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How to Evaluate a CDL School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Millbrook AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few additional things that you should research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Millbrook AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided 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 quality, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Millbrook AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Millbrook AL schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher 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 instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish ample 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 essential training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Millbrook AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified 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 relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Millbrook AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed 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 battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Millbrook AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit 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 attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Millbrook AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Millbrook 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 assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.