How to Decide on the Right Truck Driver School near Scottsboro Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Scottsboro AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Scottsboro residence. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the optimal way to make certain you'll get the right education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Scottsboro AL and throughout the United States, a driver needs to get 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 subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief descriptions for the 2 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 drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more 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 CDLs might also need endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Scottsboro AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are some 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 Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Scottsboro AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, 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 clue to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Scottsboro AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check 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 experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized 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 train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Scottsboro AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors 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 an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, 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 real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Scottsboro AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Scottsboro AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously noted, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Scottsboro 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 spend more time with you until you have it mastered. 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 obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Scottsboro AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Scottsboro AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Right Scottsboro Truck Driver Training
Picking the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Scottsboro Alabama.