How to Decide on the Right CDL Training Classes near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Tuscaloosa AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Tuscaloosa residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best means to guarantee you'll receive the right training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within Tuscaloosa AL and throughout the United States, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 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 select a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short descriptions for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive 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 CDL is required to operate 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. 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 CDLs may also need endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Tuscaloosa AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent 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 know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, 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 find out what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is particularly 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 comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Tuscaloosa AL schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will provide plenty 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 necessary training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Tuscaloosa AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with a wide range of 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 giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Tuscaloosa AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Tuscaloosa AL school you select 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 prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Tuscaloosa AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Tuscaloosa AL area technical or vocational 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 aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Right Tuscaloosa Truck Driver Training
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Tuscaloosa Alabama.