How to Choose the Right Truck Driving School near Clanton Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Clanton AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. No matter 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 various factors that you'll need to think about before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Clanton home. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the ideal means to guarantee you'll get the appropriate education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within Clanton AL and throughout the USA, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class 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). Below are brief summaries of the two 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 greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 CDLs may also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Clanton AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are some additional factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Clanton AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, 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 certain advantages. Potential students know 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 actual 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 curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed 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 top Clanton AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Clanton AL schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driver school will provide ample 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no replacement 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 differs among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Clanton 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 some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with many different 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 giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Clanton AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted 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 other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Clanton AL school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Clanton AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Clanton AL area technical or vocational 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 least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Best Clanton Truck Driver Training
Choosing the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you might need 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 select an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Clanton Alabama.