How to Choose the Best Trucking Classes near Alabaster Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Alabaster AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various variables that you'll need to think about before making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Alabaster home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the best means to ensure you'll obtain the right training. Don't forget, your objective 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 cover 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, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind 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 summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 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. A few 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 may also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Alabaster AL truck driving 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 concerns. Other variables, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So following are several additional 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 ? Not many truck driver schools in the Alabaster AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure 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 be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Alabaster AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering 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 trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Alabaster AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of 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 actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time differs among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Alabaster AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Alabaster AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from other 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 Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Alabaster AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Alabaster AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Alabaster AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.
Select the Best Alabaster AL Truck Driving Training
Picking the appropriate trucking school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you might need to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced 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 affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Alabaster AL.