How to Find the Right CDL Training Classes near Huntsville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Huntsville AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to consider before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Huntsville home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to make certain you'll obtain the right training. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Huntsville AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Below are brief summaries of the two 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. 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few of the vehicles that drivers may be qualified to operate 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 require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Huntsville AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are several more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Huntsville AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace 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 know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Huntsville AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction 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 relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Huntsville AL schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites 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. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driver school will provide sufficient 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Huntsville AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get discounted or even free training from a number of truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Huntsville AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Huntsville AL school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering 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 employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Huntsville AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Huntsville AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Huntsville CDL Training
Picking the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is vital 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 safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Huntsville Alabama.