How to Pick the Right Truck Driving Classes near Russellville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Russellville AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to examine before making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Russellville home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best means to guarantee you'll obtain the appropriate training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within Russellville AL and throughout the USA, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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 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 more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several 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 kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Russellville AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed 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 if not more important. So following are some additional things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Russellville AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an 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 clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Russellville AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch 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 employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Russellville AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As previously stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to 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 level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will provide ample 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 operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time varies between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Russellville AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations 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. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Russellville AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier noted, CDL training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Russellville AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Russellville AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Russellville 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 evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Best Russellville CDL Training
Selecting the ideal trucking school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered 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 large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Russellville Alabama.