How to Pick the Best CDL Training School near Hoover Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Hoover AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you'll need to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Hoover residence. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best method to make certain you'll get the proper education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target 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 commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Hoover AL, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since 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 type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short summaries for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 CDL is needed 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 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 might also require endorsements to drive specific types of vehicles, including passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Hoover AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly if not more important. So below are several more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Hoover AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common 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. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 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 curriculum and training will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue 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 stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Hoover AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the profession, but also boosts 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 reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the next 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 obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of 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 requires time. Most Hoover AL schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously stated, it's important that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. 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 vital that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal approach is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent trucking school will provide ample driving time to its students. After all, 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Hoover AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can get free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specified 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 maintaining associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to receive affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Hoover 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 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. 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 indicator that the DMV deems 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 long. With such a brief duration, it's imperative that the Hoover 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 certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to start your new profession. 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 poor job placement rate or few Hoover AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Hoover AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Right Hoover AL Truck Driver Training
Choosing the right trucking school is an essential first step to beginning 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 a number of options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional trucker in Hoover AL.