How to Choose the Best Truck Driving School near Andalusia Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Andalusia AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Andalusia home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the best method to guarantee you'll receive the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick 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 Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Andalusia AL and throughout the USA, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select 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 summaries of 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 greater 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 Commercial Drivers License 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. 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 need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for example 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 CDL School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Andalusia AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are some additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Andalusia AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, 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 a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real 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 satisfy 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 rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Andalusia AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction 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 professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Andalusia AL schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will furnish lots 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 operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training 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 standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Andalusia AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Andalusia AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Andalusia AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out 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 referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Andalusia AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver 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 offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Andalusia CDL Training
Choosing the right truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving 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 choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Andalusia Alabama.