How to Pick the Right CDL Training School near Prattville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Prattville AL. Perhaps it has always been your ambition to hit the open road while operating a monster tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some research and have discovered that a career as a truck driver offers good income and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Prattville residence. The expense will also be important, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal way to make certain you'll get the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Prattville AL, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to select a truck driver 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 together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short summaries for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License 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. 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. 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 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 Assess a Trucking School
After you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can start the process of researching the Prattville AL trucking schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are some additional things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Prattville AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more commonplace and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 comply with the very high benchmarks 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 ranked or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Prattville AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's track record is concerning successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucker schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion 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 particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Prattville AL schools provide training courses that range from three weeks to as long as two months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good 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 several states have minimum driving time requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay up to date with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the best method 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 satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driver school will furnish plenty of 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 ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs 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. Get in touch with the Prattville AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? You can obtain free or discounted training from a number of trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the flexibility to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to find out if the Prattville AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Is there Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its grads. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier noted, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short term, it's important that the Prattville AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? As soon as you have received your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are contemplating have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Prattville AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Prattville AL area technical or vocational 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.
Select the Right Prattville AL CDL Driver Training
Choosing the ideal truck driver school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation 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. But first and foremost, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent truck driver school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Prattville AL.