How to Select the Right Trucking School near Madison Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Madison AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are certain variables that you'll want to examine before making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Madison home. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the best means to make certain you'll get the appropriate training. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the remainder 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 drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Madison AL, a driver must attain 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 topic of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will highlight 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 two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to operate 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. Several 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 CDLs may also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Research a CDL School
When you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Madison AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only considerations. Other factors, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are some more points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driver schools in the Madison AL area are accredited due to the rigorous 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 obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? 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. However, even the best of Madison AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Madison AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Teachers? As already stated, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will provide plenty of driving time to its students. After all, 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 essential 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 be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Madison AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Madison AL schools you are considering 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 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 reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously noted, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's essential that the Madison AL school you select 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 dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Provided? As soon as you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Madison AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Offered? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Madison AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Right Madison AL Truck Driver Training
Picking the right truck driver school is an important first step to starting 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 many options offered and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the necessary training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you may want to consider a captive school. You will pay a reduced 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 the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Madison AL.