How to Enroll in the Best Trucking School near Prattville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Prattville AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to examine before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Prattville residence. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the best way to make sure you'll get the proper education. Don't forget, 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 objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Prattville AL and throughout the USA, a driver must attain 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. Since the topic of this article is how to choose 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 as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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. 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 Commercial Drivers License is required 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. 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 require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Prattville AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are some additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Prattville AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, 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 certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive 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 curriculum and training will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Prattville AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Prattville AL schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach 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 ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will provide ample driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Prattville AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations 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 giving up the freedom to initially work 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 best way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Prattville 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 permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Prattville AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. 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 accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Prattville AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Prattville AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask 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 must be completed.
Choose the Right Prattville Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is an essential 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 many options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may 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 enroll in an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Prattville Alabama.