How to Enroll in the Best Truck Driver Classes near Princeton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a trucking school near Princeton AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides good income and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's essential to get 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 think about before making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Princeton residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal means to make sure you'll get the appropriate education. Don't forget, 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 goal in mind, just how do you select 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 review a little bit about which CDL license you will ultimately need.
Which CDL Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Princeton AL, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will discuss Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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 brief summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed 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 Commercial Drivers License 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. 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 might also need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Princeton AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are a few more things that you should research while performing your due diligence before selecting, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Princeton AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense 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 obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will receive lots of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 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 benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the top Princeton AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personal attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. Most Princeton AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier stated, 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 be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating instructors might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to pay a visit to the school and talk to the instructors face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent 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 necessary training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will become. Although driving time differs among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish at least 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Princeton AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they provide.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to receive discounted or even free training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when starting out. But for some it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Princeton AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates from competing 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 Classes Convenient? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is only about one to two months in length. With such a short term, it's essential that the Princeton AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.
Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out 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 lower job placement rate or few Princeton AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are much like colleges and other Princeton 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 reviewing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Princeton AL CDL Driver Training
Choosing the appropriate truck driving school is an essential first step to beginning your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical to a new driver's success. However, you must get the necessary training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are lacking money or financing, you may need to look into 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 choose an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm 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 in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Princeton AL.