How to Select the Best Trucker Classes near Huntsville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Huntsville AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to receive the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Huntsville residence. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the ideal means to make certain you'll obtain the proper education. Don't forget, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Huntsville AL, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will address 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 summaries for the 2 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. 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 more 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, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Huntsville AL trucking schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are several additional points that you should research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few trucking schools in the Huntsville AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get lots of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. 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 top Huntsville AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm 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 section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning 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 comparatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Huntsville AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a little more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver school will furnish sufficient 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. Even though the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time fluctuates between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Huntsville AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Huntsville 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 several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. 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 accommodating than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As formerly noted, CDL training is only about one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's essential that the Huntsville AL school you select offers flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For 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 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 commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates 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 Huntsville AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Huntsville AL area trade or technical 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 must be submitted.
Select the Best Huntsville AL Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to beginning your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you may need to consider 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 trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated 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 truck driver in Huntsville AL.