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How to Research a Truck Driver School
After you have decided which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Fultondale AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are a few more factors that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Fultondale AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 training and curriculum will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Fultondale AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual instruction 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 insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Fultondale AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to visit the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will furnish 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time varies among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Fultondale AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with numerous 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 surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Fultondale AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the Fultondale AL school you choose provides 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 teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Fultondale AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Fultondale 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 reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.