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How to Research a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Vestavia Hills AL trucking schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are several more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost 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 certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 curriculum and training will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Vestavia Hills AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several 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 numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual attention 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 professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Vestavia Hills AL schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As previously mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to visit the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough 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 operating a truck. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Vestavia Hills AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific 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 associations with many different 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 surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Vestavia Hills AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly noted, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Vestavia Hills AL school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending 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 acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Vestavia Hills AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Vestavia Hills AL area technical or vocational 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 least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.