How to Enroll in the Best Trucker School near Gadsden Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Gadsden AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some research and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you have to commute from your Gadsden residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based solely on price is not the best method to ensure you'll get the appropriate training. Just remember, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Gadsden AL, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one 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 highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief explanations of 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 more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 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 may also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Trucker School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can begin the process of assessing the Gadsden AL trucking schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are some additional factors that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Gadsden AL area are accredited due to the stringent 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 obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Gadsden AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching 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 teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining 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 be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Gadsden AL schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving 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 driving a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Gadsden AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer 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 refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Gadsden AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly noted, CDL training is just one to two months in length. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Gadsden AL school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Ask 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 referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Gadsden AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Gadsden AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be completed.
Select the Best Gadsden AL CDL Training
Picking the ideal truck driving school is an important first step to beginning your new occupation 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 many options offered and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Gadsden AL.