How to Pick the Right Truck Driver Classes near Talladega Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Talladega AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Talladega home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the best way to make certain you'll obtain the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge 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? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within Talladega AL and throughout the USA, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate 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 needed to operate 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 specific types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Trucking School
When you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of researching the Talladega AL trucking schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are several additional factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Talladega AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 curriculum and training will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Talladega AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to 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 verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Talladega AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with 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.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time fluctuates among 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 Talladega AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with numerous 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 freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Talladega AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Talladega AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to dedicate 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 commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Talladega AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Talladega AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Best Talladega Truck Driver Training
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several 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 drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may want 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 select an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Talladega Alabama.