How to Decide on the Best Trucking Classes near Gardendale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Gardendale AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to consider prior to making your final choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Gardendale residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the best method to ensure you'll receive the right training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Gardendale AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with 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 required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 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 may also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can start the process of researching the Gardendale AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are a few additional 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 ? Not many truck driving schools in the Gardendale AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, 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 indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Gardendale AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially 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 time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Gardendale AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's important 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 be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving school will furnish plenty 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 driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time differs between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Gardendale AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular 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 a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit 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 opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Gardendale AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Gardendale AL school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new career. Verify 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 local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Gardendale AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Gardendale AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Right Gardendale CDL Training
Picking the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Gardendale Alabama.