How to Enroll in the Best Truck Driving School near Alabaster Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Alabaster AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Alabaster residence. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best means to guarantee you'll get the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Is Required?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Alabaster AL, an operator 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 topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will discuss 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). Below are short summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 CDL is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of greater 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 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 require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
Once you have determined which CDL you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Alabaster AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are a few more things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Alabaster AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Alabaster AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personalized 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 professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Alabaster AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already stated, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with 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.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will provide lots of 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Alabaster AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations 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 freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Alabaster AL schools you are considering 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 driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out 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 locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's important that the Alabaster AL school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates 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 few Alabaster AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Alabaster AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Best Alabaster AL Truck Driver Training
Selecting the right truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Alabaster AL.