CLASS A CDL PROGRAM AT SOUTHWEST TRUCK DRIVER TRAINING
Southwest Truck Driver Training offers several driving programs, but our most popular is our CDL A (commercial driver's license class A) program. A CDL A lets you drive almost any type of commercial vehicle, so the trucking career field may be wide open for you with this type of license.
With our small classes, personalized training, and lifelong job placement assistance, we strive to make sure our graduates succeed both now and down the road. Read on to learn what CDL A training at Southwest Truck Driver Training looks like.
OUR CDL A PROGRAM: AN OVERVIEW
If you need it for your CDL A exam, Southwest Truck Driver Training teaches it. We met all Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) provider requirements before it was cool (and required by law). Our curriculum focuses on helping you:
- Understand the basic operating characteristics of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV)
- Learn to maneuver a CMV under various road, weather, and traffic conditions
- Complete behind-the-wheel training on basic vehicle control
- Handle roadside inspection procedures, vehicle systems, and how to identify vehicle malfunctions
- Drive a CMV safely, navigating potential hazards
- Know state and federal laws about over-the-road (OTR) hauling
- Perform non-driving activities related to CMVs, like cargo loading and unloading
- Create trip planning strategies to make sure you're ready for anything while on the road
We do all of this in small group settings, splitting time between learning in a classroom and behind the wheel. During the behind-the-wheel sessions, students work with CDL A-sized CMVs, which have a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more.
The driving portion of the program covers what to do from the moment you arrive at your vehicle to the moment you head home. This includes pre-trip inspections, backing up, city driving, vehicle control, visual searching, speed and space management, progressive shifting, and dealing with driving conditions.
Unlike many schools, we teach our students to operate automatic or manual transmission CMVs, which may increase our students’ understanding and potentially even some job opportunities. On either vehicle transmission type, instructors work with you every step of the way, helping you troubleshoot challenge areas and celebrating your wins.
Did we mention that we buy new and customized vehicles every year, so you'll learn on the latest technology? We also modify our vehicles so that a few students can observe comfortably from the back area of the cab, belted in with a table for notetaking, while the student driver and instructor focus on the road ahead.
In addition, we get our students registered in the U.S. Department of Transportation’s commercial driver clearinghouse and with a third-party consortium, making the transition from student to employed driver seamless and easier than with our competitors. Southwest Truck Driver Training students leave with a prepaid one-year membership to a C/TPA, a group that can help grads manage compliance and being an owner-operator, for those who choose to become one.
HOW LONG IS CLASS A CDL TRAINING AT SOUTHWEST?
While you may find yourself in classes for three to six months with some other training programs, Southwest Truck Driver Training's Class A CDL program lasts about four to eight weeks. Coursework includes 160 training hours—80 hours of knowledge and theory and 80 hours on basic control skills.
The amount of time you spend in school depends on the schedule you choose:
- Day classes: 4 weeks (Monday – Thursday, 6:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
- Night classes (Phoenix only): 4 weeks (Monday – Friday, 5:00 p.m. to 1:00 a.m.)
- Night classes (Tucson and North Las Vegas): 5 weeks (Monday – Friday, 5:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.)
- Weekend classes: 8 weeks (Saturday and Sunday, 6:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
If you have questions about our schedules or are concerned your life can't work with this, give us a call to see if there are other options. The answer is always "no" if you don't ask!
SOUTHWEST TRUCK DRIVER TRAINING TEST PREP
We know a thing or two about CDL A exams, as we're a state-certified CDL skills exam testing location.
To earn your CDL A, you'll need to pass knowledge and skills tests, and we ensure that the information you need for those tests is included in your studies. Below are just a few tested topics we teach.
- Basic and advanced vehicle operation
- Driving theory
- Driving-related laws
- Insurance issues
- Non-driving activities, like handling cargo and logbook management
- Road signals
- Rules of the road
- Safe operating procedures
- Vehicle maintenance and inspection
- Handling large loads
- Performing pre- and post-trip inspections
- Starting and stopping
- Turning, including three-point turns
Of course, that's just a taste of what you could encounter in Southwest Truck Driver Training’s CDL A program.
TRUCK DRIVER JOBS YOU CAN GET WITH A CDL A
The CDL A is the broadest type of commercial license, qualifying drivers for almost any entry-level driving job in the industry (barring those requiring endorsement). In addition, all Southwest graduates can take advantage of our lifetime job placement assistance program in four categories: dedicated, local, OTR, and regional.
- Dedicated: Driving the same OTR route repeatedly; typically home every week or so
- Local: Driving locally and helping to load and unload items; usually home every night
- Over-the-road (OTR): Driving in the continental United States and possibly Canada; home about every three to four weeks
- Regional: Driving in a particular part of the country; home every two to three weeks or so
Adding endorsements could improve your pay and career potential—and Southwest Truck Driver Training offers endorsement training that can pair with the CDL A. For instance, HAZMAT drivers often make more money than non-HAZMAT drivers. We also offer a passenger endorsement program. Transporting people rather than hazardous loads may not pay as much on average, but this type of work can offer a steadier schedule, shorter hours, and more local or regional routes.
CLASS A CDL SALARIES AND JOB OUTLOOK
Drivers with Class A CDLs can have such a wide variety of jobs that it's hard to nail down a specific salary. However, the average annual wage for heavy and tractor-trailer drivers is $50,340 nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Drivers with specialties like HAZMAT endorsements may make more, with the self-reporting site Glassdoor showing average earnings of $85,611 per year. So, adding an endorsement to your CDL A could be a great way to earn some additional money.
InArizona and Nevada, average salaries for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in 2021 were $49,430 and $50,860, respectively—but again, endorsements as well as more experience with a safe driving record can raise earning potential.
The BLS expects large truck driver employment to grow by 4% from 2021 to 2031. But, this doesn't factor in the driver shortage or the number of drivers leaving the field, often by retiring. So, the actual growth in job openings may be higher in many regions and in general nationwide.
The states where Southwest Truck Driver Training operates anticipate higher-than-average trucking job growth. For example, Arizona trucking jobs are expected to grow 32% from 2020 to 2030. Nevada expects a growth rate of 18% from 2020 to 2030.
Learn more about how much truck drivers make after graduating from Southwest Truck Driver Training with a CDL A.