How to Choose the Best CDL Driving Classes near Enterprise Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Enterprise AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various factors that you'll need to think about before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Enterprise residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the best method to make sure you'll get the proper training. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Enterprise AL, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick 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 short descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to drive single vehicles having a GVWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a Trucking School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Enterprise AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are a few more factors that you should research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Enterprise AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is provided 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 quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Enterprise AL schools had to begin 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 employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized attention 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 professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Enterprise AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driver school will provide 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time varies 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 Enterprise AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with a wide range of 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 be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Enterprise AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer 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 moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly mentioned, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Enterprise AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new career. 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, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Enterprise AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Enterprise 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 assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Enterprise AL Truck Driving Training
Selecting the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn 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. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds 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 option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated 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 truck driver in Enterprise AL.