How to Choose the Best Trucker Classes near Homewood Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Homewood AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers excellent income and flexible work opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to examine before making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Homewood home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based only on price is not the optimal means to guarantee you'll get the proper education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you select 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 discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Homewood AL, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates 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). Below are short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed 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 CDL is needed 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 drive certain kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Trucking School
After you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Homewood AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are several more factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Homewood AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, 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 several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will receive plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 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 training and curriculum will meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Homewood AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucker 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 teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Homewood AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will provide 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 operating a truck. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time varies between schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Homewood AL schools you are looking at and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Homewood AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Flexible? As earlier mentioned, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Homewood AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to devote 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 accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Homewood AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Homewood AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Find Out More About Homewood CDL Driving Schools
Select the Right Homewood AL CDL Training
Picking the right truck driving school is an important first step to starting 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 several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may want 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 choose an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Homewood AL.