How to Select the Right Trucking School near Auburn Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Auburn AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several variables that you'll need to consider before making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Auburn residence. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the ideal way to make sure you'll receive the proper education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover 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 Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Auburn AL and throughout the United States, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since 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 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 brief summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 operate 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 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 drive specific kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
After you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Auburn AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are several additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Auburn AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required 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 plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 training and curriculum will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly 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 Auburn AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering 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 discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Auburn AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal 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 find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will furnish sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Auburn AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified 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 having associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Auburn AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously noted, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Auburn AL school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Auburn AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Auburn AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Auburn Truck Driver Training
Picking the appropriate truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Auburn Alabama.