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How to Assess a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can begin the process of researching the Northport AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are several more points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Northport AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given plenty 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Northport AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personal 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 teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Northport AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified 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 a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will furnish ample 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable standard 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 Northport AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified 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 affiliations with numerous 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 be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Northport AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Northport AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out 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 not many Northport AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Northport AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.