How to Pick the Best Truck Driver Classes near Alexander City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Alexander City AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to consider prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Alexander City home. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal method to ensure you'll receive the proper training. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Alexander City AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with 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 CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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 types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of researching the Alexander City AL trucking schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are some more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Alexander City AL area are accredited due to the demanding 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 required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Alexander City AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, 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 individual instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Alexander City AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As earlier 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 a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors in person. 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.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time varies between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Alexander City AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Alexander City AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Alexander City AL school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to devote 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 accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Alexander City AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Alexander City AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask 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 submitted.
Enroll in the Right Alexander City Truck Driver Training
Picking the right trucking school is an important first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must get the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Alexander City Alabama.