The right truck driver training school can open the door to career opportunities. But a poor choice — even if it ultimately leads to a successful government road test — can leave students with little more than a piece of paper in their wallet, a gap in their bank account, and limited job prospects.
Here are seven factors to consider before registering for a course:
1. Job placements
Schools themselves can serve as a conduit to fleets that are hiring entry-level drivers.
Ask where students have been hired and contact the trucking companies to confirm that there is a relationship or at least some level of respect between the two organizations, says Rolf VanderZwaag, president and CEO of Techni-Com and author of several training manuals.
The promise of job placements after a course is completed is extremely important, he adds. “Many schools are simply in the business of helping students get a class A licence, rather than helping a person get started in a career. Avoid these schools.”
2. Online reviews and records
A bit of online research can offer insights into a training school’s past work. Look for student reviews and ensure the school is licensed to offer government-approved courses. Any notice, order or financial penalty based on previous violations could be a cause for concern.
3. Equipment and facilities
A positive training experience will require access to training resources. Ask potential schools about their student-instructor ratios, the type and age of equipment being used, and where the in-yard and on-road training is actually conducted. Some schools also use driving simulators to further enhance skills, which can help to ensure students are better prepared for lessons behind the wheel of an actual truck.
4. Professional development opportunities
Entry-level driver training, as the phrase suggests, is only the beginning. Learning is a lifelong experience. Ask the school about additional courses they offer. Some locations also provide specialized training in fuel-efficiency, dangerous goods, dispatching, business management, and occupational health and safety.
5. Commitments to safety
“My best advice would be to choose a school that emphasizes safety – not a great pass rate or quick entry into workforce,” says Anne Marie Hayes, a certified driving instructor and member of the Ontario Road Safety Forum.
Ask for a copy of safety abstracts – such as Ontario’s commercial vehicle operator’s registration (CVOR) – for the school and instructors who will provide the training. These records will identify details about inspection results, collisions, and convictions.
Any training comes at a cost, but a promise of unusually cheap tuition might be too good to be true. “While it is tempting to choose lower tuition, proper training takes time and the most common way to lower tuition fees is to cut corners,” says VanderZwaag.
A school’s location will have a role to play in training costs, so the one closest to home can help limit accommodation-related expenses. Just keep in mind that the quality of the training should ultimately be the deciding factor in any choice.