How to Enroll in the Best Trucking School near Saraland Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Saraland AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Saraland home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the best method to guarantee you'll receive the right training. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Saraland AL and throughout the USA, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver 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 in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief explanations of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive 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 operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some 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 may also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Saraland AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are several additional points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Saraland AL area are accredited because of 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 several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an 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 training and curriculum will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Saraland AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several 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 share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Saraland AL schools provide 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 Trainers? As previously stated, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will provide lots of 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Saraland AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with numerous 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 flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Saraland AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Saraland AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit 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? As soon as you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Saraland AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Saraland AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Right Saraland Truck Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate trucking school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must get the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. 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 trucker in Saraland Alabama.