How to Select the Best Truck Driver Classes near Rainbow City Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Rainbow City AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to consider before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Rainbow City home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the optimal way to guarantee you'll obtain the proper training. Don't forget, your goal 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 target 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 Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Rainbow City AL and throughout the USA, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with 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 CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 Commercial Drivers License 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 may also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
Once you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Rainbow City AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are several additional things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Rainbow City AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is offered 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 caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked 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 Rainbow City AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. 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 share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal 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 insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Rainbow City AL schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier 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 prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Rainbow City AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as 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 work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly 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 make sure to ask if the Rainbow City AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Rainbow City AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Rainbow City AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Rainbow City 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 get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Rainbow City Truck Driver Training
Choosing the right trucking school is an essential first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you may want 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 truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, 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 trucker in Rainbow City Alabama.