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How to Enroll in the Right CDL Driving Classes near Alabaster Alabama

Alabaster Alabama truck carrying cargoCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a truck driving school near Alabaster AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open highway while operating a big ole tractor trailer. Or perhaps you have done some research and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job prospects. No matter what your reason is, it's essential to receive the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various factors that you'll need to consider prior to making your ultimate selection. Location will no doubt be an issue, especially if you need to commute from your Alabaster residence. The cost will also be of importance, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the ideal method to make certain you'll obtain the proper training. Just remember, 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 pick a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the rest of this article. But first, we are going to talk a little bit about which CDL license you will eventually need.

Which CDL Will You Need?

Alabaster Alabama truck traveling down highway

To drive commercial vehicles lawfully within Alabaster AL and throughout the United States, an operator must attain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Since the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driving school, we will highlight Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the kind of vehicle that the driver can operate together with the GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) or GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating). Following are short explanations for the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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 Commercial Drivers License is needed to drive 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. 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 require endorsements to operate certain kinds of vehicles, including school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper needed endorsements, may drive any vehicle that a Class B license holder is qualified to operate.

How to Research a CDL School

Alabaster Alabama cement mixer truck with patriotic paint job

After you have determined which CDL you would like to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Alabaster AL truck driver schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, location and cost will undoubtedly be your primary concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they must not be your sole concerns. Other factors, for example the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are similarly or even more important. So following are some additional factors that you need to research while performing your due diligence before enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Alabaster AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is offered 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 standard, and that they will be given an ample amount of driving time. For example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Operation? One clue to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in operation. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school normally will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Alabaster AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so consider it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's track record is pertaining to successful licensing and employment of its graduates. If a school won't share those stats, look elsewhere. The schools should also have relationships with local and national trucking companies. Having numerous contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the trade, but also bolsters their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucker schools you are considering are in good standing.

How Effective is the Training? At a minimum, the schools must be licensed in Alabama and hire instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should not be higher than 4 to 1. If it's any greater, then students will not be obtaining the individual attention they will need. This is particularly true concerning 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 comparatively short time period. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Alabaster AL schools provide training programs that range from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the license class or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Teachers? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both drivers and instructors. Even though a number of states have minimum driving time requirements to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay up to date with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating teachers might be a bit more subjective than other standards, and perhaps the ideal method is to pay a visit to the school and speak with the teachers in person. You can also speak with some of the students going through 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 truck driver school will provide ample 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. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training methods, they are no substitute for actual driving. The more training that a student receives behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable benchmark is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will provide a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Check with the Alabaster AL schools you are researching and ask how much driving time they provide.

Are they Independent or Captive ? It's possible to obtain free or discounted training from some truck driving schools if you make a commitment to drive for a particular carrier for a defined period of time. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of maintaining relationships with many different trucking lines that they can place their graduates with, captives only work with one company. The tradeoff is receiving free or less expensive training by surrendering the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income prospects when starting out. But for many it may be the ideal way to get affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Alabaster AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are a number of states that will permit third party CDL testing onsite of truck driving schools for its graduates. If onsite testing is available in Alabama, ask if the schools you are looking at are DMV certified to offer it. One benefit is that it is more accommodating than competing with graduates of other schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is moreover an indicator that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Class Times Flexible? As previously mentioned, truck driver training is only about 1 to 2 months long. With such a short duration, it's important that the Alabaster AL school you choose 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 teacher should be willing to spend more time with you until you have it mastered. And if you're still holding a job while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement ratio is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, ask which local and national trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a lower job placement rate or not many Alabaster AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to look elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driver schools are much like colleges and other Alabaster 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 assessing have a financial assistance department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be completed.

Find Out More About Alabaster Trucker Schools

Choose the Best Alabaster CDL 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 taught 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 to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a safe and professional fashion. If you are short on funds or financing, you may need to look into a captive school. You will pay a reduced or even no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of several associated with the school. It's your decision. But no matter how you obtain your training, you will soon be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Alabaster Alabama.

 

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