How to Enroll in the Right CDL Training Classes near Ozark Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Ozark AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Ozark residence. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best method to make sure you'll obtain the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Ozark AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates 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). Below are brief summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 CDL is required 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. Several 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 specific types of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
Once you have determined which CDL you wish to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Ozark AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are a few additional points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Ozark AL area are accredited due to the stringent 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 required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For 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 training and curriculum will satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Ozark AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater 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 be critical of any school that insists 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 skillfully takes time. Most Ozark AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly 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 completing 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? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will furnish lots 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 driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, 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 can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark 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 Ozark AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations 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 choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Ozark AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Ozark 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 teacher should be prepared to devote 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 accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Ozark AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Ozark AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enroll in the Right Ozark Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate trucking school is an essential first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Ozark Alabama.