How to Decide on the Right CDL Training Classes near Madison Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Madison AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to consider before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Madison residence. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the ideal means to make certain you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Madison AL and throughout the USA, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short summaries for the two 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. 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 required to operate 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. 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 require endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
When you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Madison AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Madison AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, 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 program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Madison AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior 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 department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective 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 section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual instruction 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 claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Madison AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods 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 stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will furnish ample 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable benchmark 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 Madison AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as 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 work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Madison AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Madison AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit 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 accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask 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 referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Madison AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Madison AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance 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 submitted.
Enroll in the Best Madison CDL Training
Picking the right truck driver school is an essential first step to starting 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 offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases 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 firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Madison Alabama.