How to Enroll in the Best CDL Training Classes near Hamilton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Hamilton AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to think about before making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Hamilton home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the best way to guarantee you'll receive the appropriate training. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Hamilton AL and throughout the United States, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short descriptions 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 CDL is required 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. A few 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 require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Hamilton AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will no doubt 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 similarly if not more important. So below are a few more points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Hamilton AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required 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 lots 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 curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Hamilton AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Hamilton AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will furnish sufficient 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for real 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 good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Hamilton AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Hamilton AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Hamilton AL school you select provides 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 teacher should be willing to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. 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 Placement Offered? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Hamilton AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Hamilton AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Best Hamilton Truck Driver Training
Selecting the ideal truck driving school is an essential first step to beginning your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Hamilton Alabama.