How to Select the Best CDL Driving School near Opelika Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Opelika AL. Perhaps it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to obtain the proper training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you have to commute from your Opelika home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based only on price is not the optimal means to make sure you'll obtain the proper training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge 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 address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the USA and Opelika AL, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to select a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes 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). Below are brief descriptions for 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 more 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 CDL 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. 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 might also require endorsements to operate specific types 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 license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
When you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the process of evaluating the Opelika AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are several additional factors that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few trucking schools in the Opelika AL area are accredited because of the stringent 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 required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's course is certified (the course, not the school is certified), students know that the training and curriculum will measure up to the very high benchmarks 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 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 best of Opelika AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't provide those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning 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 period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. The majority of Opelika AL schools provide training courses that range 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 stated, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers may be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driver 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 simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are necessary training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time can vary among schools, a reasonable benchmark 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 Opelika AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from some trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Opelika AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. 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 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 Class Times Convenient? As formerly noted, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Opelika AL school you select provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Opelika AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Opelika AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Select the Right Opelika AL CDL Training
Selecting the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new occupation 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 several options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on money or financing, you may need to think about 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 trucker school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be joining an industry that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Opelika AL.