How to Pick the Right CDL Training Classes near Center Point Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Center Point AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Center Point home. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the best way to make sure you'll receive the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Center Point AL and throughout the United States, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will discuss 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 short explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 required to drive 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. A few 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 operate specific kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a CDL School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Center Point AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are several additional factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Center Point AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense 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 a number of advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving 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. Having said that, even the best of Center Point AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Center Point AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will furnish ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. 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 researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Center Point 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 truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's important that the Center Point 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 devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask 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 employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Center Point AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Center Point AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Right Center Point Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to launching your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive 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 choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Center Point Alabama.