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How to Assess a Trucking School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Andalusia AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are several more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Andalusia AL area are accredited due to the demanding 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 certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay 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 consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can teach 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. The majority of Andalusia AL schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time varies among 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 Andalusia AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Andalusia AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Andalusia AL school you select provides 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 dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement 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 placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Andalusia AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Andalusia AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.