How to Enroll in the Best Trucking School near Muscle Shoals Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Muscle Shoals AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. 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 a number of factors that you'll need to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Muscle Shoals home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the best way to make certain you'll get the appropriate education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Muscle Shoals AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Muscle Shoals AL trucking schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are a few additional factors 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 trucking schools in the Muscle Shoals AL area are accredited because of the demanding 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 required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive lots 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 fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. 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 start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, 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 make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Muscle Shoals AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As previously stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will furnish ample 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Muscle Shoals AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Muscle Shoals AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Muscle Shoals AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start 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 grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Muscle Shoals AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Muscle Shoals AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Muscle Shoals Truck Driver Training
Selecting the right truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Muscle Shoals Alabama.