How to Choose the Right Truck Driving Classes near Demopolis Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Demopolis AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you'll want to examine before making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Demopolis home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based only on price is not the optimal method to ensure you'll obtain the proper education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Demopolis AL and throughout the United States, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 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 pick a truck driver 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 together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few of the vehicles that drivers may be able to operate 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 required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more 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 might also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Demopolis AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are a few more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Demopolis AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, 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 a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Demopolis AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement 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 should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Demopolis AL schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously 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 requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay 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 standards, and possibly the best method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. 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 ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will furnish sufficient 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 tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time differs between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Demopolis AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with numerous 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 freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Demopolis AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available 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 battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Demopolis 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 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 Assistance Offered? The moment you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Demopolis AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Demopolis AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Right Demopolis CDL Training
Choosing the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Demopolis Alabama.