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How to Evaluate a CDL School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Calera AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are several more points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Calera AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered 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 be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Calera AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to confirm 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 hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, 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 insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Calera AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will furnish ample driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 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 Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement 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 associations with a wide range of 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 freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Calera AL schools you are contemplating 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 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? 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 Calera AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Calera AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Calera AL area vocational or trade 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 assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.