How to Select the Right CDL Driving Classes near Fultondale Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Fultondale AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Fultondale residence. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the optimal means to ensure you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Fultondale AL and throughout the USA, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Below are brief summaries for the two 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 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. Some 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 might also need endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Trucking School
Once you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Fultondale AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are several additional points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, 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 due to the rigorous process and cost 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 obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Fultondale AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio 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 particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Fultondale AL schools offer training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing 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 instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will furnish ample 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time varies among schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish 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 furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from a number of truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously 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 obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Fultondale AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Fultondale 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 instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Fultondale AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Fultondale 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 get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Fultondale Truck Driver Training
Selecting the right trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you may want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated 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 our country move as a professional truck driver in Fultondale Alabama.