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How to Research a CDL School
When you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Decatur AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some more things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driver schools in the Decatur AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess 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 stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Decatur AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
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 discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personal attention 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 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 takes time. The majority of Decatur AL schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will furnish plenty 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 operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Decatur 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 certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Decatur AL schools you are looking at 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 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 benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Decatur AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate 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 responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Decatur AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Decatur AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.