How to Select the Best CDL Driving Classes near Robertsdale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Robertsdale AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Robertsdale home. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the best way to ensure you'll obtain the appropriate training. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Robertsdale AL and throughout the United States, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will focus on 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 for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 CDL is required 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. Several 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 drive certain types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Robertsdale AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Robertsdale AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount 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 curriculum and training will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Robertsdale AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Robertsdale AL schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving 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 operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Robertsdale AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called 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 refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering 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 many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Robertsdale AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously noted, CDL training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Robertsdale AL school you enroll in 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 instructor should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager 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 local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Robertsdale AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Robertsdale AL area trade or technical 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 completed.
Choose the Best Robertsdale Truck Driver Training
Picking the ideal truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must get the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Robertsdale Alabama.