How to Decide on the Best CDL Driving Classes near Phenix City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Phenix City AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good income and flexible work opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are several variables that you'll want to consider before making your ultimate selection. Location will undoubtedly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Phenix City home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based solely on price is not the ideal way to ensure you'll get the right education. Just remember, your goal 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? That is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Phenix City AL, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of more 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 CDL is needed to drive 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. A few 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 kinds of vehicles, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Phenix City AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As earlier discussed, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your sole considerations. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are several more things that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Phenix City AL area are accredited because of the demanding process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 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 meet the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Phenix City AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also ask what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local 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 contact the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will cover more about the teachers in the next section. Also, the student to instructor proportion should not be higher 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 look out for any school that professes it can train you to be a truck driver in a relatively short time frame. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. The majority of Phenix City AL schools provide training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a little more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to visit the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking school will furnish sufficient 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. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. And even though driving time can vary between 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. Contact the Phenix City AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some truck driver schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific 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 maintaining affiliations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially work wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Phenix City AL schools you are contemplating are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is only about one to two months long. With such a short term, it's imperative 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 a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Phenix City AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a sign to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Given? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Phenix City AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Find out if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Right Phenix City AL Truck Driving Training
Picking the appropriate trucking school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold 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 obtain the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases 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 firm of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Phenix City AL.