How to Pick the Right Trucking Classes near Smiths Station Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Smiths Station AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll want to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Smiths Station home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the optimal method to ensure you'll receive the right education. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Smiths Station AL and throughout the United States, an operator must obtain 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 topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 CDL 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 require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, for example passenger or school 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 Evaluate a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Smiths Station AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are a few additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Smiths Station AL area are accredited because of the demanding 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 required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Smiths Station AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority 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 cover more about the teachers in the next segment. 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 personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Smiths Station AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will furnish ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no replacement 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 standard 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 Smiths Station AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver 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 instead of having relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Smiths Station AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Smiths Station AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Smiths Station AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Smiths Station AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Smiths Station CDL Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Smiths Station Alabama.