How to Find the Best Truck Driving School near Homewood Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Homewood AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to obtain the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various factors that you'll need to think about before making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Homewood home. The expense will also be of importance, but selecting a school based only on price is not the ideal method to ensure you'll get the appropriate training. Don't forget, your objective 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 target in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover 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 Is Required?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Homewood AL, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind 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 explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to drive 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Homewood AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are several more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Homewood AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real 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 training and curriculum will comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Homewood AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following section. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater 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 concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Homewood 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 Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also talk to a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Above all else, a great trucking school will furnish sufficient 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. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Homewood AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Homewood 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 permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Homewood AL school you select 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 instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Homewood AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Homewood AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Right Homewood AL Truck Driving Training
Picking the appropriate truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, 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 cash or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent CDL school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Homewood AL.