How to Decide on the Right Trucking Classes near Sylacauga Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Sylacauga AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Sylacauga home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to guarantee you'll get the right training. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Sylacauga AL and throughout the United States, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes 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 short explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL 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 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 required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Sylacauga AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are some additional things that you should research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Sylacauga AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost 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. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Sylacauga AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. 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 supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Sylacauga 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 important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. After all, 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time varies among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Sylacauga AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Sylacauga AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Sylacauga AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty 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 employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Sylacauga AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Sylacauga AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Right Sylacauga CDL Training
Selecting the right trucking school is a critical first step to starting 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 a number of options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Sylacauga Alabama.