How to Pick the Right Truck Driving School near Athens Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Athens AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain factors that you'll want to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Athens home. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the ideal method to make certain you'll get the appropriate education. 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 objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Athens AL, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class 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). Following are brief explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 CDL is required to operate 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. Some 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Athens AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are some additional points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Athens AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, 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 certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Athens AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes 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 skillfully takes time. The majority of Athens AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already stated, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will furnish sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Athens AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Athens AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Athens AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing 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 needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Athens AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Athens AL area trade or technical 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 a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Select the Best Athens AL CDL Driver Training
Selecting the right trucking school is an important first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may want to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Athens AL.