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How to Evaluate a Trucking School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Hamilton AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are several more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Hamilton AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided 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 caliber, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high benchmarks 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 operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Hamilton AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Hamilton AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver 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 tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time varies between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Hamilton AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Hamilton AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously noted, CDL training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Hamilton AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Hamilton AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Hamilton AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.