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How to Assess a CDL School
After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Decatur AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are several more things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Decatur AL area are accredited because of the demanding 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 obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Decatur AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly 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 professionally takes time. Most Decatur AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will furnish sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time differs among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Decatur AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Decatur 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 permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly noted, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Decatur AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Decatur AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Decatur AL area trade or technical 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 need to be completed.