How to Choose the Best Trucking School near Pike Road Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Pike Road AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Pike Road residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the best method to make sure you'll receive the appropriate training. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target 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 discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Pike Road AL and throughout the United States, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind 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 of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate 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 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 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Trucking School
Once you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Pike Road AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are a few additional points that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Pike Road AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Pike Road AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual 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 train 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 takes time. The majority of Pike Road AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As previously stated, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of 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 vital that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will furnish sufficient driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students 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 become. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable standard 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 Pike Road AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, 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 choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Pike Road AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As earlier noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Pike Road AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Pike Road AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Pike Road AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Right Pike Road CDL Training
Choosing the right trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation 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 a number of options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Pike Road Alabama.