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How to Evaluate a Trucking School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the East Florence AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are a few more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the East Florence AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. For 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top East Florence AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the individual 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 train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of East Florence AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As already stated, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driving school will provide 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 driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time varies among 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 East Florence AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from some truck driver 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 maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the East Florence AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the East Florence AL school you choose 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 dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage 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 lower job placement rate or not many East Florence AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other East Florence AL area technical or vocational 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 least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.