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How to Research a Truck Driver School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Cullman AL trucking schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are several more points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Cullman AL area are accredited due to the demanding 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 certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Cullman AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next 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 professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Cullman AL schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Cullman AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement 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 instead of maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Cullman AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly noted, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Cullman AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend 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 obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Cullman AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Cullman AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.