How to Enroll in the Best CDL Training Classes near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Vestavia Hills AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to consider before making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Vestavia Hills home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based only on price is not the best way to ensure you'll receive the proper training. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Require?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within Vestavia Hills AL and throughout the USA, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Below are short descriptions for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also require endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Research a CDL School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Vestavia Hills AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 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 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 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 Vestavia Hills AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing 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 discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly 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 period. 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 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a good standard 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 researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Vestavia Hills AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Vestavia Hills AL school you select provides 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 spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Vestavia Hills AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Vestavia Hills AL area vocational or trade 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 understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Vestavia Hills Truck Driver Training
Picking the appropriate trucking school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to look into 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 trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Vestavia Hills Alabama.