How to Select the Best Truck Driving Classes near Prattville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Prattville AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Prattville home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the best means to guarantee you'll receive the appropriate training. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow 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 cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Prattville AL and throughout the United States, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver 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 highlight Class A and Class 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 CDL is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 drive certain types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Prattville AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are some additional factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Prattville AL area are accredited due to the rigorous 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 obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For 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 curriculum and training will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Prattville AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority 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 instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Prattville AL schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide plenty of 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Prattville AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Prattville AL schools you are contemplating 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 students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's essential that the Prattville AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Prattville AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Prattville 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 evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Best Prattville Truck Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate trucking school is an essential first step to beginning your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets 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 to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Prattville Alabama.