How to Select the Best CDL Training School near Gadsden Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Gadsden AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Gadsden home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the best means to ensure you'll get the right training. Don't forget, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Gadsden AL, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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 brief descriptions of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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. A few 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 Commercial Drivers License is required 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 specific kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a CDL School
Once you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Gadsden AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously 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 factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are some additional points that you should research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Gadsden AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For 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 satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, 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 learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher 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 regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look 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 skillfully takes time. The majority of Gadsden AL schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important 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 ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will furnish sufficient 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 important training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time fluctuates 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. Get in touch with the Gadsden AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to obtain affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Gadsden AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Gadsden AL school you enroll in offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to commit 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 accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Gadsden AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Gadsden AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Find out if the schools you are reviewing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Gadsden AL CDL Driver Training
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is an important first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the necessary training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Gadsden AL.