How to Pick the Right Trucker School near East Florence Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near East Florence AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you'll want to think about before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your East Florence home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal means to make sure you'll get the appropriate training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and East Florence AL, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Following are brief explanations for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Trucker School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the process of assessing the East Florence AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are a few more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, 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 rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of East Florence AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of East Florence AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher 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 teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to visit the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a great 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important 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 can vary 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. Contact the East Florence AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the East Florence AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the East Florence 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 willing to dedicate 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 commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates 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 search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving 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 assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.
Select the Right East Florence AL Truck Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in East Florence AL.