How to Choose the Right CDL Driving School near Montgomery Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Montgomery AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Montgomery home. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to guarantee you'll receive the right training. Just remember, your objective is to master the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To drive commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Montgomery AL, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that one 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 focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief explanations of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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. Several 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 more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses may also need endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the process of researching the Montgomery AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole considerations. Other variables, such as 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 should research while conducting your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Montgomery AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent 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 receive plenty of driving time. For 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 meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Montgomery AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the profession, but also boosts 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 considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Montgomery AL schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or type 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 drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also important that the teachers stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, 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 fluctuates between schools, a reasonable benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Montgomery AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from some truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specified carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as 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 work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom 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 ideal way to receive affordable training. Just remember to inquire if the Montgomery AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Montgomery AL school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start 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, 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 Montgomery AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Montgomery AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Right Montgomery AL CDL Driver Training
Selecting the right truck driver school is an important 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 forge 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 necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you may 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 trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. 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 truck driver in Montgomery AL.