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How to Assess a CDL School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Helena AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are some additional things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Helena AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess 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 Helena AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Helena AL schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little 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 talk to some 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.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will provide lots of 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 operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Helena AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Helena AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Helena AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing 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? Once you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Make sure 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, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Helena AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Helena AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.