How to Decide on the Right CDL Training Classes near Alabaster Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Alabaster AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Alabaster residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the best method to make certain you'll obtain the appropriate training. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Alabaster AL, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one 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 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 for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several 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 CDLs may also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucker School
After you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Alabaster AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other issues, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are a few additional things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Alabaster AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For 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 curriculum and training will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Alabaster AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving 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 insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Alabaster AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking 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 essential training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Alabaster AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. 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 refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Alabaster AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver 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 of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously mentioned, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's important that the Alabaster AL school you enroll in 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 instructor should be prepared to devote 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? The moment you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates 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 Alabaster AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Alabaster AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Right Alabaster AL Truck Driver Training
Selecting the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might 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 company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Alabaster AL.