How to Enroll in the Best Trucking School near Opelika Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Opelika AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to think about before making your final choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Opelika home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to make certain you'll get the right training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Opelika AL and throughout the United States, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive 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 CDL is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Opelika AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are a few more points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Opelika AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive plenty 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 meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Opelika AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized 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 professes it can teach 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 takes time. The majority of Opelika AL schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, 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 bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will provide plenty of 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. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Opelika AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver 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 having associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Opelika AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's important that the Opelika AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance 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 referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Opelika AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Opelika AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Opelika Truck Driver Training
Picking the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in 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 no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Opelika Alabama.