How to Enroll in the Best Trucker School near Center Point Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Center Point AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Center Point residence. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal method to make sure you'll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick 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 discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within Center Point AL and throughout the USA, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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. 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 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. 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 may also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Center Point AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are a few additional points that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Center Point AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an 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 training and curriculum will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Center Point AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction 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 claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Center Point AL schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide lots of 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 operating a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction 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 provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Center Point AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Center Point AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask 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 of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Center Point AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Verify 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 national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Center Point AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Center Point AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Center Point CDL Training
Selecting the right truck driver school is a critical first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Center Point Alabama.