How to Pick the Right Truck Driver School near Arab Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Arab AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several variables that you'll need to consider prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Arab home. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based only on price is not the best means to guarantee you'll receive the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose 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 talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Arab AL and throughout the USA, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will focus on 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). Below are brief summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed 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 more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some 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 specific kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Trucking School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Arab AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are some more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Arab AL area are accredited due to the rigorous 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. Potential 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 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 meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Arab 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 track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to verify 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 employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Arab AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already stated, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking 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 essential training methods, they are no replacement for actual 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 a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Arab AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships 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 freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Arab AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Arab AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Arab AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Arab AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Right Arab CDL Training
Choosing the right trucking school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might want 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 trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Arab Alabama.