How to Decide on the Right CDL Training Classes near Phenix City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Phenix City AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Phenix City residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best method to make certain you'll get the proper training. Don't forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Phenix City AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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 operate specific types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
Once you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Phenix City AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other issues, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are some more factors that you should research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Phenix City AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, 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 a number of advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Phenix City AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal 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 teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Phenix City AL schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driver school will provide ample 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time can vary among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Phenix City AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can receive discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Phenix City AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Phenix City AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Phenix City AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Phenix City AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Phenix City CDL Training
Picking the right truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might want 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 choose an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, 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 part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Phenix City Alabama.