How to Decide on the Right CDL Driving Classes near Decatur Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Decatur AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various variables that you'll need to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Decatur residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the ideal method to guarantee you'll obtain the appropriate training. Don't forget, 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 goal in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Decatur AL, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver 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 together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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. 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Decatur AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are a few more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Decatur AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost 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 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 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 program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Decatur AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers 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 greater, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning 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 relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Decatur AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to 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.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will furnish ample driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Decatur AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement 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 provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Decatur AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 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 offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's important that the Decatur AL school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Decatur AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Decatur AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Best Decatur AL Truck Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many 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 large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving 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 choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Decatur AL.