How to Enroll in the Right Trucking School near Hartselle Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Hartselle AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Hartselle residence. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the ideal method to make certain you'll get the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Hartselle AL and throughout the USA, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater 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 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 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 might also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Research a CDL School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Hartselle AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are some additional things that you should research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Hartselle AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, 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. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated 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 opening 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 job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is especially true regarding 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 comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Hartselle AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective 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 speak with some 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.
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 real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time differs among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Hartselle AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Hartselle AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed 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 contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Hartselle AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are contemplating 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 firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Hartselle AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Hartselle AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Best Hartselle Truck Driver Training
Choosing the right trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Hartselle Alabama.