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How to Research a Truck Driving School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Tuscaloosa AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are several additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area are accredited because of the rigorous 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. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. 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 best of Tuscaloosa AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, 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 trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction 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 claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Tuscaloosa AL schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will provide ample driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Tuscaloosa AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified 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 rather than having associations with numerous 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. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Tuscaloosa AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Tuscaloosa AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Tuscaloosa AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Tuscaloosa AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.