How to Decide on the Best Truck Driver School near Gadsden Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Gadsden AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are a number of factors that you'll need to examine before making your final choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Gadsden home. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best means to guarantee you'll get the proper training. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select 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 review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Gadsden AL, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more than 10,000 lbs. Several 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 CDL is required to operate 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 certain kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
After you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Gadsden AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are some additional factors that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Gadsden AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 curriculum and training will meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Gadsden AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Gadsden AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with some of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver school will provide 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 real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Gadsden AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Gadsden 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 a number of states that will allow third 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 provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driving training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the Gadsden AL school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. 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 commitments.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. 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 Aid Given? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Gadsden 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 evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Select the Right Gadsden AL CDL Driver Training
Choosing the ideal truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might need to consider 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 trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm 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 soon be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Gadsden AL.