How to Select the Best CDL Driving Classes near Theodore Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Theodore AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Theodore home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to ensure you'll obtain the appropriate training. Don't forget, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective 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 talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Theodore AL and throughout the United States, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses 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 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 two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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. Some 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Theodore AL trucking schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are several more points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Theodore AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense 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. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine 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 top Theodore AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
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 section. Also, 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 personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Theodore AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to pay a visit to 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 ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driver 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 driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Theodore AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Theodore AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's important that the Theodore 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 dedicate 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 obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Theodore AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Theodore AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Theodore Truck Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you may want to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Theodore Alabama.