How to Enroll in the Best Truck Driving Classes near Tuskegee Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Tuskegee AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to consider prior to making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Tuskegee home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the best way to make sure you'll get the right training. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Tuskegee AL and throughout the United States, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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 greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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 may also require endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the Tuskegee AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are some more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Tuskegee AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Tuskegee AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding 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 an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Tuskegee AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher 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. Assessing instructors may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will furnish sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time differs among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Tuskegee AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with a wide range of 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 work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Tuskegee AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Tuskegee AL school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask 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 poor job placement rate or few Tuskegee AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Tuskegee AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Best Tuskegee Truck Driver Training
Selecting the ideal truck driving school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must get the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need to consider 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 enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Tuskegee Alabama.