How to Find the Right Truck Driver Classes near Prichard Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Prichard AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to think about before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Prichard residence. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the best way to make certain you'll obtain the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal 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 talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Prichard AL and throughout the USA, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person 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 address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates 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). Following are short explanations for the two 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 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 CDL is required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Prichard AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are several additional things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Prichard AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Prichard AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Prichard AL schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide sufficient 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable 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 Prichard AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement 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 numerous 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 flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Prichard AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Prichard AL school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Prichard AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Prichard 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 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 Right Prichard CDL Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driver 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 part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Prichard Alabama.