How to Enroll in the Right CDL Training School near Saraland Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Saraland AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to examine prior to making your final choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Saraland home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based only on price is not the ideal means to ensure you'll receive the right education. Just remember, 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 objective 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 CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Saraland AL and throughout the United States, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will address Class A and 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 short summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 CDL is needed to operate 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 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 need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
Once you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Saraland AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are several more points 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 ? Not many truck driving schools in the Saraland AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more typical 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. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 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 training and curriculum will comply with the very high standards 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 operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Saraland AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Saraland AL schools offer training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained 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 a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to some 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.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent trucking school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time differs among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Saraland AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Saraland AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Saraland AL school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain 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 going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Saraland AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Saraland 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 evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Saraland Truck Driver Training
Picking the right truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Saraland Alabama.