How to Enroll in the Best Trucking School near Madison Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Madison AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to examine before making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Madison home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the best means to make certain you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Madison AL and throughout the United States, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and 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 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 greater 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 needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Madison AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are several additional things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Madison AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is offered 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 caliber, and that they will receive 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 measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Madison AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Madison AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors 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 visit the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few 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.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time differs between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Madison AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Madison AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Madison AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Madison AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Madison 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 assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Best Madison Truck Driver Training
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Madison Alabama.