How to Enroll in the Best Trucker School near Leeds Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Leeds AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to think about before making your final choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Leeds residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the ideal method to ensure you'll receive the appropriate education. Just remember, your objective 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 target 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 Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Leeds AL and throughout the USA, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class 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 short descriptions for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater 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 CDL is needed 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. Several 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to drive 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 licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Leeds AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are a few more points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Leeds AL area are accredited because of the stringent 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 required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driver 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 Leeds AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Leeds AL schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and talk to 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 level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time varies among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Leeds AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to obtain 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.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is just one to two months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Leeds 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 instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Leeds AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Leeds AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Right Leeds CDL Training
Selecting the right 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 several options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm 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 truck driver in Leeds Alabama.