How to Select the Best Truck Driver School near Robertsdale Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Robertsdale AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several variables that you'll need to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Robertsdale residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the ideal way to make sure you'll receive the appropriate training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Robertsdale AL and throughout the United States, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving 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 in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief summaries for the 2 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 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 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 may also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
After you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Robertsdale AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are a few more factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Robertsdale AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost 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 several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking 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 best of Robertsdale AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Robertsdale AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best approach 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 find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time varies among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Robertsdale AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive 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 amount of time. This is referred to 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 refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Robertsdale AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver 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 benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier noted, CDL training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Robertsdale AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular 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 must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Robertsdale AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Robertsdale AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask 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 must be completed.
Choose the Best Robertsdale CDL Training
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is an important 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 a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you might 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 enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Robertsdale Alabama.