How to Select the Best Trucking Classes near Vestavia Hills Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Vestavia Hills AL. Maybe it has always been your goal to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers good pay and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to obtain the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are certain factors that you'll need to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, especially if you have to commute from your Vestavia Hills home. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based exclusively on price is not the optimal method to make certain you'll obtain the right training. Just remember, your goal is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL exams and become a qualified truck driver. So keeping that purpose in mind, just how do you pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to address in the balance of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.
Which Commercial Drivers License Should You Get?
In order to drive commercial vehicles lawfully within the United States and Vestavia Hills AL, an operator needs to attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a driver can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the topic of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will focus on Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate in addition to the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short explanations of the two classes.
Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to drive any vehicle that has a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs., including a towed vehicle of greater 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to operate 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 may also need endorsements to drive specific kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A license holder, with the appropriate required endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to operate.
How to Evaluate a Trucker School
Once you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you would like to pursue, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating the Vestavia Hills AL truck driving schools that you are looking at. As already mentioned, location and cost will certainly be your primary considerations. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your only concerns. Other variables, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So below are some more points that you need to research while carrying out your due diligence prior to choosing, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.
Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Very few truck driving schools in the Vestavia Hills AL area are accredited because of the rigorous process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more common and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students know that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will receive lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 training and curriculum will measure up to the very high standards set by PTDI.
How Long in Operation? One clue to help assess the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively reviewed or a fly by night school typically will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Vestavia Hills AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also ask what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having numerous contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job assistance program for graduates. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in compliance.
How Good is the Training? At a minimum, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the teachers in the next segment. 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 individual instruction they will need. This is especially true concerning the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that professes it can teach you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be an operator and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully takes time. The majority of Vestavia Hills AL schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the license class or type of vehicle.
How Experienced are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the teachers are trained to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time criteria to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the instructors keep current with industry developments or any new laws or changes in regulations. Assessing instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the ideal method is to check out the school and talk to the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and ask if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.
Enough Driving Time? Most importantly, a great trucking school will furnish lots of driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the real time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. Even though the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are important training tools, they are no alternative for real driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. Although driving time varies between 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. Contact the Vestavia Hills AL schools you are researching and find out how much driving time they provide.
Are they Independent or Captive ? You can get free or discounted training from certain truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of having associations with a wide range of 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 giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to restrict your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for some it may be the best way to get affordable training. Just make sure to ask if the Vestavia Hills AL schools you are looking at are captive or independent so that you can make an informed decision.
Offer CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are reviewing are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing centers. It is also an indicator that the DMV regards the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.
Are the Classes Accessible? As earlier noted, CDL training is only about 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short 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 particular driving maneuver, then the instructor should be prepared to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still working while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other commitments.
Is Job Assistance Offered? Once you have acquired your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be anxious to begin your new career. Make sure that the schools you are considering have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement rate is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Vestavia Hills AL employers hiring their graduates, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.
Is Financial Assistance Available? Truck driving schools are similar to colleges and other Vestavia Hills AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being available. Ask if the schools you are examining have a financial assistance department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be submitted.
Select the Best Vestavia Hills AL Truck Driving Training
Selecting the right truck driver school is an important first step to launching your new vocation as a long distance or local truck driver. The skills taught at school will be those that shape a new career behind the wheel. There are several options available and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. However, you must obtain the proper training in order to operate a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are lacking funds or financing, you might need to think about 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 enroll in 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 decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will soon be entering a profession that helps our country move as a professional truck driver in Vestavia Hills AL.