Commercial Driver Education in Pennsylvania
A resource for pennsylvania CDL drivers, with trucking schools, application information, and more.
Pennsylvania CDL driver education info. Trucking schools, colleges, how to apply and more explained here.
A commercial driver’s license (CDL) is required to operate a commercial vehicle like a truck, a tractor-trailer or a school bus. CDL school are not mandatory in Pennsylvania to obtain a CDL. However not technically mandatory, commercial driver’s education is particularly useful to understand the intricacies that you need to have in order to get a CDL and to drive a commercial vehicle successfully.
FEDERAL REGULATIONS FOR COMMERCIAL DRIVING
Federal regulations for commercial driving are the same for all states in the US. Regulations are administered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and are designed for the safety of the drivers and that of the general public.
STATE REGULATIONS FOR COMMERCIAL DRIVING
Before you can drive a commercial vehicle legally in Pennsylvania, you must take specific tests. These tests depend on the type of CDL and the number and type of endorsements on it. The tests that you need to clear to conform to state regulations are the written knowledge test, the Air Brake Inspection test, and the road test. Apart from these driver tests, the test vehicle also has to pass inspection of the examiner. See here for the testing and application requirements for getting a CDL.
Pennsylvania has also adopted the U.S. Division of Motor Vehicles Hazardous Materials Regulations which involves the mandatory training and testing of commercial drivers who transport hazardous materials.
For school bus driving you require a special school bus endorsement on your CDL that authorizes driving 15 people or more apart from themselves. Separate knowledge and practical driving safety tests are required for bus driving. The knowledge test must also include an air brakes section if there are air brakes on the school bus. The driver must also clear the skills test required to drive the school bus.
CERTIFIED TRUCK DRIVING PROGRAMS IN THE US
In The US, truck driving courses are certified by a single organization, The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI) in Alexandria, Virginia. Though PTDI certification is not mandatory, it indicates that the school maintains good training standards for truck drivers, since PTDI certification is based on the driving skills that the school teaches the driver, the theoretical knowledge about truck driving that they offer, and their curriculum.
Below are the three types of training schools:
- There are the private schools which are run by privately owned establishments like corporate houses. Their main aim is to train people to join the truck driving industry which has a high level of demand. Their programs are typically of a good standard.
- Public schools – government run programs through colleges or institutes, usually at a subsidized cost.
- The third type is on the job training offered by carriers themselves with an aim to get the trainees to work for them. These training programs are usually not the best and only impart enough knowledge and skills to get a CDL.
The PTDI standard curriculum outlines what is required for certification under their standards, and provides other info and basic training for CDL drivers.
HOW TO PICK A GOOD TRAINING SCHOOL FOR TRUCK DRIVING
A good first step in finding info is look at program brochures or catalogues. Most decent school will present everything that is offered from the course, in the booklet. The catalogue should inform you about:
- the school and its involvement with truck driving training – how it will help you get licensed and recruited.
- the facilities it offers and the codes of conduct that it follows.
- what type of courses are available and the how to apply.
- the cost of the course as well as costs associated with getting the CDL.
- the refund policy in the event that you drop out of the course or are asked to leave.
- the school’s expectations from the student in terms of successful completion of the course, how the students will be evaluated, how they will be graded and what they need to do to graduate from the course.
The length of commercial education courses offered by different schools varies as there are no set standards for the same. A good program will note the duration in details on their brochure, clearly displaying how many hours would be spent in actual driving and how many in the class. Physical driving experience time is the most important. PTDI standards stipulate 44 hours of driving experience and 104 hours classroom and lab time. This standard is good to keep in mind when selecting courses.
It is recommended by experts to complete training that takes 4-6 weeks, with daily classes. Good schools have longer courses to enable students to get more personal attention and more driving experience behind the wheels, rather than observing other students driving.
GRADUATION AND PLACEMENT AFTER TRAINING PROGRAM
In most cases, schools will give out a certificate or diploma upon completion of the course. When carriers and trucking companies hire new drivers, they almost always prefer students who have such a certificate/diploma since that is proof of the students having completed the basic hours of training. This proof is also required by their insurance providers as part of the new hire processes. Training programs offered by motor carriers do not offer such a diploma or certificate and that training cannot be used as proof of completing the program during recruitment. Hence, students from these schools have to take positions with the motor carriers themselves.
Good schools help their students to find employment at the end of their training program. They usually have placement services on campus which arrange recruiting events with prospective employers to come and make presentations to the students and interview them.
A good program will advertise its placement rate on its brochure and will have the infrastructure to help its students secure a good position once the training is over, through their network of prospective employers as well as their commitment to students in helping them prepare for interviews and with preparing their resumes. Some top schools in the US are also known to provide lifetime assistance in finding placement.
- Since training schools are evaluated on the basis of their placement rates, it is important to complete a commercial driver’s education program from a good school before you apply for a CDL. This ensures that you become a safe driver and are also able to get a good job.
- See CDL Basics and How to Renew a CDL.