How to Decide on the Best Truck Driving School near Greenville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Greenville AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you have to commute from your Greenville residence. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best means to make certain you'll receive the proper training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the balance 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 Require?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Greenville AL and throughout the USA, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief descriptions for 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 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 drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 require endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
Once you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Greenville AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are several more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Greenville AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 curriculum and training will satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue 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 usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Greenville 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 regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality 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 authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Greenville AL schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking school will provide lots of 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. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time differs among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Greenville AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from some 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 provide it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Greenville AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the Greenville AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Greenville AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Greenville AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Greenville CDL Training
Picking the right truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Greenville Alabama.