How to Enroll in the Right Truck Driver Classes near Valley Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Valley AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various variables that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Valley residence. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to guarantee you'll obtain the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within Valley AL and throughout the United States, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short explanations of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some 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 CDLs may also need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Valley AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are some more points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Valley AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost 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 required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. 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 benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Valley AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. 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 supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department 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 experienced and trained. 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 greater, then students will not be receiving 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 train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Valley AL schools offer training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional 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 bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will provide sufficient 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 necessary training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time differs among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Valley AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver 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 ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Valley AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. 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 accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's important that the Valley AL school you select 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 spend 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 commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Valley AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Valley AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Best Valley Truck Driver Training
Picking the right truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on money or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving 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 many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Valley Alabama.