How to Pick the Best Trucker School near Southside Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Southside AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of factors that you'll want to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Southside residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the best means to ensure you'll get the right education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within Southside AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as 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 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 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 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 CDLs might also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a CDL School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Southside AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are a few additional factors 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 Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving 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 commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. 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 indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Southside AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance 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? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. Also, 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 personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Southside AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Southside AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement 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 rather than maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Southside AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Southside 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 instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Southside AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driver 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 offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Southside Truck Driver Training
Choosing the ideal truck driving school is a critical first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several 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 large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money 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 choose an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Southside Alabama.