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How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
After you have decided which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Birmingham AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized 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 below are some additional factors that you should research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Birmingham AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, 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 a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For 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 truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Birmingham AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, 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 personal attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can train 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 skillfully requires time. The majority of Birmingham AL schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will provide plenty of 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important 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. And even though driving time varies between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Birmingham AL schools you are considering 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 make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Birmingham AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously noted, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Birmingham AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For 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 have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance 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 companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Birmingham AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Birmingham AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.