How to Pick the Right Trucking Classes near Andalusia Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Andalusia AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to examine before making your final choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Andalusia residence. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the optimal method to ensure you'll obtain the right training. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Andalusia AL and throughout the USA, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will address Class A and 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). Below are brief descriptions for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 CDL is needed to drive 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for example 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 drive.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Andalusia AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some additional things that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Andalusia AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent 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. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an 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 curriculum and training will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Andalusia AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized attention 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 train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Andalusia AL schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent 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 important training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Andalusia AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Andalusia AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Andalusia AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain 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 must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Andalusia AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Andalusia 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 get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Best Andalusia Truck Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash 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 select an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Andalusia Alabama.