How to Find the Right Truck Driver School near Sylacauga Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Sylacauga AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various variables that you'll want to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Sylacauga home. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based only on price is not the optimal means to ensure you'll receive the proper education. Don't forget, your goal 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 objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within Sylacauga AL and throughout the USA, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight 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 for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 needed to operate 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 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 may also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Sylacauga AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are several additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Sylacauga AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Sylacauga AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, 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 instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Sylacauga AL schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Sylacauga AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Sylacauga AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Sylacauga AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For 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 working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Sylacauga AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Sylacauga AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid 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 submitted.
Enroll in the Best Sylacauga CDL Training
Choosing the appropriate trucking school is an important first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, 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 cash or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Sylacauga Alabama.