How to Select the Right CDL Training Classes near Prichard Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Prichard AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to get the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several variables that you'll need to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Prichard home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the optimal means to make certain you'll obtain the proper training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Prichard AL and throughout the USA, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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 required 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 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 may also need endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
After you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Prichard AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So below are several more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Prichard AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace 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 be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum 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 poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Prichard AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
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 discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Prichard AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. 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 instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will furnish plenty of 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential 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 become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a good benchmark 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 Prichard AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with numerous 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 work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Prichard AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some 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 accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is only about one to two months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Prichard AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering have job placement 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 firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Prichard AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Prichard AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Prichard Truck Driver Training
Picking the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might need 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 trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Prichard Alabama.