How to Enroll in the Best Trucking School near Hoover Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Hoover AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Hoover residence. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the optimal means to make certain you'll obtain the right education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you decide on a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Hoover AL, a driver must obtain 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 topic of this article is how to choose 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 together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short explanations for 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. 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 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 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 might also require endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Evaluate a CDL School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Hoover AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally 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 especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many 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 typical 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 an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of actual driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help evaluate 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. Having said that, even the best of Hoover AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering 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 talk more about the instructors in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time period. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Hoover AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's important that the instructors are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors may be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking school will provide lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Hoover AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with many different 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 giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Hoover AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, CDL training is only about one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Hoover AL school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend 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 fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Placement Offered? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Hoover AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Hoover AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Hoover AL CDL Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is an important first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must receive the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you might want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choice, 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 America move as a professional trucker in Hoover AL.