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How to Research a Truck Driver School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Russellville AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are some more things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Russellville AL area are accredited due to the rigorous 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 obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. 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 indicator to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Russellville AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations 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 hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. 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 personalized attention 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 insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Russellville AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified 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 an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied 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 furnish lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time can vary among 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. Contact the Russellville AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver 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 having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially work 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 ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Russellville AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's imperative 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 particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing 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 accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Russellville AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Russellville AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.