How to Pick the Best Truck Driving Classes near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a truck driver and enroll in a truck driving school near Tuscaloosa AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while operating a huge tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's important to obtain the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll need to consider prior to making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Tuscaloosa home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the ideal method to make sure you'll receive the appropriate education. Don't forget, your goal is to master the knowledge and skills that will enable you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional 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 discuss 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 Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the USA and Tuscaloosa AL, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that one can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight 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 short summaries of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A CDL is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater than 10,000 lbs. A few 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 greater 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 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 might also need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, for instance 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 qualified to drive.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
As soon as you have decided which CDL you wish to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Tuscaloosa AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As already 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 factors, for example the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly if not more important. So following are a few additional things that you should research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more typical and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 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 curriculum and training will satisfy the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One indicator to help assess 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. On the other hand, even the best of Tuscaloosa AL schools had to start 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 relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally maintain relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms 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 researching are in good standing.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the instructors in the following segment. In addition, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be receiving the individual attention they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train 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 Tuscaloosa AL schools offer training courses that range from three weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more intuitive than other standards, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also talk to a few of the students going through the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, an excellent truck driving school will furnish 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will become. Although driving time differs among schools, a good benchmark is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Tuscaloosa AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can obtain free or discounted training from a number of truck driving schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So rather than maintaining relationships with numerous trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The benefit is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to get affordable training. Just remember to ask if the Tuscaloosa AL schools you are considering are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is permitted in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than battling with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a brief term, it's important that the Tuscaloosa AL school you choose offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the teacher should be willing to spend 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 Offered? Once you have attained your CDL license after graduating from trucking school, you will be eager to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job placement programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Tuscaloosa AL employers recruiting their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Provided? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Tuscaloosa 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 assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Find Out More About Tuscaloosa Truck Driver Schools
Choose the Best Tuscaloosa AL CDL Driver Training
Picking the ideal trucking school is a critical first step to beginning your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are a number of options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must obtain the necessary training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might want 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 choose an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But regardless of how you receive your training, you will soon be joining a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Tuscaloosa AL.