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How to Assess a Trucking School
After you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Wetumpka AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are some additional things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Wetumpka AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 curriculum and training will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Wetumpka AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors 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 obtaining the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Wetumpka AL schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective 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 going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will provide plenty 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 operating a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential 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. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Wetumpka AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit 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 reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Wetumpka AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. 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 other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously noted, truck driving training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Wetumpka AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Wetumpka AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Wetumpka AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.