How to Pick the Right Truck Driving School near Pelham Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Pelham AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to get the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Pelham home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to ensure you'll obtain the appropriate education. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the remainder 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 Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Pelham AL and throughout the United States, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class 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). Below are brief explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 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 need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Pelham AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As already discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So following are several additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Pelham AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, 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 several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. As an 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 meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively 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 top Pelham AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, 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 Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Pelham AL schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, 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 necessary training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Pelham 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 trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Pelham AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Pelham AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Pelham AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Pelham AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Pelham Truck Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is an essential first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Pelham Alabama.