How to Decide on the Right Trucking Classes near Dothan Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Dothan AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you have to commute from your Dothan residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to ensure you'll receive the right education. Just remember, 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 purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the remainder 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 operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Dothan AL, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver 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 focus on Class A and 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 explanations of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 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 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 CDLs might also need endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Trucker School
When you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of evaluating the Dothan AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So below are a few more things that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Dothan AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of 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. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively 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 Dothan AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
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 teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Dothan AL schools offer training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent trucking school will furnish sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, 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 necessary training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time differs among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Dothan AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations 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 freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Dothan AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. 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 competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier noted, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Dothan 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 particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing 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 must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Dothan AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Dothan AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Right Dothan AL Truck Driving Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on money 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 select an independent truck driving 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 get your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Dothan AL.