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What does "Certification" mean?

CERTIFICATION: In the truck driving school business, Certification is different from state licensing. A certified truck driving school is one that has been "certified" to meet the trucking industry's training standard. Certification means that an independent third party (in other words someone unrelated to the school) has inspected the school and "certified" that the training should result in a graduate that has the basic skills to be an entry-level truck driver. It has nothing to do with state licensing or accreditation. Certification is becoming increasingly important to employers and state agencies that fund training for students.

There is only one organization that currently certifies truck driving courses: The Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI), located in Alexandria, Virginia. PTDI certification is voluntary. A school is not required to become certified. But a certified school is probably the best guarantee that a truck driving school maintains high truck driver training standards.

PTDI has developed three sets of strict standards that they apply to truck driving schools that want to be certified. PTDI will inspect the school and determine whether the standards are met. If they are met, the school's course is certified (schools are not certified) and the school can advertise that it teaches a course certified by PTDI. The three standards are for Skills, Knowledge and Curriculum. Skill standards are the basic skills an entry level driver should have (shifting, backing, vehicle inspection, etc.). As you might guess, knowledge standards describe the basic information a driver should know (how to plan a trip, licensing requirements, accident procedures and cargo documentation, for example). Finally, PTDI's curriculum standards identify the minimum course of instruction a truck driving school must present, including topics addressed and hours required for class, truck lab and driving. PTDI's standards for a school in this regard are very high. For example, PTDI requires that every student individually have at least 44 hours of driving instruction behind the wheel. That's a lot of driving time, and it cannot include any hours observing. (See Observation Time below).

There a number of advantages to PTDI certification. Students know that the training should be high quality, that they will receive a lot of driving experience and that the school has made the extra effort to demonstrate it is committed to the best training. Plus, the trucking industry has great respect for PTDI graduates because they know they are getting the best. They also know that their own company "finishing training" training costs will be lower because the student is well trained already. So, students that graduate from a top quality program benefit in the wallet as well because they require less training by the employer. Therefore they can drive solo sooner and earn more money faster. New drivers that attend short programs or get inadequate training can get stuck in the carrier's training program at a low weekly pay rate for a long time. We think PTDI sets a great standard that benefits everyone!

Even if a school is not certified, you can ask one important question to see if they adhere to higher standards: exactly how many hours of actual driving is provided to every student? Remember that PTDI requires 44 hours for every student. And that does not mean you're simply "in the truck" for 44 hours. Some schools place 3-5 students in the truck at the same time for full day drives and simply rotate the students into the driver's seat for one or two hours; they may call all this time "behind the wheel." PTDI requires 44 hours of actual driving. So make the school tell you the specific number of hours you will be driving, and ask them to show you their guaranteed driving time in writing. Don't accept answers like "we give you as much time as you need". A good school will identify driving hours in their catalog or informational brochure. After all, you are attending a truck driving school -- driving is the basic skill and you should expect a lot of practice driving!

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