How to Select the Best Trucker School near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Vestavia Hills AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Vestavia Hills residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the best method to ensure you'll receive the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Vestavia Hills AL and throughout the USA, an operator must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief descriptions for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several of the vehicles that drivers may be able to operate 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 drive 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 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 might also need endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driver School
After you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Vestavia Hills AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few additional factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, 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. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given an ample amount 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 clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated 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 Vestavia Hills AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. 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 considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Vestavia Hills AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driver school will furnish sufficient 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time differs among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Vestavia Hills AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain truck driver 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 provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict 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 Vestavia Hills AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's important that the Vestavia Hills AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor 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 must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Vestavia Hills AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Vestavia Hills 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 assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Right Vestavia Hills CDL Training
Selecting the right trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper 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 think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive 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 decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Vestavia Hills Alabama.