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How to Evaluate a Trucking School
As soon as you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can begin the process of evaluating the Tuscaloosa AL trucking schools that you are looking at. As previously discussed, location and cost will certainly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other issues, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So below are some more factors that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driving schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area are accredited because of the stringent process and cost to the schools. However, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest caliber, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 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 meet the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a trucking school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed 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 top Tuscaloosa AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also find out what the school's track record is regarding successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't supply those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only affirms a superior reputation within the industry, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the teachers in the next section. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be getting the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly 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 drive trucks in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer professionally takes time. Most Tuscaloosa AL schools offer training courses that run from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the license class or kind of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's essential that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also important that the teachers keep current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a little more intuitive than other criteria, and possibly the ideal approach is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Above all else, 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 actual time spent behind the wheel driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no replacement for real driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a good standard is a minimum of 32 hours. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Tuscaloosa AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can receive discounted or even free training from a number of truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by surrendering the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Obviously contract training has the potential to restrict your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to get 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.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driver schools for its graduates. 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 of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indicator that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Class Times Accessible? As formerly mentioned, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's important that the Tuscaloosa AL school you select provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having difficulty learning a particular driving maneuver, then the teacher should be prepared to commit more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to begin your new profession. Verify that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Tuscaloosa AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a sign to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? Trucking 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 available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.