How to Decide on the Best Trucker School near Auburn Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Auburn AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever 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 certain factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Auburn residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the optimal way to make sure you'll receive the right education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn 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 decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Auburn AL, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can qualify 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 discuss 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 brief explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 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. 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 need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
When you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Auburn AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are some additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Auburn AL area are accredited due to the rigorous 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 obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Auburn AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, 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 claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Auburn AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a great 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 actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Auburn AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than 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 less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Auburn 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 permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously noted, truck driving training is just one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Auburn AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Auburn AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Auburn AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Select the Right Auburn AL Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills 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 critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you may need to think about 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 enroll in an independent trucking 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 receive your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Auburn AL.