How to Choose the Best CDL Training School near Midfield Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Midfield AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good income and flexible work opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Midfield residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the best method to make certain you'll obtain the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder 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 Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within Midfield AL and throughout the USA, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and 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). Following are brief summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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. Some of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive 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 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 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Midfield AL trucking schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are some additional factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Midfield AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense 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 a number of advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Midfield AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized 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 insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Midfield AL schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based 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 instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, 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 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 tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Midfield AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive discounted or even free training from a number of 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 offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Midfield AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? 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 looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Midfield AL school you enroll in 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 willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Midfield AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Midfield AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Midfield CDL Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may want to consider 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 select an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Midfield Alabama.