How to Pick the Best Trucker Classes near Millbrook Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Millbrook AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road 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 wages and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Millbrook residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the best way to make sure you'll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within Millbrook AL and throughout the USA, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive 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. 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 need endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, including 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 qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
Once you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Millbrook AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are a few additional factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Millbrook AL area are accredited due to the rigorous 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 certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Millbrook AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Millbrook AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Millbrook AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Millbrook AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Millbrook AL school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Millbrook AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Millbrook AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Millbrook CDL Training
Picking the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to starting your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must get the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you might 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 select an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Millbrook Alabama.