How to Choose the Best CDL Driving School near Madison Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Madison AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various variables that you'll want to examine prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Madison home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based solely on price is not the ideal means to guarantee you'll obtain the proper education. Just remember, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Is Required?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Madison AL, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver school, we will address Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type 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 explanations for the two 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. A few 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 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. Some 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 need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
After you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Madison AL trucking schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, for instance the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are a few additional factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence before selecting, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Madison AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and expense to the schools. However, 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 standard, and that they will be given lots 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 training and curriculum will satisfy the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help measure the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Madison AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain associations with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following section. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be getting the personalized attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can teach 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 Madison AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already stated, it's essential that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. 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 important that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time varies between schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Madison AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Madison AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier noted, CDL training is only about one to two months long. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Madison AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have received your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Madison AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Madison AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Ask if the schools you are reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Right Madison AL Truck Driver Training
Picking the right trucking school is an essential first step to beginning 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 many options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. 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 funds or financing, you might want to think about 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 choose an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Madison AL.