How to Select the Right CDL Driving Classes near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Tuscaloosa AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good 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 assessing your options, there are several factors that you'll need to think about before making your final selection. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Tuscaloosa residence. The cost will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to make sure you'll receive the right education. Don't forget, your goal 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 objective 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 ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
To operate commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Tuscaloosa AL, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driving school, we will address Class A and Class B licenses. What differentiates each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate as well as the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Below are brief explanations for the two 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 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 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. Several 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 may also need endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, for instance school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.
How to Research a Trucking School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of evaluating the Tuscaloosa AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your initial concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally or even more important. So below are several more things that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get 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 evaluate the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in business. A poorly ranked or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Tuscaloosa AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't supply those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are experienced and trained. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding 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 frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Tuscaloosa AL schools offer training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's essential 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 requirements to be certified as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Evaluating teachers may be a little more intuitive than other standards, and possibly the best approach is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
How Much Driving Time? Most importantly, a good truck driving school will furnish sufficient driving time to its students. Besides, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time differs between schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Contact the Tuscaloosa AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to receive free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to drive for a specified carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having affiliations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just be sure to inquire if the Tuscaloosa AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, ask if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is just one to two months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Tuscaloosa 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 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 needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be eager to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Tuscaloosa AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Trucking schools are similar to colleges and other Tuscaloosa AL area vocational or trade schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are assessing have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you get through the options and forms that need to be completed.
Enroll in the Best Tuscaloosa AL CDL Driver Training
Picking the appropriate truck driving school is an important first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that mold a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. However, you must get the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on money or financing, you might need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced 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 choice, or one of several associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you get your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Tuscaloosa AL.