How to Decide on the Right CDL Driving Classes near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Congrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Vestavia Hills AL. Maybe it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some analysis and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent pay and flexible work prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to receive the proper training by enrolling in the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are several variables that you'll need to examine prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will certainly be important, especially if you need to commute from your Vestavia Hills residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to make sure you'll receive the appropriate training. 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 purpose in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That is what we are going to address in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to discuss a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Will You Need?
To operate commercial vehicles legally within the United States and Vestavia Hills AL, a driver must get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can qualify 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 highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are brief summaries for the two 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. A few of the vehicles that operators may be able to drive 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 needed 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. Some 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 may also require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate needed endorsements, can operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.
How to Research a Truck Driver School
After you have decided which CDL you wish to obtain, you can begin the undertaking of researching the Vestavia Hills AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously discussed, cost and location will undoubtedly be your initial considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other issues, such as the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are several more factors that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area are accredited due to the demanding 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 obligated to become certified, but there are certain advantages. Interested students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will get an ample amount of driving time. As an example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of actual 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards 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 operation. A negatively ranked or a fly by night school usually will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. Having said that, even the best of Vestavia Hills AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also find out what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't provide those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have associations with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to contact the Alabama licensing department to verify that the CDL trucking schools you are reviewing are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and employ teachers that are trained and experienced. We will cover more about the teachers in the following segment. Also, the student to instructor proportion should be no greater than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be receiving the personal 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 professes it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Vestavia Hills AL schools offer training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.
How Good are the Instructors? As previously stated, it's imperative that the instructors are trained to teach driving techniques and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as a teacher, the more successful driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the best method is to check out the school and talk to the instructors in person. You can also speak with a few of the students completing the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Adequate Driving Time? Above all else, a great truck driving school will provide plenty 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 operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are necessary training methods, they are no substitute for real driving. The more instruction that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time varies among schools, a good standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide no less than 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Vestavia Hills AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they furnish.
Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get discounted or even free training from certain truck driver schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined time period. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than having associations with a wide range of trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you choose. Obviously 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 obtain affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Vestavia Hills AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow third party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its grads. 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 convenient than contending with graduates from competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Flexible? As formerly noted, CDL training is only about one to two months long. With such a brief term, it's imperative that the Vestavia Hills AL school you enroll in offers 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 instructor should be willing to devote more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while going to training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.
Is Job Placement Offered? The moment you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to begin your new career. Verify that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or few Vestavia Hills AL employers hiring their graduates, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driver schools are comparable to colleges and other Vestavia Hills 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 examining have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you get through the options and forms that must be completed.
Choose the Best Vestavia Hills AL Truck Driver Training
Selecting the ideal truck driving school is a critical first step to launching your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are many options available and understanding them is critical if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the proper training in order to operate a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking cash or financing, you might want to think about a captive school. You will pay a reduced or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucking school and have the option of driving for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many associated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Vestavia Hills AL.