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How to Pick the Right Truck Driving School near Bessemer Alabama

Bessemer Alabama tractor trailer carrying payloadCongratulations on your decision to become a trucker and enroll in a CDL school near Bessemer AL. Maybe it has always been your dream to hit the open highway while driving a huge tractor trailer. Or possibly you have done some analysis and have found that a career as a truck driver offers excellent wages and flexible job opportunities. Whatever your reason is, it's imperative to get the proper training by choosing the right CDL school in your area. When assessing your options, there are certain variables that you'll need to consider prior to making your final choice. Location will certainly be an issue, particularly if you have to commute from your Bessemer residence. The expense will also be important, but selecting a school based solely on price is not the optimal means to make sure you'll obtain the appropriate education. Just remember, your goal 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 objective in mind, just how do you select a truck driving school? The answer to that question is what we are going to cover in the balance 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 Require?

Bessemer Alabama truck driving down highway

To drive commercial vehicles legally within Bessemer AL and throughout the United States, an operator needs to get a CDL (Commercial Driver's License). The three license classes that a person 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 highlight 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 brief explanations of 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 greater than 10,000 lbs. Some 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 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 might also require endorsements to operate specific kinds of vehicles, such as passenger or school buses. And a Class A license holder, with the proper needed endorsements, can drive any vehicle that a Class B licensee is authorized to drive.

How to Assess a Trucking School

Bessemer Alabama concrete truck with flag paint job

When you have determined which CDL you want to pursue, you can start the undertaking of researching the Bessemer 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, for instance the experience of the instructors or the reputations of the schools are equally or even more important. So following are some more things that you should research while conducting your due diligence prior to enrolling in, and especially paying for, your truck driver training.

Are the Schools Accredited or Certified ? Not many truck driver schools in the Bessemer AL area are accredited due to the demanding process and cost to the schools. On the other hand, certification is more prevalent and is provided by the Professional Truck Driver Institute (PTDI). A school is not required to become certified, but there are several advantages. Potential students recognize that the training will be of the highest quality, and that they will be given lots of driving time. As an example, PTDI requires 44 hours of actual 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 comply with the very high benchmarks set by PTDI.

How Long in Business? One indicator to help measure the quality of a truck driving school is how long it has been in business. A poorly reviewed or a fly by night school usually will not be in business very long, so longevity is a plus. On the other hand, even the best of Bessemer AL schools had to start from their opening day of training, so consider it as one of multiple qualifications. You can also ask what the school's history is regarding successful licensing and employment of its graduating students. If a school won't share those stats, search elsewhere. The schools should also maintain relationships with local and national trucking firms. Having a large number of contacts not only points to an excellent reputation within the trade, but also boosts their job placement program for students. It also wouldn't be a bad idea to get in touch with the Alabama licensing authority to verify that the CDL trucking 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 teachers in the next segment. In addition, the student to instructor ratio should be no higher than 4 to 1. If it's any higher, then students will not be obtaining the personalized instruction they will need. This is particularly true regarding the one-on-one instruction for behind the wheel training. And be critical of any school that insists it can train you to drive trucks in a relatively short time period. Learning to be a truck driver and to drive a tractor trailer professionally requires time. Most Bessemer AL schools provide training courses that range from 3 weeks to as long as two months, based on the class of license or type of vehicle.

How Good are the Teachers? As earlier stated, it's imperative that the instructors are qualified to teach driving methods and experienced as both instructors and drivers. Although a number of states have minimum driving time prerequisites to qualify as an instructor, the more professional driving experience a teacher has the better. It's also crucial that the instructors stay current with industry advancements or any new regulations or changes in existing laws. Assessing teachers may be a bit more subjective than other criteria, and perhaps the ideal method is to visit the school and speak with the teachers face to face. You can also talk to some of the students completing the training and find out if they are happy with the level of instruction and the teacher's qualification to train them.

Plenty of Driving Time? Above all else, an excellent trucking 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 operating a truck. While the use of simulators and ride-a-longs with other students are essential training tools, they are no replacement for actual driving. The more training that a student gets behind the wheel, the better driver he or she will be. And even though driving time varies between 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 Bessemer AL schools you are considering 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 some truck driving schools if you enter into an agreement to be a driver for a particular carrier for a defined amount of time. This is what's known as contract training, and the schools that offer it are called captives. So rather than maintaining affiliations with numerous 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 flexibility to initially work wherever you have an opportunity. Clearly contract training has the potential to limit your income prospects when beginning your new career. But for many it may be the ideal way to obtain affordable training. Just make sure to find out if the Bessemer AL schools you are considering are independent or captive so that you can make an informed decision.

Provide Onsite CDL Testing? There are some states that will allow 3rd party CDL testing onsite of trucking schools for its students. If onsite testing is allowed in Alabama, find out if the schools you are considering are DMV certified to provide it. One advantage is that it is more accommodating than contending with graduates from other schools for test times at Alabama testing facilities. It is moreover an indication that the DMV believes the approved schools to be of a higher quality.

Are the Classes Accessible? As previously noted, truck driving training is just 1 to 2 months long. With such a short term, it's imperative that the Bessemer AL school you choose offers 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 teacher should be prepared to dedicate 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 obligations.

Is Job Assistance Provided? As soon as you have acquired your CDL license after graduating from truck driver school, you will be anxious to begin your new profession. Make sure that the schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs. Ask what their job placement rate is and what average salary their graduates start at. Also, find out which local and national trucking companies their graduates are placed with for hiring. If a school has a low job placement rate or not many Bessemer AL employers recruiting their grads, it may be a clue to search elsewhere.

Is Financial Aid Available? Truck driver schools are similar to colleges and other Bessemer 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 assessing have a financial aid department, or at least someone who can help you understand the options and forms that need to be completed.

Find Out More About Bessemer Trucker Classes

Enroll in the Best Bessemer CDL Training

Picking the ideal trucking school is a critical 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 a number of options offered and understanding them is crucial to a new driver's success. But first and foremost, you must get the proper training in order to drive a big commercial vehicle in a professional and safe fashion. If you are lacking money or financing, you might want to consider 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 choose an independent trucking school and have the the freedom to drive for the trucking company of your choosing, or one of many affiliated with the school. It's your decision. 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 Bessemer Alabama.

 

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