How to Select the Right Trucking Classes near Alabaster Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Alabaster AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to think about prior to making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Alabaster home. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the best way to make sure you'll get the right training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Alabaster AL and throughout the United States, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several of the vehicles that drivers may be able to operate with Class A licenses are:
- Interstate or Intrastate Tractor Trailers
- Trucks with Double or Triple Trailers
- Tanker Trucks
- Livestock Carriers
- Class B and Class C Vehicles
Class B CDL. A Class B Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several of the vehicles that drivers may be qualified to operate with Class B licenses are:
- Tractor Trailers
- Dump Trucks
- Cement Mixers
- Large Buses
- Class C Vehicles
Both Class A and Class B CDLs may also require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of researching the Alabaster AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are a few more points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Alabaster AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Alabaster AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Alabaster AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Alabaster AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Alabaster AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Alabaster AL school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Alabaster AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Alabaster AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Alabaster Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to launching your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Alabaster Alabama.