How to Pick the Right Trucker Classes near Hartselle Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Hartselle AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Hartselle residence. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the ideal way to make certain you'll get the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Hartselle AL and throughout the USA, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short descriptions for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 required 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a CDL School
Once you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Hartselle AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are several more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Hartselle AL area are accredited because of the stringent 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 caliber, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Hartselle AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk 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 personal 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 teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Hartselle AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already stated, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with 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? Most importantly, a great trucking school will furnish 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Hartselle AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Hartselle AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Hartselle AL school you choose offers 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 commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Hartselle AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Hartselle AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Hartselle Truck Driver Training
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new profession 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 several options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Hartselle Alabama.