How to Decide on the Best Trucking Classes near Phenix City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Phenix City AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's important to receive the appropriate training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are a number of variables that you'll want to consider prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you have to commute from your Phenix City home. The expense will also be important, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal method to make sure you'll get the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question 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 commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Phenix City AL, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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 short descriptions of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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 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 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 Commercial Drivers Licenses might also require endorsements to operate specific types of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.
How to Research a CDL School
After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Phenix City AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, location and cost will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are several more points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Phenix City AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. 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 Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Phenix City AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to contact the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. 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 receiving the personalized instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Phenix City AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As already stated, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to a few 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, a good truck driver school will provide 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time can vary between schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Phenix City AL schools you are looking at and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Phenix City AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly mentioned, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's essential that the Phenix City AL school you enroll in offers 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 teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Placement Provided? Once you have attained your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be eager to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Phenix City AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Phenix City AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Right Phenix City AL CDL Training
Picking the right truck driver school is an essential first step to starting your new occupation as a long distance or local 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 crucial 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 fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might need to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in 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 choice. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be entering an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Phenix City AL.