How to Select the Best Trucker Classes near Dothan Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Dothan AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by enrolling in 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 final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Dothan residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the ideal way to guarantee you'll obtain the right training. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Dothan AL and throughout the USA, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can apply 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 B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief explanations of the 2 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 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several of the vehicles that drivers may be qualified to operate 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 need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Dothan AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few more things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Dothan AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 curriculum and training will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Dothan AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Dothan 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 Good are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's essential 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 criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will provide lots of 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time fluctuates 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 Dothan AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified 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 affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Dothan AL schools you are looking at 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 permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's important that the Dothan 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 particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing 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 referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Dothan AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Dothan AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Right Dothan CDL Training
Selecting the right trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. 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 Dothan Alabama.