How to Find the Right Trucking Classes near Enterprise Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Enterprise AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are a number of 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 expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal way to ensure you'll get the proper training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal 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 talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Is Required?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Enterprise AL, a driver must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short explanations of the 2 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 more 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed 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. A few 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 might also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
Once you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Enterprise AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As earlier discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few additional points 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 ? Very few trucking schools in the Enterprise AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 training and curriculum will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Enterprise AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater 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 watch out for any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Enterprise AL schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will provide lots 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 real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time differs between schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Enterprise AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to 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 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 choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Enterprise AL schools you are considering 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 trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Enterprise AL school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Enterprise AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Enterprise AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Select the Best Enterprise AL CDL Training
Picking the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to beginning your new occupation 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 crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a large 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 reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Enterprise AL.