How to Choose the Best Trucking School near Irondale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Irondale AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Irondale home. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the best way to make sure you'll obtain the proper education. Don't forget, 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 pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within Irondale AL and throughout the USA, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic 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 kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required 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 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. 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 CDLs may also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Trucking School
When you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can start the undertaking of researching the Irondale AL trucking schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are some more points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Irondale AL area are accredited because of the rigorous 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 obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Irondale AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover 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 higher, then students will not be getting 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 professes 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 skillfully requires time. The majority of Irondale AL schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will provide plenty 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Irondale AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Irondale 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 several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's important that the Irondale AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate 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 lower job placement rate or few Irondale AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Irondale AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enroll in the Right Irondale CDL Training
Choosing the appropriate trucking school is an important first step to launching your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driver 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 obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Irondale Alabama.