees about 60% of what they would pay a driver who paid for his own CDL training. You may have to pay separate testing fees to the DMV or to TSA for the hazmat screening. Be sure you understand exactly how much the program is going to cost you, and when, before you sign.