How to Find the Right CDL Driving School near Enterprise Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Enterprise AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Enterprise home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the optimal method to guarantee you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Enterprise AL and throughout the USA, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief explanations of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 CDL is needed to operate 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. A few 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 certain types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Trucking School
After you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Enterprise AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are several additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Enterprise AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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 certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Enterprise AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Enterprise AL schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already stated, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking school will provide lots of 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 operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Enterprise AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations 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 choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Enterprise AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's important that the Enterprise AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty 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 working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Enterprise AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Enterprise AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Best Enterprise Truck Driver Training
Choosing the right truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Enterprise Alabama.