How to Find the Right Trucking School near Fultondale Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Fultondale AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your final choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you need to commute from your Fultondale residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to make certain you'll receive the appropriate training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That 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 Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Fultondale AL and throughout the USA, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will focus on 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 short descriptions 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 CDL is needed to drive 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 may also require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Fultondale AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are a few additional factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Fultondale AL area are accredited due to the rigorous 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 required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 curriculum and training will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving 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. However, even the best of Fultondale AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, 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 make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Fultondale AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving 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 essential training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time differs among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Fultondale AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive 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 referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Fultondale AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Fultondale AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend 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 accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Fultondale AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Fultondale 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 reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Best Fultondale CDL Training
Choosing the right trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive 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 choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Fultondale Alabama.