How to Pick the Right Truck Driving School near Hoover Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Hoover AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you'll want to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Hoover home. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the best way to make certain you'll obtain the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Hoover AL and throughout the United States, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 operate 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. Several 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 kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
When you have decided which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Hoover AL trucking schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are a few more things that you should research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Hoover AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure 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 be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Hoover AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Hoover AL schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Hoover AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as 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 less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Hoover AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at 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 indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Hoover AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Hoover AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Hoover AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Right Hoover Truck Driver Training
Picking the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might 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 choose an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Hoover Alabama.