How to Decide on the Best CDL Training School near Alabaster Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Alabaster AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several variables that you'll need to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Alabaster residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the best method to make certain you'll get the appropriate education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Alabaster AL and throughout the USA, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive 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 CDL is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few of the vehicles that operators may be qualified to drive 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 drive certain types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have decided 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 earlier discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are a few more things that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Alabaster AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, 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 ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no 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 train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Alabaster AL schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will furnish ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Alabaster AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Alabaster AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed 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 other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the Alabaster AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Alabaster AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Alabaster AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Best Alabaster CDL Training
Picking the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Alabaster Alabama.