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How to Research a CDL School
Once you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the undertaking of researching the Princeton AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Princeton AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For 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 training and curriculum will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly 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 best of Princeton AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction 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 drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Princeton AL schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent trucking school will provide ample 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Princeton AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment 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 offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous 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 surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Princeton AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Princeton AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Princeton AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Princeton AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out 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 submitted.