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How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Florence AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are some more things that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Florence AL area are accredited due to 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 a number of advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Florence AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding 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 an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Florence AL schools provide training programs that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish plenty of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Florence AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Florence AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV views the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As formerly noted, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Florence AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to devote more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Florence AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Florence AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.