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How to Assess a Truck Driving School
When you have decided which CDL you would like to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Chelsea AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are several more things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Chelsea AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Chelsea AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, 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 section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving 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 teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Chelsea AL schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As previously mentioned, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving 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 operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Chelsea AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit 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 reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Chelsea AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Chelsea AL school you enroll in provides 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 commit 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 commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Chelsea AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Chelsea AL area technical or vocational 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 get through the options and forms that must be submitted.