How to Pick the Best Truck Driving School near Calera Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Calera AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to think about prior to making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Calera residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to guarantee you'll get the appropriate training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Calera AL and throughout the United States, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed 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 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 certain kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a CDL School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Calera AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are some additional points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Calera AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Calera AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. 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 be critical of any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Calera AL schools provide training programs 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 earlier stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several 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 keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will provide 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 necessary training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time varies between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Calera AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having associations with numerous 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 surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Calera AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Calera AL school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend 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 received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Calera AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Calera AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Calera CDL Training
Selecting the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new occupation 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 offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might 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 select an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Calera Alabama.