How to Pick the Best Trucker Classes near Gadsden Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Gadsden AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you'll need to consider before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Gadsden residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal way to ensure you'll receive the right training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance 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 operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Gadsden AL, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three 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 pick a truck driver school, we will address Class A and Class 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). Following are short summaries for the two 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 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Trucking School
After you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of assessing the Gadsden AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are a few additional things that you should research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Gadsden AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, 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. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 curriculum and training will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Gadsden AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Gadsden AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide lots 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time differs among schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Gadsden AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Gadsden AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving 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 contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly noted, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Gadsden AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. 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 Offered? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are considering 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 referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Gadsden AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Gadsden AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Select the Best Gadsden AL Truck Driving Training
Selecting the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Gadsden AL.