How to Select the Best CDL Driving School near Phenix City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Phenix City AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible job prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll need to think about prior to making your final selection. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Phenix City residence. The cost will also be important, but picking a school based only on price is not the ideal means to make certain you'll receive the appropriate training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the skills and knowledge that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you decide on 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 eventually need.
Which CDL Is Required?
In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Phenix City AL, a driver needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select 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). Below are short explanations for the 2 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. A few 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 CDL is needed to drive 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. Some 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 might also need endorsements to operate certain types of vehicles, for instance 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 authorized to operate.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you want to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Phenix City AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So following are some more points that you should research while carrying out your due diligence before choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Phenix City AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and cost 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 certain advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI calls for 44 hours of real driving time, not ride-alongs or simulations. So if a school's program is certified (the program, not the school is certified), students know that the curriculum and training will comply with the very high benchmarks 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 ranked 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 top Phenix City AL schools had to start from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a superior reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover 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 obtaining the personal instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding 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 relatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Phenix City AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors may 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 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 level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a good trucking school will provide lots of driving time to its students. Besides, 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training tools, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time fluctuates among 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 considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive discounted or even free training from a number of trucking schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Phenix City AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are a number of states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its grads. If onsite testing is available 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 of other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indication that the DMV believes the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short duration, it's imperative that the Phenix City 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 willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. 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 Placement Provided? Once you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are contemplating have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Phenix City AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Phenix City AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Best Phenix City AL CDL Driver Training
Picking the right truck driver school is an essential first step to launching your new occupation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Phenix City AL.