Class A CDL Training at Southwest Truck Driver Training
The Class A commercial driver's license (CDL) program equips students with theoretical and practical knowledge of CDL A requirements. We’ve designed Southwest Truck Driver Training’s CDL A program for students to pass the DMV’s exams and qualify for entry-level employment as truck drivers.
At Southwest Truck Driver Training, in addition to classroom learning, you'll receive sufficient behind-the-wheel driving time to help you develop the necessary skills to obtain your Class A CDL.
Our CDL A Training Program: An Overview
As an approved Entry-Level Driver Training (ELDT) provider with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Association (FMCSA), we make sure our Class A CDL training students will:
- Develop a working understanding of the basic operating characteristics of a commercial motor vehicle (CMV)
- Learn how to maneuver a CMV under various road, weather, and traffic conditions
- Receive behind-the-wheel training on basic vehicle control
- Obtain knowledge on roadside inspection procedures, vehicle systems, and how to identify vehicle malfunctions
- Learn how to operate a CMV safely and how to navigate potential hazards
- Review state and federal laws concerning over-the-road hauling
- Acquire information on the non-driving activities related to CMV operations, such as cargo loading and unloading techniques
- Discover trip planning strategies to ensure the successful completion of your drive
How Long Is Class A CDL Training at Southwest?
SWTDT's Class A CDL program consists of 160 hours of training—80 hours in the classroom and 80 hours behind the wheel. The driving hours occur on the road or at our school's truck driving range.
Our CDL A training program takes anywhere from four to eight weeks, depending on which class option you choose:
- Day classes: 4 weeks (Monday – Thursday, 6:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.)
- Night classes: 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.)
Compared to other programs that can take between three and six months with limited schedule options, Southwest Truck Driver Training provides a fast, flexible way to earn your Class A CDL.
Coursework and Topics in Southwest's CDL A Program
CDL A holders are permitted to drive a combination of vehicles with a gross weight of 26,001 pounds or more, including towed vehicles that weigh more than 10,000 pounds.
Tractor-trailers, truck and trailer combinations, dump trucks, tanker vehicles, flatbeds, and livestock carriers all fall into this category.
A CDL A training program prepares you for your licensure exam and comprises both theoretical (“book” study) and practical (“behind-the-wheel”) instruction.
The theoretical section typically covers:
- Basic and advanced vehicle operation
- Rules of the road
- Road signals
- Driving-related laws
- Driving theory
- Insurance issues
- Non-driving activities, like handling cargo and logbook management
- Safe operating procedures
- Vehicle maintenance and inspection
The practical portion usually includes skills on a vehicle that CDL A holders can drive:
- Handling large loads
- Performing pre- and post-trip inspections
- Starting and stopping
- Turning, including three-point turns
In Southwest's CDL A training program, you'll learn how to plan trips, read maps, track hours of service, spot hazards, develop defensive driving habits, handle and secure cargo, and adhere to the rules set out in the FMCSA's regulations.
The practical portion of the program is devoted to range or road operations, learning how to conduct pre-trip inspections, backing up, city driving, basic vehicle control, visual search, speed and space management, progressive shifting, and how to deal with extreme driving conditions.
Preparing for the CDL A Test
To earn your CDL A, you'll need to pass both a knowledge and skills test. The knowledge test may include any topics covered in the CDL manual, so it is best to study this information beforehand.
The skills exam comprises three parts: the Vehicle Inspection Test, Basic Controls Test, and Road Test.
Southwest's program provides you with all the knowledge and training needed to pass the CDL A licensure exams. As an approved ELDT provider, SWTDT's curriculum meets the national standards.
We also coordinate with relevant state DMVs to ensure that our CDL A graduates are cleared to take their exams. You can take the CDL test onsite at Southwest through a third-party DMV administrator.
Types of Truck Driver Jobs You Can Get with a CDL A
Successful completion of our CDL A training program will qualify you for various entry-level positions in the trucking industry. All CDL graduates can also take advantage of our lifetime job placement assistance program in four categories: dedicated, local, OTR, and regional.
After finishing your education, you're prepared to take on multiple driving careers, including:
- Commercial licensed driver trainee
- Second seat driver
- Entry-level solo driver
- Dedicated route driver
- Local driver
- Over-the-road (OTR) driver
- Regional driver
OTR driving gives you the opportunity to travel across the continental U.S. and Canada. These are long-haul positions where you may be on the road for three to four weeks with high starting earning potential.
Regional drivers travel within a particular region of the U.S. They are usually on the road less time than OTR drivers but often receive the same benefits and pay as OTR, making it an attractive option for many prospective truckers.
On average, regional drivers work for two to three weeks at a time, but the amount of time on the road vs. home time varies by company and by region.
Dedicated route drivers have more regularity and home time in their schedules. Local drivers are home every day but may also be responsible for more non-driving duties, such as loading and unloading goods.
Drivers who study for and obtain a HAZMAT endorsement with their CDL A can qualify for even more jobs, many of which pay more for the additional skills required.
Class A CDL Salaries and Job Outlook
The average annual wage for heavy and tractor-trailer drivers is $50,340 nationally, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). But salaries and average truck driver pay can vary depending on the specific CDL A driving role.
In the United States, employment of truck drivers is expected to grow by 8% from 2021 to 2031. This means almost 260,000 trucking jobs may be available each year over the decade.
Additionally, the national truck driver shortage has put qualified drivers in high demand. With the American Trucking Associations predicting the trucker shortage could surpass 160,000 by 2030, truck driving opportunities may further increase in the next years.
In Arizona and Nevada, average salaries for heavy and tractor-trailer truck drivers in 2021 were $49,430 and $50,860, respectively.
Both states anticipate higher than average trucking job openings. The career outlook for truck drivers in Arizona is incredibly bright, with jobs expected to grow by 20% from 2018 to 2028. Nevada has a positive job outlook for truck drivers as well, with a projected employment growth rate of 19% from 2018 to 2028.
Learn more about how much truck drivers make after graduating from Southwest Truck Driver Training with a CDL A.
Are you ready to learn more about our Class A CDL program? Fill out the form below or call us at 833-464-0737 to jumpstart your truck driving career.