How to Decide on the Right Truck Driver School near Athens Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Athens AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various factors that you'll want to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Athens residence. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal method to make sure you'll obtain the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Athens AL and throughout the USA, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 required 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Athens AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are a few additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving 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 commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Athens AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal 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 insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Athens AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with 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.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will furnish 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Athens AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Athens AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously mentioned, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Athens AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. 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 have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Athens AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver 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 reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Athens Truck Driver Training
Choosing the right truck driver school is an important first step to launching your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical 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 money or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Athens Alabama.