How to Decide on the Right Trucking School near Hoover Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Hoover AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Hoover home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the ideal way to ensure you'll receive the proper education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations 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 address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Hoover AL and throughout the United States, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief descriptions for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 required to drive 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. A few 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 CDLs may also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Hoover AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are a few additional points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Hoover AL area are accredited due to 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 obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay 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 multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement 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 good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. 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 personalized attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Hoover AL schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will furnish plenty 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 operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Hoover AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships 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 giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Hoover AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Hoover AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out 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 hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Hoover AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Hoover AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out 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 must be completed.
Enroll in the Right Hoover CDL Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a large 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 by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Hoover Alabama.