How to Pick the Right Truck Driving Classes near Dothan Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Dothan AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to think about before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Dothan home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based only on price is not the ideal method to guarantee you'll get the appropriate education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target 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 talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Dothan AL, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person 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 highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 CDL is required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Some of the vehicles that drivers may be qualified to operate 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 drive specific types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Trucking School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Dothan AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are several additional things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Dothan AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense 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 obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given lots 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Dothan AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, 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 claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Dothan 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 Good are the Trainers? As previously stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though 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 stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to 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, an excellent trucking school will furnish ample 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time varies between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Dothan AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive 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 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 giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Dothan AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Dothan AL school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Dothan AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Dothan 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 assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Dothan AL Truck Driving Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is a critical first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must get the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Dothan AL.