How to Decide on the Best CDL Training Classes near Enterprise Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Enterprise AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several variables that you'll need to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Enterprise residence. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the optimal means to ensure you'll get the right training. Don't forget, 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 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 rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Enterprise AL, a driver needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief descriptions for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate 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 CDL is needed to operate 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. Some 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 drive certain types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you would like to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Enterprise AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are some more things that you need to research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking 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 common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure 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 be 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 qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should 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 ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personalized attention 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 professes it can train 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 takes time. Most Enterprise AL schools offer training programs that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As already mentioned, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish plenty of driving time to its students. Besides, 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 tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time can vary between 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. Get in touch with the Enterprise AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Enterprise 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 third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's imperative 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 certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out 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 Enterprise AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Enterprise AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.
Choose the Best Enterprise AL Truck Driving Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain 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 want to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Enterprise AL.