How to Decide on the Right Trucker School near Enterprise Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Enterprise AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to think about before making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Enterprise home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the best method to make certain you'll get the proper training. Don't forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the balance 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 Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Enterprise AL, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate 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 CDLs may also need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a Trucker School
After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Enterprise AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So below are some additional points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Enterprise AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace 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. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Enterprise AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Enterprise AL schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent truck driving 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Enterprise AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having associations with many different 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 choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Enterprise AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Enterprise AL school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend 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 fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask 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 employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Enterprise AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Enterprise AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Enterprise AL Truck Driving Training
Picking the right trucking school is a critical first step to starting your new profession 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 many options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you might want 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 enroll in an independent truck driving school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Enterprise AL.