How to Find the Right Trucker Classes near Demopolis Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Demopolis AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to think about prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Demopolis home. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the optimal way to ensure you'll obtain the right training. Just remember, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within Demopolis AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief explanations of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 required 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Demopolis AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only 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 some more things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Demopolis AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent 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 know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Demopolis AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, 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 department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Demopolis AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will provide sufficient 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Demopolis AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with a wide range of 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 giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Demopolis AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. 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 convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Demopolis AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Demopolis AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Demopolis 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 reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Demopolis CDL Training
Picking the right trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Demopolis Alabama.