How to Enroll in the Best Trucking Classes near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Tuscaloosa AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver provides excellent income and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to receive the proper training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are various factors that you'll need to think about prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will certainly be important, especially if you have to commute from your Tuscaloosa home. The cost will also be of importance, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the ideal method to make sure you'll obtain the right education. Just remember, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable 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 cover in the remainder of this article. But first, we are going to review a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Tuscaloosa AL, an operator needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a driver 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 B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are short explanations of the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 Commercial Drivers License is required to operate single vehicles having a GVWR of more than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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 CDLs might also require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to drive.
How to Assess a Truck Driving School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the undertaking of researching the Tuscaloosa AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. 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 only considerations. Other variables, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally if not more important. So below are some more factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Very few truck driving schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area are accredited due to the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, 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. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 fulfill the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Tuscaloosa AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also find out what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having a large number of 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 contact the Alabama licensing authority to confirm that the CDL trucking schools you are researching are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the instructors in the following section. In addition, 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 personal attention they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And watch out for any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Tuscaloosa AL schools provide training programs that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Although a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the best approach is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are satisfied with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Plenty of Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving 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 driving a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. And even though driving time differs among schools, a reasonable standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide at least 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Tuscaloosa 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 driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with numerous 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 be a driver wherever you choose. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just remember to find out if the Tuscaloosa AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its students. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier mentioned, CDL training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Tuscaloosa AL school you select provides 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 have it mastered. And if you're still employed while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to start your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Tuscaloosa AL employers hiring their grads, it may be a clue to look elsewhere.
Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Tuscaloosa AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Enroll in the Right Tuscaloosa AL CDL Driver Training
Selecting the right truck driving school is an essential first step to launching your new profession as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets taught at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might need to consider 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 select an independent CDL school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you obtain your training, you will in the near future be joining a profession that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Tuscaloosa AL.