How to Choose the Right Trucker School near Roanoke Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Roanoke AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you'll need to consider prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Roanoke home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best means to ensure you'll get the proper education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover 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 Roanoke AL and throughout the USA, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as 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 operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 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 might also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Roanoke AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are several additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Roanoke AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. 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 Roanoke AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction 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 relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Roanoke AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already 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 requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the teachers in person. 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.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driver school will furnish sufficient 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 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 instruction 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 reasonable 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 Roanoke AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with many different 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 giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Roanoke AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent 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 grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier noted, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Roanoke AL school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Roanoke AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Roanoke AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Right Roanoke CDL Training
Selecting the right trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must receive the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may need 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 choose an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Roanoke Alabama.