How to Enroll in the Right Trucking School near Chickasaw Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Chickasaw AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Chickasaw residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the best means to make sure you'll obtain the proper training. Don't forget, 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 target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Chickasaw AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses 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 driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive 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 required to operate 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. Some 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Chickasaw AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Chickasaw AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. For 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 measure up to the very high benchmarks 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 reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Chickasaw AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personalized 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 insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Chickasaw AL schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to 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.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will provide sufficient 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 replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Chickasaw AL schools you are looking at 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 driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver 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 maintaining affiliations 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 freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Chickasaw AL schools you are contemplating 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 allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Chickasaw AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Chickasaw AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Chickasaw AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Chickasaw Truck Driver Training
Picking the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Chickasaw Alabama.