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How to Pick the Best CDL Driving Classes near Arab Alabama

Arab Alabama truck hauling payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Arab AL. Perhaps it has always been your goal to hit the open road while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or maybe you have conducted some analysis and have discovered that an occupation as a truck driver provides good wages and flexible job opportunities. No matter what your reason is, it's important to get the appropriate training by picking the right CDL school in your area. When reviewing your options, there are several variables that you'll need to think about before making your ultimate choice. Location will no doubt be important, especially if you have to commute from your Arab home. The expense will also be of importance, but picking a school based entirely on price is not the optimal way to guarantee you'll get the right training. Don't forget, your objective is to learn the knowledge and skills that will allow you to pass the CDL examinations and become a professional truck driver. So keeping that target in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to discuss in the rest 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 Will You Need?

Arab Alabama tractor trailer traveling down expressway

In order to operate commercial vehicles lawfully within Arab AL and throughout the USA, a driver needs to obtain a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The 3 license classes that a person can qualify for are Class A, Class B and Class C. Given that the topic of this article is how to pick a truck driver school, we will highlight Class A and B licenses. What differentiates 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). Below are brief explanations of the two classes.

Class A CDL. A Class A Commercial Drivers License is required to operate 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 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 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, for instance passenger or school buses. And a Class A licensee, with the appropriate needed endorsements, may operate any vehicle that a Class B licensee is qualified to drive.

How to Assess a Truck Driving School

Arab Alabama concrete mixer truck with patriotic paint job

Once you have determined which CDL you want to obtain, you can start the process of assessing the Arab AL truck driving schools that you are considering. As already mentioned, cost and location will no doubt be your primary concerns. But it can't be emphasized enough that they should not be your only considerations. Other factors, including the reputations of the schools or the experience of the instructors are equally if not more important. So following are a few more things that you should research while performing your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driving training.

Are the Schools Certified or Accredited ? Not many truck driving schools in the Arab AL area are accredited due to the stringent process and cost 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 several advantages. Interested students recognize that the training will be of the highest standard, and that they will be given plenty of driving time. For example, PTDI mandates 44 hours of real driving time, not simulations or ride-alongs. So if a school's program is certified (the program, 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 driving school is how long it has been in operation. A negatively rated or a fly by night school normally will not stay in business very long, so longevity is a plus. However, even the top Arab AL schools had to begin from their opening day of training, so use it as one of several qualifications. You can also learn what the school's track record is relating to successful licensing and job placement of its graduates. If a school won't share those numbers, look elsewhere. The schools should also maintain associations with regional and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to a quality reputation within the industry, but also bolsters their job placement program for graduates. It also wouldn't hurt to check with the Alabama licensing authority to make sure that the CDL trucking schools you are considering are in good standing.

How Good is the Training? As a minimum requirement, the schools should be licensed in Alabama and hire teachers that are experienced and trained. We will talk more about the instructors in the next segment. Also, 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 instruction they will need. This is especially true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can teach you to be a truck driver in a comparatively short time frame. Training to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer skillfully requires time. Most Arab AL schools provide training programs that run from 3 weeks to as long as 2 months, depending on the class of license or kind of vehicle.

How Good are the Trainers? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the teachers are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to be certified as an instructor, the more professional driving experience an instructor has the better. It's also vital that the teachers keep current with industry developments or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing instructors might be a little more subjective than other criteria, and possibly the best method is to check out the school and speak with the instructors face to face. You can also speak with some of the students going through the training and find out if they are happy with the quality of instruction and the teacher's ability to train them.

Adequate Driving Time? Most importantly, a great truck driving school will furnish plenty 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 driving a truck. Although the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no alternative 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 fluctuates between schools, a good 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 Arab AL schools you are considering and find out how much driving time they provide.

Are they Captive or Independent ? It's possible to get free or discounted training from certain trucking schools if you make a commitment to be a driver for a specific carrier for a defined period of time. This is called contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So instead of having affiliations with a wide range of 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 giving up the freedom to initially be a driver wherever you have an opportunity. Naturally contract training has the potential to limit your income opportunities when starting out. But for some it may be the best way to receive affordable training. Just make sure to inquire if the Arab AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Is there CDL Testing Onsite? There are several states that will permit 3rd party CDL testing onsite of truck driving 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 accommodating than contending with graduates of competing schools for test times at Alabama testing locations. It is also an indication that the DMV deems the authorized schools to be of a superior quality.

Are the Class Times Convenient? As formerly noted, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months in length. With such a short duration, it's important that the Arab AL school you select offers flexibility for both the curriculum and the scheduling of classes. For example, if you're having difficulty learning a certain driving maneuver, then the instructor should be willing to spend more time with you until you are proficient. And if you're still employed while attending training, then the class scheduling must be flexible enough to accommodate working hours or other obligations.

Is Job Assistance Offered? The moment you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driving school, you will be keen to start your new profession. Confirm that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement percentage is and what average salary their grads start at. Also, ask which national and local trucking companies their graduates are referred to for hiring. If a school has a poor job placement rate or not many Arab AL employers recruiting their grads, it might be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Assistance Offered? Truck driving schools are comparable to colleges and other Arab AL area technical or vocational schools when it comes to loans and other forms of financial assistance being available. Find out if the schools you are evaluating have a financial aid department, or at a minimum someone who can help you navigate the options and forms that need to be completed.

Learn More About Arab Trucking Classes

Enroll in the Best Arab CDL Training

Choosing the appropriate trucking school is a critical first step to starting your new vocation as a local or long distance truck driver. The skills that you will learn at school will be those that forge a new career behind the wheel. There are many options offered and understanding them is crucial if you are going to succeed as an operator. But first and foremost, you must receive the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe manner. If you are short on funds or financing, you might want to look into a captive school. You will pay a lower or in some cases no tuition by agreeing to drive for their contracted carrier. Or you can select an independent truck driver school and have the option of driving for the trucking firm of your choice, or one of several affiliated with the school. It's your decision. But regardless of how you get your training, you will in the near future be part of an industry that helps America move as a professional trucker in Arab Alabama.

 

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