How to Decide on the Right Trucker School near Tarrant Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Tarrant AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you'll want to consider before making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Tarrant home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to make certain you'll get the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Tarrant AL and throughout the United States, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed 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 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed 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. 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Tarrant AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are a few more things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Tarrant AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense 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 required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed 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 Tarrant AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Tarrant AL schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will provide 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no substitute 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 between schools, a good 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 Tarrant AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with numerous 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 giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Tarrant AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 3rd 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 competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Tarrant AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio 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 low job placement rate or few Tarrant AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Tarrant AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Tarrant CDL Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local 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 offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to look into 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 choose an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Tarrant Alabama.