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How to Evaluate a Trucking School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Valley AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. 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 sole concerns. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are a few additional points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Valley AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, 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 certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Valley AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching 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 experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors 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 getting the individual instruction 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 insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Valley AL schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it's important 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 prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will provide 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time differs between 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 Valley AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Valley AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, CDL training is just one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Valley 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 spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Valley AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Valley 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 evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.