How to Pick the Best Truck Driving School 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 dream to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll need to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Gadsden residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the best method to guarantee you'll receive the proper education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations 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 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 Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Gadsden AL, an operator needs to get 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. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 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 drivers may be qualified to operate 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 operate specific kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Trucking School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the process of evaluating the Gadsden AL trucking schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole concerns. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are a few more factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Gadsden AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, 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. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Gadsden AL schools had to start from their first 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 employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be 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 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 a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Gadsden AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will furnish ample 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 methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Gadsden AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Gadsden AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As earlier noted, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's essential 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 a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be anxious to start your new profession. Confirm 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 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 recruiting their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Provided? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Gadsden AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are examining 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 Best Gadsden AL Truck Driving Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to beginning your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you may want to look into 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 CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Gadsden AL.