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How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
Once you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Alabaster AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are several additional things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Alabaster AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Alabaster AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding 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 comparatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Alabaster AL schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Alabaster AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Alabaster AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Alabaster AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Alabaster AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Alabaster AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.