How to Select the Best Truck Driver School near Alabaster Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Alabaster AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you need to commute from your Alabaster home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the ideal method to make certain you'll obtain the proper training. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Is Required?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Alabaster AL, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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 summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Several of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive 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 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. Several 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Alabaster AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are some more things that you should research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Alabaster AL area are accredited because of 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 several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual 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 training and curriculum will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Alabaster AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized 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 professes it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Alabaster AL schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will furnish 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time varies among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Alabaster AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Alabaster AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Alabaster AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Alabaster AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Alabaster AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Best Alabaster AL Truck Driver Training
Choosing the right truck driving school is an important first step to launching your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught 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 receive the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Alabaster AL.