How to Choose the Right CDL Training School near Cullman Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Cullman AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you'll want to consider prior to making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Cullman residence. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the ideal means to guarantee you'll obtain the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Cullman AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one 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 B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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 needed to drive 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. Some 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can begin the process of researching the Cullman AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are some additional points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Cullman AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 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 fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Cullman AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover 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 greater, then students will not be receiving the individual 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 professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Cullman AL schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will provide 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Cullman AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations 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. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Cullman 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 some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing 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 centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Cullman 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 willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. 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, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Cullman AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Cullman AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Cullman CDL Training
Picking the right truck driver school is an important first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Cullman Alabama.