How to Choose the Right Truck Driver Classes near Southside Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Southside AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to examine before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you need to commute from your Southside home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the best method to ensure you'll receive the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams 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 address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Southside AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving 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 together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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. 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 needed 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. 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Southside AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are a few more things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Southside AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent 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 recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real 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 meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Southside AL schools had to start 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 job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also 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 hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting 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 train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Southside AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already stated, it's essential 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 criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers 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 level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will provide ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Southside AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with many different 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 be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Southside AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Southside AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote 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 Placement Provided? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Southside AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Southside AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Southside Truck Driver Training
Picking the ideal truck driving school is an important first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might need to consider 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 truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Southside Alabama.