How to Decide on the Best CDL Training Classes near Irondale Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Irondale AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good income and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Irondale residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based only on price is not the best means to make certain you'll get the proper training. Don't forget, your goal is to master 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 select a truck driving school? That 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 commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within Irondale AL and throughout the USA, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and Class 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 short explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some 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, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
Once you have decided which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Irondale AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are several more things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Irondale AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 training and curriculum will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Irondale AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is relating to 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 firms. Having a large number of 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 contact the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the following section. 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 particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Irondale AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will provide lots of driving time to its students. Besides, 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, 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 among schools, a good standard 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 Irondale AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Irondale 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 permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Irondale AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For 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 are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Irondale AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Irondale AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Irondale Truck Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may 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 enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Irondale Alabama.