How to Select the Right Truck Driving School near Talladega Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Talladega AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Talladega home. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal method to make sure you'll get the proper education. Don't forget, your objective 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 choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Talladega AL and throughout the USA, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will address 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 brief explanations of the two 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 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 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 might also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
When you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Talladega AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are a few additional points that you should research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Talladega AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 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 measure up to the very high standards 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 negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Talladega AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Talladega AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of 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 teachers stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish sufficient 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. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Talladega AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, 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 choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Talladega AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide 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 available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Talladega AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out 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 Talladega AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Talladega AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating 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 Right Talladega CDL Training
Picking the ideal truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you might need to think about 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 CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Talladega Alabama.