How to Choose the Best Trucker School near Greenville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Greenville AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several variables that you'll need to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Greenville home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the best method to ensure you'll get the proper education. Don't forget, 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 objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Greenville AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type 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 summaries for 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 more 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 drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Trucking School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Greenville AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are several more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Greenville AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is provided 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 be given plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess 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 best of Greenville AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker 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 employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personal attention 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 train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Greenville AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will furnish 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 operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Greenville AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having associations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously 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 get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Greenville AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier noted, CDL training is just one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Greenville AL school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working 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 obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Greenville AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Greenville AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Greenville Truck Driver Training
Picking the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape 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 obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you may need to look into 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 enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Greenville Alabama.