How to Select the Best CDL Driving Classes near Prattville Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a CDL school near Prattville AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible work prospects. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to consider before making your final choice. Location will certainly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Prattville home. The expense will also be of importance, but choosing a school based only on price is not the optimal way to ensure you'll obtain the proper training. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will eventually need.
Which CDL Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Prattville AL, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short summaries of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is required to operate 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 required 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 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 may also require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for example school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucker School
After you have decided which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Prattville AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As earlier mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be emphasized enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are a few more points that you need to research while performing your due diligence before choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many trucking schools in the Prattville AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly rated or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the top Prattville 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 concerning successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should 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 ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the individual 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. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Prattville AL schools offer training programs that run from three weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's essential that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although several states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the teachers in person. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will provide 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. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are important training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time fluctuates among schools, a good 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 Prattville AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified 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 many different trucking lines that they can refer their students to, 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. Obviously contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Prattville AL schools you are contemplating are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several 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 benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV considers the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Prattville AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have obtained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be impatient to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Prattville AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Trucking schools are much like colleges and other Prattville AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Choose the Right Prattville AL Truck Driver Training
Choosing the ideal truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the appropriate training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to consider a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can enroll in an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Prattville AL.