How to Choose the Best Truck Driver School near Attalla Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Attalla AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to think about prior to making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Attalla residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to ensure you'll obtain the proper training. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Attalla AL and throughout the USA, a driver 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 driving school, we will focus on 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 short descriptions 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. Several 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 required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a CDL School
Once you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Attalla AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few more points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Attalla AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Attalla AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Attalla AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide ample 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Attalla AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Attalla AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide 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 also an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Attalla AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Attalla AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Attalla 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 evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Right Attalla CDL Training
Choosing the appropriate trucking 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 several options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you may want to consider 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 trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Attalla Alabama.