How to Pick the Best CDL Training Classes near Dothan Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Dothan AL. Maybe 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 discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to receive the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll need to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Dothan residence. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based only on price is not the optimal way to guarantee you'll receive the proper education. Don't forget, your goal 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 purpose 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 rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Dothan AL, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short 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 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 CDL is needed to operate 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. Some 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Dothan AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are several more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Dothan AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, 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 certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 curriculum and training will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Dothan AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no 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 regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Dothan AL schools offer 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 earlier mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified 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 crucial that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving school will furnish lots of 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Dothan AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get free or discounted training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Dothan AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Dothan AL school you choose offers 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 teacher should be prepared to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out 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 placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Dothan AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Dothan AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Select the Best Dothan AL CDL Training
Picking the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to starting 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 offered and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you might need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Dothan AL.