How to Choose the Best Truck Driving School near Princeton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Princeton AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to get 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 want to consider before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Princeton residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the ideal method to ensure you'll obtain the appropriate training. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within Princeton AL and throughout the United States, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and 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 brief descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more 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 specific types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
When you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Princeton AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are some additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Princeton AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Princeton AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing department to confirm 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 instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Princeton AL schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two 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 trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will furnish 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Princeton AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted 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 offer it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Princeton AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. 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 competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Princeton AL school you select 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 prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Princeton AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Princeton AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Princeton CDL Training
Selecting the right truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Princeton Alabama.