How to Select the Best Truck Driver School near Gardendale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Gardendale AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to get 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 prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Gardendale home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the best method to make sure you'll receive the proper 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 professional truck driver. So keeping that goal 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 CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Gardendale AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Following are short explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed 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 Commercial Drivers License is required 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. 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 CDLs might also need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Gardendale AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are some more points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Gardendale AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common 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 recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real 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 curriculum and training will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Gardendale AL schools had to begin from their first 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 employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
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 cover more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be 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 regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Gardendale AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time differs between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Gardendale AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement 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 maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Gardendale AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's important that the Gardendale 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 are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Gardendale AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Gardendale AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Right Gardendale Truck Driver Training
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want 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 truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Gardendale Alabama.