How to Select the Best Truck Driving School near Fultondale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Fultondale AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research 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 essential to get the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to think about before making your final choice. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Fultondale home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best way to make certain you'll receive the right education. Just remember, 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 objective in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Fultondale AL and throughout the United States, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 Commercial Drivers License 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. 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
Once you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Fultondale AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Fultondale AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For 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 evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally 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 opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding 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 period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Fultondale AL schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. 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.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a good 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 important training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time differs between 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 considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific 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 affiliations 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 be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Fultondale AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just 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 certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at 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 hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Fultondale AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Fultondale AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Fultondale CDL Training
Selecting the appropriate trucking school is an important first step to launching your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you might need to think about 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 driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Fultondale Alabama.