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How to Research a Trucking School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Muscle Shoals AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are some more points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Muscle Shoals AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense 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. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an 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 curriculum and training will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Muscle Shoals AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personalized attention 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 teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Muscle Shoals AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already stated, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will provide lots of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time fluctuates among 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 Muscle Shoals AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Muscle Shoals 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 a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out 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 competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously mentioned, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's essential that the Muscle Shoals AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Muscle Shoals AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Muscle Shoals AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.