How to Decide on the Best Trucking Classes near Athens Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Athens AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to think about prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Athens residence. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best way to make certain you'll obtain the right training. 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 target 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 CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Athens AL and throughout the USA, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short explanations for the two 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 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 more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some 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 might also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Trucking School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Athens AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are some more factors that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Athens AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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 several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 curriculum and training will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed 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 Athens AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
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 talk more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Athens AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified 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 regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Athens AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified 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 relationships with numerous 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 giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Athens AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Athens AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing 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 firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Athens AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Athens AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Best Athens Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driving school is an essential first step to starting your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need 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 choose an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Athens Alabama.