How to Decide on the Best Truck Driving School near Gadsden Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Gadsden AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Gadsden home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal method to make sure you'll obtain the appropriate training. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Gadsden AL and throughout the United States, a driver needs to attain 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 pick a truck driving school, we will highlight 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 of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive 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 more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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 need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
Once you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Gadsden AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are a few more points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Gadsden AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Gadsden AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire 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 receiving the personalized attention 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 insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Gadsden AL schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Gadsden AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Gadsden AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously mentioned, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Gadsden 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 willing to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Gadsden AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Gadsden AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Gadsden Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to launching your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Gadsden Alabama.