How to Decide on the Right Truck Driving Classes near Leeds Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Leeds AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Leeds home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal method to guarantee you'll receive the right education. Just remember, your goal 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 purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Leeds AL and throughout the USA, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three 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 choose a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class 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 short descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed 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. 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 require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
When you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Leeds AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are a few more things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Leeds AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive lots 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 satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver 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. However, even the top Leeds AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Leeds AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type 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 prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. 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 qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will provide lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Leeds AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships 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 giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Leeds AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously mentioned, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Leeds AL school you enroll in offers 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 commit more time with you until you are proficient. 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 Placement Provided? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering 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 companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Leeds AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Leeds 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 reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Best Leeds Truck Driver Training
Selecting the right truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you may want to think about 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 enroll in an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Leeds Alabama.