How to Decide on the Right Truck Driving Classes near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Tuscaloosa AL. Maybe it has always been your ambition to hit the open highway while driving a monster tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some analysis and have discovered that a career as a truck driver provides good pay and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are various factors that you'll want to consider prior to making your final selection. Location will certainly be important, particularly if you need to commute from your Tuscaloosa home. The cost will also be of importance, but picking a school based exclusively on price is not the ideal means to make certain you'll receive the proper education. Don't forget, your objective is to master the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that goal in mind, just how do you choose a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which commercial driver's license you will ultimately need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Tuscaloosa AL, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that one can qualify 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 address Class A and B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind 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 descriptions for the 2 classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate any vehicle that has a GCWR of more than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of more 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 more than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. Several 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 need endorsements to drive certain types of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper required endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to drive.
How to Evaluate a Truck Driving School
When you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you want to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Tuscaloosa AL truck driver schools that you are looking at. As already discussed, cost and location will no doubt be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other factors, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So below are a few more factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to choosing, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Tuscaloosa AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. However, certification is more prevalent and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are a number of advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of real 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 comply with the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Business? One indicator to help assess the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A poorly rated 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 start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's history is pertaining to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only affirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also bolsters 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 considering are in good standing.
How Effective is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ instructors that are trained and experienced. We will talk more about the teachers in the following segment. 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 instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a relatively short period of time. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Tuscaloosa AL schools provide training courses that run from three weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Good are the Trainers? As previously mentioned, it's essential that the teachers are qualified to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a bit more intuitive than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to check out the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Sufficient Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking 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. Although the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training methods, they are no alternative for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. Although driving time varies among schools, a good benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish no less than 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 Independent or Captive ? You can receive discounted or even free training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined amount of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having associations with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The benefit is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the only way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Tuscaloosa AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to provide it. One benefit is that it is more convenient than contending with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV views the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier mentioned, truck driver training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief duration, it's important that the Tuscaloosa AL school you choose provides flexibility for both the scheduling of classes and the curriculum. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while going to training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Assistance Provided? Once you have attained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to start your new career. Make sure that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for employment. If a school has a poor job placement rate or few Tuscaloosa AL employers recruiting their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Given? 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 assistance being offered. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.
Enroll in the Best Tuscaloosa AL CDL Driver Training
Picking the right truck driving school is an essential first step to beginning your new occupation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is vital to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must obtain the appropriate training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need to think about 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 enroll in an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional truck driver in Tuscaloosa AL.