How to Enroll in the Best CDL Driving School near Huntsville Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Huntsville AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's imperative to get the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to think about before making your final selection. Location will no doubt be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Huntsville residence. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the ideal 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 examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Huntsville AL, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Following are short descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to drive 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 operators may be able to drive 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 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 might also need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for example passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a Trucker School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of assessing the Huntsville AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are several more points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many trucking schools in the Huntsville AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense 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 obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Huntsville AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the personalized 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 insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Huntsville AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will furnish plenty of 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 necessary training tools, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable benchmark 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 Huntsville AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Huntsville AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling 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 mentioned, truck driver training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the Huntsville AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher 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? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Huntsville AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Huntsville 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 examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Huntsville AL CDL Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation 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 get the appropriate training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on cash or financing, you may 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 truck driving school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Huntsville AL.