How to Select the Best Trucking Classes near Athens Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Athens AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you need to commute from your Athens residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the ideal means to make certain you'll get the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional 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 cover in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Athens AL, a driver must obtain 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 driver school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates 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 descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Trucker School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Athens AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other issues, for example 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 performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Athens AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed 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 Athens AL schools had to begin 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 relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is particularly 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 be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Athens 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 Teachers? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep 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 standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will furnish 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 operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Athens AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain discounted or even free training from some trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly 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 obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Athens AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously mentioned, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Athens AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating 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 referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Athens AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Athens AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Right Athens AL CDL Training
Selecting the right trucking school is a critical first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Athens AL.