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How to Choose the Right CDL Driving Classes near Andalusia Alabama

Andalusia Alabama truck carrying payloadCongrats on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a trucking school near Andalusia AL. Perhaps it has always been your fantasy to hit the open road while driving a big ole tractor trailer. Or maybe you have done some research and have found that an occupation as a truck driver offers good wages and flexible job prospects. Regardless of what your reason is, it's imperative to get the appropriate training by selecting the right CDL school in your area. When evaluating your options, there are various variables that you'll need to think about prior to making your final choice. Location will undoubtedly be an issue, particularly if you need to commute from your Andalusia home. The cost will also be important, but choosing a school based entirely on price is not the optimal means to make certain you'll obtain the right education. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the skills and knowledge that will enable you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? That 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?

Andalusia Alabama truck traveling down expressway

In order to drive commercial vehicles legally within Andalusia AL and throughout the United States, an operator must obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 classes of licenses that a person can apply for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the subject of this article is how to choose a truck driver school, we will discuss Class A and Class B licenses. What distinguishes each class of CDL is the type 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 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 greater 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 greater than 26,000 lbs., or a GCWR of greater than 26,000 lbs. including a towed vehicle weighing up to 10,000 lbs. A few 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 need endorsements to drive certain kinds of vehicles, such as school or passenger buses. And a Class A licensee, with the proper required endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B license holder is authorized to operate.

How to Research a Trucking School

Andalusia Alabama cement truck with patriotic paint job

After you have determined which Commercial Drivers License you wish to pursue, you can start the undertaking of assessing the Andalusia AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As previously mentioned, cost and location will certainly be your initial concerns. But it can't be stressed enough that they should not be your only concerns. Other variables, including the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are similarly or even more important. So following are several additional factors that you need to research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and particularly paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driver schools in the Andalusia AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and expense to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more typical and is offered by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not obligated to become certified, but there are several advantages. Prospective students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will get plenty of driving time. As an example, PTDI calls for 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 curriculum and training will measure up to the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One indicator to help determine the quality of a truck driver school is how long it has been in business. A negatively rated or a fly by night school typically will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the best of Andalusia AL schools had to begin from their first day of training, so use it as one of several qualifiers. You can also learn what the school's history is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, search elsewhere. The schools should additionally have relationships with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only confirms an excellent reputation within the profession, but also boosts their job assistance program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to check with the Alabama licensing department to confirm that the CDL trucker 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 instructors that are trained and experienced. We will discuss more about the instructors in the following 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 receiving the personalized attention they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And look out for any school that claims it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short period of time. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. The majority of Andalusia AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, based on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Experienced are the Instructors? As earlier mentioned, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Even though several states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as a teacher, the more successful driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers stay current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Evaluating instructors may be a bit more subjective than other standards, and possibly the ideal approach is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also speak with a few of the students going through the training and find out if they are satisfied with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

How Much Driving Time? Above all else, a good trucking school will provide sufficient driving time to its students. After all, isn't that what it's all about? Driving time is the actual time spent behind the wheel operating a truck. While the use of ride-a-longs with other students and simulators are essential training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more instruction that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver she or he will be. And even though driving time fluctuates among schools, a reasonable standard is 32 hours at a minimum. If the school is PTDI certified, it will furnish a minimum of 44 hours of driving time. Get in touch with the Andalusia AL schools you are considering and ask how much driving time they furnish.

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 be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined time period. This is referred to as contract training, and the schools that provide it are called captives. So instead of maintaining associations with numerous trucking lines that they can refer their students to, captives only refer to one company. The tradeoff is receiving less expensive or even free training by giving up the freedom to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to reduce your income opportunities when starting out. But for many it may be the only way to obtain affordable training. Just be sure to ask if the Andalusia AL schools you are looking at are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide CDL Testing Onsite? There are some states that will permit 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 considering are DMV certified to offer it. One advantage is that it is more convenient than battling with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV deems the approved schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly noted, truck driving training is just one to two months long. With such a short term, it's essential that the Andalusia AL school you enroll in provides flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. As an example, if you're having a hard time learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to dedicate more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling needs to be flexible enough to fit in working hours or other responsibilities.

Is Job Assistance Offered? As soon as you have obtained your commercial driver's license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be impatient to start your new profession. Verify that the schools you are looking at have job assistance programs. Find out what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking firms their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or few Andalusia AL employers hiring their grads, it might be a sign to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Given? Trucking schools are comparable to colleges and other Andalusia AL area trade or technical schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial aid being offered. Find out if the schools you are assessing have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you understand the options and forms that must be submitted.

Learn More About Andalusia Truck Driving Schools

Choose the Right Andalusia CDL Training

Choosing the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to launching your new profession as a long distance or local truck driver. The skill sets that you will learn 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 if you are going to succeed as an operator. However, you must get the proper training in order to drive a large commercial vehicle in a safe and professional manner. If you are short on cash or financing, you may want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or even no tuition in exchange for driving for their contracted carrier. Or you can choose an independent trucker school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking firm of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your choice. But no matter how you receive your training, you will in the near future be part of a profession that helps our country move as a professional trucker in Andalusia Alabama.

 

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