How to Find the Right Trucking School near Ozark Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Ozark AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Ozark residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best means to make certain you'll obtain the appropriate training. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Ozark AL and throughout the United States, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some of the vehicles that operators may be qualified to drive 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 specific kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
When you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Ozark AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are several additional points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Ozark AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Ozark AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out 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 stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Ozark AL schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent trucking school will furnish sufficient 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Ozark AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Ozark AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Ozark AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing 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 needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Ozark AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Ozark AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Ozark Truck Driver Training
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to think about 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 truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Ozark Alabama.