How to Decide on the Right Trucker School near Montgomery Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Montgomery AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various variables that you'll need to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Montgomery residence. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the ideal means to guarantee you'll obtain the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? That is what we are going to discuss in the rest 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 United States and Montgomery AL, a driver must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short explanations for the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate 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 CDLs may also require endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucker School
After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Montgomery AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As already discussed, location and cost will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other factors, such as the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So below are several more points that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Montgomery AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 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 training and curriculum will fulfill the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Montgomery AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the instructors 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 personalized 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 insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short period of time. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Montgomery AL schools offer training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As already mentioned, it's important that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as a teacher, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to 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.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, a good truck driver 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 important training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time can vary among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Montgomery AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain discounted or even free training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Montgomery AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are considering 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 centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Convenient? As previously mentioned, CDL training is just one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's essential that the Montgomery AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Montgomery AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Montgomery AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Choose the Best Montgomery AL Truck Driver Training
Selecting the appropriate truck driver school is a critical first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to look into 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 select an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Montgomery AL.