Once an individual decides to join the trucking industry as a driver, the biggest and most important decision they will make is where they will go to get their education. This decision will greatly affect the job opportunities of a licensed driver entering the work force, and will no doubt be one of the determining factors in the ability to have a successful career. It is important that this decision be an informed one, that is came to by researching different options and knowing what questions to ask and who to ask them too.
The first question that should be asked to any training facility; Is your school a registered and approved training provider? Quite simply, if the facility isn’t a registered private career or community college, they should not be considered. This essentially means that they operate under the radar, and answer to no one or no governing body in regards to training standards or curriculums.
After confirmation has been received that a facility is registered, the next set of questions is very important and should be directed towards the customer service representative at the school or the person responsible for speaking with perspective students;
Do you offer a TTSAO accredited course or PTDI certified course? Truck training programs that are accredited by the Truck Training Schools Association of Ontario (TTSAO) or certified by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) provide the highest standard of entry level training available. Schools offering these courses are audited regularly and adhere to strict guidelines. These courses and the certificates that go along with them are also recognized by a large number of hiring companies and their insurance providers which means lots of job opportunities and the chance at a great career with graduates holding them!
Are the behind the wheel hours where I am learning to drive the truck One on One, and if not, how are those hours calculated? It is the opinion of many, including myself, that the best way to learn behind the wheel is with 1 instructor and 1 student in the cab, however not all facilities believe this or train this way. If a school does complete one on one in truck training, then you don’t have to worry about how those hours are calculated (50 hours of in-cab is 50 hours). However, if a school does not offer one on one training, it is important to know exactly how much seat time you will be receiving. If there is 50 hours of in cab training but with the ratio of 2 students to 1 instructor each student may only be receiving 25 hours of seat time each. If one on one training is not offered, it is very important to ask how the in-cab hours are calculated so it is clearly understood the amount of time behind the wheel per student.
Do you offer training on both manual and automatic transmissions? Although a number of hiring companies have gone to automated transmissions in their trucks, there a still a large number of companies who have
manual transmissions. To open up the most amount of doors for employment, having the ability to drive either type of transmission is critical. The TTSAO found it so critical that its mandated that schools offering their accredited program provide a minimum of 24 hour’s drive time in a manual transmission to each student.
What are your instructor’s qualifications and experience level? The instructors are going to be the one’s educating each student and should have the qualifications and experience to provide the necessary information and knowledge. The highest designation available for truck trainers is the North American Training Management Institutes (NATMI) Certified Driver Trainer (CDT). If a school employs trainers with the CDT designation, there is a good chance students are receiving a high level of instruction.
Can I tour your facility? Schools should be proud of their facilities and want to show them off to potential students. This also gives the student a chance to check out the learning environment they will be spending anywhere from 4-10 weeks at. This also gives perspective students the chance to see the equipment, meet the staff and potentially talk to other students if there are around at time of the tour. A decision on where to attend school should never be made without a tour!
The next step after receiving answers to these questions in narrowing the list down to 2 or 3 schools who have met expectations and impressed over the question and answer period is to contact some carriers or private fleets who are hiring, and ask them where they would recommend a new driver to the industry receive their training. After all, these are the companies who an entry level graduate may look to get work with, so why not get their opinion?
Choosing the right school is the first step to having a successful career as a licensed driver. Make sure the decision is an educated and informed one. It directly effects an entry level driver’s potential in the industry.
About the Author
A graduate of the University of Guelph, Richardson played five years of football for the Gryphons captaining the team in his last 3 years. He started working in the trucking industry at age 5 washing trucks and 20 years later his career is now in the industry with KRTS and The Rear View Mirror